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Freedom of research - Bonn Declaration

2020-12-09

The importance of the freedom of research is set out in a new declaration, the Bonn Declaration on Freedom of Scientific Research, endorsed by EU research ministers in March. Why has the discussion about freedom of research been brought up now and not before? One reason is that there are increasing reports of threats to the freedom of scientific research. During the coronavirus crisis, resistance to vaccination has increased worldwide, and in Germany it has led to open aggression against reputed virologists. There are also reports of threats against researchers in Sweden and also at Lund University.

On 20 November 2020 Matilda Ernkrans, Swedish Minister for Higher Education and Research, attended a digital meeting organised by EU research ministers in Bonn. The theme of the meeting was upholding the freedom of research. According to Matilda Ernkrans, freedom of research is important for Sweden. The Swedish government is planning amendments to the Higher Education Act to promote academic freedom. Why has the discussion about freedom of research been brought up now and not before? One reason is that there are increasing reports of threats to the freedom of scientific research. This is especially true in difficult times such as now, where many people feel unsafe and even depressed. This situation can give rise to violent thoughts, ideas and even new movements. For example, resistance to vaccination is increasing worldwide during the coronavirus crisis. In Germany, this has led to a new movement that describe themselves as open-minded thinkers (Querdenker). During these demonstrations, open aggression against reputable virologists is also increasing, where their credibility is attacked.

There are also reports of threats against researchers in Sweden and also at Lund University. For example, in the spring of 2020 threatening letters were sent to the home addresses of two researchers at Lund who the sender believed were conducting animal experiments. These examples show that it is extremely important and also the right time to start a discussion on the freedom of research and to highlight its importance.

The meeting organised by EU research ministers in October 2020 resulted in the Bonn Declaration on Freedom of Scientific Research. This document makes all EU countries responsible for stepping up their efforts to guarantee the freedom of research.

The Bonn Declaration is available here

It is important to follow what measures the Swedish government takes to implement the concept of freedom of research in its programme.

 

Heiko Herwald, Vice Dean

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