Symposium of the German Ethics Council, the German Research Foundation and the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina

Scientific Freedom and Scientific Responsibility - Do the Opportunities for Success Justify the Risks?

Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher Leopoldina, Jägerberg 1, 06108 Halle (Saale)

Topic

This symposium of the German Ethics Council, the German Research Foundation and the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina deals with questions concerning the handling of security-relevant research.

In almost all fields of science, there is a danger that research results could be misused for harmful purposes. This dual-use problem frequently triggers discussions about the opportunities and risks of specific research, such as experiments on the transmissibility of highly pathogenic influenza viruses.

  • Are self-imposed codes of conduct sufficient for dealing with security-relevant research?
  • Should the legislator restrict freedom of research and is it useful to establish a legal definition of security-relevant research?
  • How useful are publication restrictions and who should decide what may or may not be published?
  • What are the consequences of prohibiting certain research?

In this context, the German Ethics Council published the Opinion “Biosecurity – Freedom and Responsibility of Research”, and the German Research Foundation together with the National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina published the paper “Scientific Freedom and Scientific Responsibility. Recommendations for Handling  Security-Relevant Research”.
With the symposium, the German Ethics Council, the German Research Foundation and the National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina aim to present the opportunities and risks in selected fields of research and to raise awareness of possible misuse of research. In addition, experts discuss the possibilities for advising scientists on these matters, as well as the usefulness of voluntary commitment through ethical guidelines in the dual-use contexts.