Ethics of security-related research
Background - problems of dual-use
The freedom of scientific research, guaranteed by constitution, is essential for the cultural and social progress and for the improvement of the living standard. This freedom, however, presupposes a responsible conduct of the scientists, since important and beneficial research results of almost all areas are at risk to be misused for harmful purposes (problem of dual use).
To face the danger of such a misapplication of otherwise promising scientific achievements, a high degree of responsibility and self-control is required. Therefore, it is necessary to sensitize researchers and institutions to the security-related aspects of their work and to provide a guide for handling possible risks.
In 2014 the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the Academy of Sciences Leopoldina have published general guidelines under the title "Scientific freedom and scientific responsibility". In accordance with these, many German universities and research facilities, including Leibniz Association and WIAS, have established "Commissions for Research Ethics", which sensitize and, if required, advise researchers.
Commissions for Research Ethics (CRE) at the Leibniz Association and the WIAS
Before starting new projects, the researchers at WIAS should be advised by the CRE if there is a serious risk that could impact human dignity, life, health, liberty, property, the environment or peaceful coexistence. In particular, security relevant risks arise in scientific projects resulting in know-how, products, and technologies, which immediately can be misused by third parties. The same applies, if security relevant risks become obvious in the course of the project.
- General informations on ethical aspects in research can be found on the web page of the "Joint-Committee-on-Dual-Use" of DFG and Leopoldina.
- For ethical aspects, relevant for the Leibniz Association as a whole, we refer to the web page of the CRE at the Leibniz Association.
- Duties and responsibilities of the CRE at WIAS are fixed in the actual statute .