Fritsch, J. (2019) Ethics committees in security-relevant research according to the recommendations of Leopoldina and the German Research Foundation. Bundesgesundheitsblatt – Gesundheitsforschung – Gesundheitsschutz, (62)(6), 744–750. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00103-019-02954-6
The scientific freedom protected by the German Basic Law is a prerequisite for the progress and prosperity of society. However, free research is also associated with risks resulting from the fact that useful research results and methods can be abused, for example as weapons of war or as a means of criminal or terrorist activities.
According to the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina and the German Research Foundation (DFG), meaningful control of these risks cannot be achieved through further legislation but only through appropriate awareness raising and self-governance tools within the scientific community. In order to make this more concrete, both organizations jointly published the “Recommendations for Handling Security-Relevant Research” in 2014. For the effective and sustainable implementation of these recommendations, the DFG and Leopoldina established the Joint Committee on the Handling Security-Relevant Research.
In Germany, there are already numerous commissions with different names that deal with ethical issues in science. For some years now, in addition to the most numerous medical ethics committees primarily responsible for medical research on human beings and those committees supporting the authorities in deciding on the approval of animal experiments to protect animal welfare, an increasing number of so-called committees for ethics in security-relevant research have been set up. Following the recommendations of the joint committee of the DFG and Leopoldina, these committees advise researchers on site on questions concerning security-relevant aspects of research.