Press Release No. 9 | 19 March 2015
Joint Committee on the Handling of Security-Relevant Research Starts Work
The DFG and Leopoldina Establish a Committee to Implement Their Recommendations on Scientific Freedom and Scientific Responsibility
The Joint Committee on the Handling of Security-Relevant Research, set up by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) and the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, has started work. It was established to aid research institutions in the effective and permanent implementation of the recommendations on "Scientific Freedom and Scientific Responsibility" published in June 2014 by the DFG and the Leopoldina. The aim is to ensure that researchers are sufficiently aware of their responsibilities in dealing with potential conflicts 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. A discussion paper entitled "Freedom and Responsibility in Research – Do the Opportunities for Success Offered by Research Justify Its Potential Risks?" has now been published.
The joint committee will help research institutions implement the recommendations and will monitor the implementation process. Ideally, a research ethics committee will have been established at each research institution in Germany by 2017. These committees should enable institutions to deal with cases arising from their own work objectively and responsibly and to take decisions on their outcome independently. The joint committee will draw up sample texts for implementing the recommendations and act as a contact point for questions and as a platform where institutions can share their experiences. Should it on occasion not be appropriate to make a decision locally, the Leopoldina can establish ad-hoc working groups to work closely with the joint committee to undertake a risk-benefit assessment of the research content.
The joint committee will also observe developments in security-relevant research in Germany, identify areas where action is potentially required, and advise the Leopoldina and the DFG on the issues. Its members will also be tasked with participating in the public debate on the subject where necessary.
Against the background of the recommendation to increase researchers' awareness of the issue of security relevance in their research, the committee will regularly hold symposia on the subject of scientific freedom and scientific responsibility.
Topics discussed at the first symposium of this kind in November 2014 included research in the areas of 3-D printing, big data and highly pathogenic viruses. Options for advising researchers and raising their awareness of the dual-use issue were explored in a panel discussion.
The Vice President of Leopoldina, Professor Dr. Bärbel Friedrich, and DFG Vice President Professor Dr. Frank Allgöwer will chair the Joint Committee on the Handling of Security-Relevant Research for the next three years. Its members have been drawn from relevant research areas ranging from the natural and life sciences to ethics and law.
More information about the Joint Committee on the Handling of Security-Relevant Research and its members (in German only):
"Scientific Freedom and Scientific Responsibility – Recommendations for Handling Security-Relevant Research" can be downloaded from the Leopoldina website at:
and from the DFG's website at:
The discussion paper "Freedom and Responsibility in Research – Do the Opportunities for Success Offered by Research Justify Its Potential Risks?" is available on the Leopoldina website (in German only):
Information about the symposium "Dual Use – Scientific Freedom and Scientific Responsibility" is available on the Leopoldina website (in German only):
and on the DFG website (in German only):