Scientific freedom and scientific responsibility

Research is an essential basis for human progress. The provision of financial resources by the state is indispensable for a free science, as is the possibility for researchers to exchange information freely. However, this freedom does not mean being completely free of rules.

Forscherin vor Daten; Adobe Stock


Adobe Stock

Thus, in addition to legal framework conditions in a predominantly publicly funded science system, there are also expectations for science to control itself. It is important to find the right balance here.

“Academic freedom  is a valued asset in our democracy and a fundamental right set out in our Basic Law – a freedom that we all are called on to nurture, protect and, if need be, defend”, said Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier in Berlin on 26 September 2019. “In a liberal democracy, academic freedom brings with it the expectation that science bears responsibility for the world it explores, for the society in which it conducts research, as well as for humanity and nature in general.” The Federal President delivered this speech at the closing event for  the “Freedom is Our System” campaign of the Alliance of Science Organisations in Germany.

In addition to the now increased demand for research on "impact" and "transfer", there is a danger in various fields of science that useful research results can be misused for harmful purposes. For example, if social behaviour on the Internet is analysed in detail, these results could also be used to monitor people. Another example is the use of artificial intelligence in the defence industry. Here, scientific progress also favours technological progress. The principle that research results could be misused for not only their original purpose, but also to harm humans or the environment is described in science as the "dual use problem".

How can a balance be found between the greatest possible freedom for research and security for society?

Use this blog to discuss:

  • Should different research areas and topics be considered differently with regard to their social responsibility?
  • Is there a need for higher-level ethics in science? Or are self-policing conditions sufficient?
  • What do scientific freedom and scientific responsibility mean to you?


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