Why should society support scientific research?

German Research Foundation

Research organizations submit self-commitment

On the occasion of the seventieth anniversary of the Basic Law, the Alliance of Science Organizations drafted a memorandum that formulates a voluntary commitment in the form of “Ten Theses on Scientific Freedom” and calls on the state and society to guarantee the appropriate framework conditions. The goal: to emphasize the freedom of science and to strengthen it for future challenges. Whether it is support for researchers from abroad who are at risk, the critical examination of simplistic or one-sided information, compliance obligations or the promotion of a positive culture of debate: With the memorandum, Allianz acknowledges its responsibility to promote free science as best as possible in its own organizational structures support and give more weight to their importance in a democratic society. The memorandum will conclude the joint campaign of the Alliance of Science Organizations “Freedom is our system. Together for science. 70 Years of the Basic Law ”published. In this context, numerous events have been held since spring and brought together with digital formats such as a dedicated podcast, video interviews and many other contributions on the website www.wissenschaftsfreiheit.de.

The Alliance of Science Organizations is an amalgamation of the most important scientific organizations in Germany. She regularly comments on important questions of science policy. The Leibniz Association is a member of the alliance and has taken over the lead management for 2019. Other members are the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, the German Academic Exchange Service, the German Research Foundation, the Fraunhofer Society, the Helmholtz Association, the University Rectors' Conference, the Max Planck Society, the Leopoldina National Academy of Sciences and the Science Council.


Memorandum "Ten Theses on Scientific Freedom"

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Closing memorandum of the Freedom Campaign is our system of the Alliance of Science Organizations

“Art and science, research and teaching are free. The freedom of teaching does not release from loyalty to the constitution ”- this is Article 5, paragraph 3 of the Basic Law, which came into force 70 years ago. Academic freedom is a fundamental right, at the same time it is a pillar of liberal democracy and a prerequisite for economic and social progress. This fundamental right is also in conflict with other constitutionally protected fundamental rights and goals. The granting of legal autonomy and the provision of financial resources by the state, which are indispensable for free science, go hand in hand with the obligation to consider the possible effects of research. Researchers as well as scientific institutions are aware of the responsibility that arises from their great freedom.

In this anniversary year, science in Germany carried out a joint campaign for the constitutionally protected freedom of science. Under the title “Freedom is our system. Together for science. 70 Years of the Basic Law ”, the importance of free research and teaching was emphasized in numerous events, speeches, debates and contributions in the media, developments within science were critically examined and risks for academic freedom at home and abroad were brought into focus.

The present memorandum sees itself as a voluntary commitment by science in Germany to protect the freedom of science, to defend itself against its restrictions and to strengthen it for future challenges.

Ten theses on academic freedom

    1. Promote freedom of science worldwide
      In not a few countries, the freedom of science is acutely endangered, in some cases scientists are persecuted as opponents of the regime or even arrested. Here it is important for the science organizations to maintain the difficult balance, to counter these threats and at the same time to preserve existing collaborations as valuable freedom for the researchers. Science in Germany undertakes to continue to offer more and more protection and perspectives in its own organizations for academics from abroad at risk and to actively participate in programs and networks such as Academy in Exile or Scholars at Risk. Mobility and free exchange are prerequisites for successful science.

    2. Strengthen trust in scientific knowledge
      Scientific knowledge is not a mere "expression of opinion". Science therefore also has the task of society as a whole to clarify the difference between opinions and scientifically verifiable findings, to pay attention to clarity, comprehensibility and comprehensibility when communicating scientific results and to remove the ground from populistically motivated distortion of facts. In doing so, it must repeatedly make the limits of established knowledge and the importance of scientific controversies visible. In this way, society's trust in science and thus in its constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of science can be strengthened.

    3. Special freedoms require special self-control
      In a predominantly publicly financed science system, society must be able to rely on the functioning self-regulation of science. Cases of fraud, abuse of power or 'fake science' undermine society's trust in the responsible handling of science with its special freedoms. Universities and research institutions live up to their responsibility by meeting high standards of good scientific practice, integrity, compliance, legal security and employee protection.

    4. Freedom does not mean free from rules
      Free science is not above the law. Legal and ethical limits of research are set against the background of social developments and debates and put to the test - for example when it comes to animal experiments, questions of human genome research or artificial intelligence. When conducting ethically sensitive research, scientists must always carefully weigh the opportunities and risks of what they are doing. Scientific institutions support these processes with ethics committees and advisory structures.

    5. Ensure free choice of research subjects
      Orientation towards trends can help to bundle expertise in the science system and promote interdisciplinary research, as is currently happening on the subject of artificial intelligence. Nevertheless, a fundamental freedom in the choice of research subjects is necessary in order to maintain the diversity of the system. For this it is important that sufficient funds are available for research topics outside of current trends, that high-ranking scientific journals also publish replication studies or negative research results. Research must not only result in economic benefits or specific application possibilities - the importance of the entire chain of effects from basic research to application must be emphasized across disciplines and communicated to society.

    6. Academic freedom also applies to knowledge transfer
      Cooperation between science and external partners such as companies and other actors is important in order to strengthen the innovative capacity of business and society and at the same time to use impulses from practice for research. This understanding of the role of science, which is increasingly important today, places new demands on the transfer performance of non-university and university research institutions. Securing the freedom of science is particularly relevant here in cooperation with companies: The traceability of the research results resulting from the cooperation and their independence must be adequately guaranteed.

    7. Free science needs reliable framework conditions
      Institutional autonomy and reliable funding are necessary prerequisites for free science. Only through adequate basic funding from universities and research institutions can it be ensured that researchers can pursue a wide range of issues at their own discretion and societal needs and arrive at unforeseeable findings. Reliable financing is also a basic requirement for the expansion of structured and attractive career paths in science.

    8. Assess research performance without restricting academic freedom
      Incentive and reward systems in science must not restrict free research, but must promote it. Scientific freedom thrives particularly well when achievement and success in science are measured in terms of quality and not primarily in terms of quantity. Original research does not always go hand in hand with a high citation rate - the latter, however, dominates the evaluation of the success of scientists today. The requirements and evaluation tools of scientific publishers must also be critically questioned to what extent they promote or hinder the freedom of science.

    9. Academic freedom requires a culture of debate
      Open discourses and dealing with those who think differently are an essential foundation of academic freedom. Students of all disciplines must be taught the high value of a free academic debate - they should learn to critically examine different perspectives, including their own. These experiences with scientific controversy also help to strengthen the basic values ​​of liberal democracy, which in turn are indispensable for comprehensive academic freedom.

    10. Academic freedom needs discourse in society
      In Germany, free science is so highly valued that its political and social esteem may seem a matter of course. However, academic freedom can only maintain this position if it is adapted as a living, dynamic idea for the future and if it faces up to new challenges and demands. Academic freedom is closely linked to active exchange and discourse in society. Comprehensive science communication therefore has the task of entering into a constant exchange with other social actors about the effects and findings as well as the limits of science.