German Research Foundation, & National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina (Eds.) (2022) Scientific Freedom and Scientific Responsibility Recommendations for Handling of Security-Relevant Research (p. 52).
Research plays a fundamental role in ensuring progress. Freedom of research, which is enshrined in the German Basic Law, is a fundamental requirement in this respect. Yet free research is also associated with risks. These risks can only be covered to a limited extent by legal regulations and result primarily from the danger of useful research findings being misused (known as the dual-use dilemma).
The German Research Foundation (DFG) and the National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina urge researchers not to content themselves with simply complying with legal regulations. After all, researchers’ knowledge, experience and freedom give them a special ethical responsibility that goes beyond legal obligations. Furthermore, research institutions should create framework conditions for ethically responsible research. The instruments of self-regulation of science are of great importance here; they are based on particular proximity to the subject and can react flexibly.
The section A of the DFG and Leopoldina’s recommendations are aimed at individual researchers. They need to be aware of the danger of misused research. In critical cases, these individuals must draw on their knowledge and experience to make a personal decision about what is responsible in their research. In doing so, they need to weigh the opportunities offered by the research against the risks to human dignity, life and other important values. The present recommendations specify these considerations in terms of necessary risk analysis, measures for reducing risk, evaluating the publication of research results, and abstaining from research as a last resort. The primary goal in all of this is to carry out and communicate research in a responsible way. In isolated cases, a responsible decision on the part of the researcher may even mean that a high-risk project can only be carried out following a research moratorium or not at all.
Section B of the recommendations is aimed at research institutions. They need to raise awareness of the problem among their employees, convey the required knowledge of legal constraints on research and support corresponding training measures for researchers. Research institutions need to develop ethics rules for handling security- relevant research that go beyond compliance with legal regulations. Each institution should set up a special committee for ethics in security-relevant research (KEF – German acronym) to implement these rules and to advise researchers.