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Freedom and responsibilities in science 

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The commitment to defend and promote the free and responsible practice of science is in the ISC Statutes and cuts across all of the Council’s work.

The International Science Council’s Committee for Freedom and Responsibility in Science (CFRS) works at the intersection of science and human rights to protect and uphold the Principles of Freedom and Responsibility in Science .

The responsible practice of science and the responsibility of scientists to contribute their knowledge in the public space go hand in hand. Both are essential to the ISC’s vision of science as a global public good.

The Council’s principles of freedom and responsibility in science are enshrined in Article 8 of the Council’s Statutes and Rules of Procedure (adopted on 8 March 2024).

The ISC Principles of Freedoms and Responsibilities in Science

The principles of freedom and responsibility in science set out the freedoms that scientists should enjoy, as well as the responsibilities they bear.

i. Freedom to access science education, training and mentoring

Article 26 of The Universal Declaration on Human Rights stipulates that “everyone has the right to education.” The ISC affirms that this right applies to science education, training and mentoring.

ii. Freedom to participate in knowledge production

  • This freedom must be supported by equitable access to existing knowledge, information, data and other necessary resources.
  • The effective exercise of this freedom presumes freedom of movement, association, communication, and expression.
  • Regarding freedom of movement, the ISC affirms that those who are lawfully within a country should be free to move within the country and free to leave the country. Beyond this, specifically in relation to the goal of knowledge production, all reasonable efforts should be made to minimize barriers to freedom of movement between countries.

iii. Freedom to promote and communicate science for the good of humanity, other life forms, ecosystems, the planet, and beyond

  • This freedom is meant to encompass a commitment to the public good, which is different from the public interest. The public good is that which promotes the wellbeing of all –– humans, nonhuman animals, and the environment.
  • The responsible exercise of this freedom aims to promote both social justice and intergenerational justice.

iv. Responsibility to promote science in ways that are equitable and inclusive of human diversity

  • It is important to refrain from, and to prevent, discrimination in science based on perceptions of ethnicity, racial identity, nationality, citizenship, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, age, religious beliefs, or other social group memberships.
  • It is equally important to actively promote fairness, equity, and benefit-sharing in science.

v. Responsibility to ensure that research designs meet the standards of scientific validity and satisfy established ethical norm

  • Science must be rigorous in terms of the quality of evidence generated, be free from conflicts of interest, and be free from manipulation or falsification of data or findings.
  • The Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights addresses concerns about the relationship between ethics, science and freedom. This is a reasonable reference for established ethical norms.

vi. Responsibility to share accurate scientific information generated through theoretical,observational, experimental, and analytical approaches

Trust in science depends on the active dissemination of scientific information and research findings (both positive and negative results) to peers, policy makers and civil society.

vii. Responsibility to contribute to the effective and ethical governance of science

As appropriate, scientists (including research staff and trainees), national governments, research institutions, funding bodies, regulatory and oversight bodies, review committees, publishers and editors, standard setting institutions, and educators are expected to:

  • Contribute to effective governance tools, institutions, and processes.
  • Create an environment that enables the free and responsible conduct of science.
  • Introduce fair processes for the confidential reporting and investigation of possible illegal, unethical, or unsafe science.

Project team

For any queries, contact the project lead Vivi Stavrou.

The New Zealand government has actively supported CFRS since 2016. This support was generously renewed in 2019, with the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, supporting CFRS via CFRS Special Advisor Gustav Kessel, based at Royal Society Te Apārangi, and by Dr Roger Ridley, Director Expert Advice and Practice, Royal Society Te Apārangi. 

Vivi Stavrou

Vivi Stavrou

Executive Secretary of CFRS and Senior Science Officer

International Science Council

Vivi Stavrou
Gustav Kessel Gustav Kessel

Gustav Kessel

Special Advisor to CFRS

International Science Council

Gustav Kessel

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