Statement of principles released – Private sponsoring in the science enterprise, trust in science and academic freedom

PWGSEThe ALLEA Working Group on Science and Ethics just released a statement on “Private sponsoring in the science enterprise, trust in science and academic freedom” that includes the legal provisions for academic freedom in the ALLEA member countries.

The statement, initiated by the Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences and reviewed by the ALLEA Working Group, emphasises that public confidence in science relies on the credibility and integrity of scientists and their work. Academic freedom, without undue interference from third parties, is a key factor in that regard. The importance of academic freedom in the conduct of science is evidenced in legal texts at both the national and the supranational level (e.g. the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union), annexed to the statement.

During the last few years, private sponsoring in the scientific enterprise increased and gained in importance, thereby affecting academic freedom and the public perception of the independence of scientists and their work. While the statement concurs with the need for private sponsoring for scientific research, it expresses concern regarding the trustworthiness of scientists and their scientific advice. To ensure scientific autonomy and credibility, the statement makes recommendations for scientific institutions in the handling of private sponsoring, notably for university chairs, suggesting four key framework conditions that should be applied:

 1. Transparency on the contractual regulations between donor and recipient;
 2. Exclusion of influence of donors during appointment procedures;
3. Equal appointment procedures for privately and publicly funded chairs;
4. Explicit affirmation of academic freedom in teaching, research and public engagement.

The statement is available for download here.

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