Security-relevant research is subject to a number of legal regulations in Germany. In the field of life sciences, for example, these include the Biological Substances Ordinance (Biostoffverordnung), the Genetic Engineering Act (Gentechnikgesetz) and the Infection Protection Act (Infektionsschutzgesetz), which are intended to ensure optimal biological safety.
The misuse of security-relevant research is prevented primarily by regular criminal law and the export regulations of the Federal Office of Economics and Export Control (BAFA). In this context, BAFA implements the licensing requirements and procedures prescribed by the EU for all member states when exporting goods (e.g. chemicals, machinery, technologies, materials or software) that can be used for both civilian and military purposes. The export control framework is part of a comprehensive national and international strategy to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the uncontrolled accumulation of conventional military equipment.
At the same time, the aim is to prevent sensitive goods from being used for internal repression, other serious human rights violations, or being supplied or otherwise made available abroad for the promotion of terrorism. The European Commission’s EU Guidelines for Export Controls relating to research were updated in the fall of 2021.
The United Nations Biological and Chemical Weapons Conventions (BWC and CWC), which have been ratified by a majority of countries worldwide in addition to Germany, prohibit the use, production, stockpiling and proliferation of chemical and biological weapons. Based on the 1993 CWC, a group of experts from 24 countries presented the “Hague Ethical Guidelines“. These guidelines call on employees from chemical companies and academia to deal responsibly with relevant risks and prevent misuse.
The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) refers to the Recommendations for Handling of Security-Relevant Research on its website under the section Principles of DFG Funding and in its Proposal Preparation Instructions. When applying for funding, DFG asks applicants to check their project in this regard and, if necessary, to submit a statement on the risk-benefit ratio and possible risk minimization measures. The DFG also included the responsible handling of security-relevant research in its Guidelines for Safeguarding Good Research Practice.
In the EU Framework Program for Research and Innovation “Horizon Europe”, an ethical self-evaluation with regard to possible risks of misuse of the research project for endangering humans, animals and the environment is mandatory when submitting an application, and the establishment of advisory bodies for corresponding ethical issues is recommended.
EU-Regulation for the control of exports, brokering, technical assistance, transit and transfer of dual-use items
Empfehlungen der Europäischen Kommission zu internen Compliance-Programmen für die Kontrolle von Forschung im Zusammenhang mit Dual-Use-Gütern gemäß der EU-Verordnung 2021/821