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The DFG and the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina presented their joint recommendations on “Scientific Freedom and Scientific Responsibility“ on 26 June 2014 in Berlin. The publication is the response of the research organisations to the view that science and the humanities must develop ethical principles and mechanisms with which to deal with the freedom to research and the risks of research. In this they are fulfilling their statutory mandate to advise scientists, policymakers and the public.
The recommendations deal with the border line between the freedom to research, which is protected under article 5 of the German Basic Law, and the danger that research findings can be misused for malicious purposes. “Research as an essential basis for progress demands a high level of freedom,” said DFG President Professor Peter Strohschneider at the press conference. Laws, he said, were of only limited suitability in minimising the risk of possible misuse. More importantly, there was a need for self-regulation in research as well. Professor Jörg Hacker, the President of the Leopoldina, explained “Researchers should not be content with complying with the legal regulations. With their knowledge, their experience and their freedom, they have a particular ethical responsibility which goes beyond legal obligation.”
The Leopoldina and the DFG would like the recommendations to stimulate discussion on the dual-use problem in the science community and thus draw the attention of researchers as well as research institutes towards this issue. Both presidents emphasised that their organisations will be offering their wholehearted support to the dissemination of the guidelines and their general acceptance and to compliance with the principles that have been defined.