Freedoms & Responsibilities of Scientists

The right to share in and to benefit from advances in science and technology is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights , as is the right to engage in scientific enquiry, pursue and communicate knowledge, and to associate freely in such activities. But rights go hand in hand with responsibilities; in the responsible practice of science and the responsibility of scientists to contribute their knowledge in the public space. Both are essential to the ISC’s vision of science as a global public good.

A commitment to protect these freedoms and advocate for these responsibilities is embedded in the Council’s Statutes, as fundamental to scientific advancement and human and environmental wellbeing. The Council’s Committee for Freedom and Responsibility in Science (CFRS) is mandated to oversee this commitment.

The freedom for scientists to pursue knowledge and to freely exchange ideas is coupled with the responsibility of scientists to maintain scientifically defensible conclusions, along with the responsibility of scientific institutions to apply high standards of logical reasoning, and respect for evidence, replicability and accuracy.

There are four fundamental scientific freedoms that the ISC seeks to uphold:

  • Freedom of movement;
  • Freedom of association;
  • Freedom of expression and communication; and
  • Freedom of access to data and information

These freedoms are threatened by attacks on the values of science and through individual cases of discrimination, harassment or restriction of movement. Such threats can be based on factors related to ethnic origin, religion, citizenship, language, political or other opinion, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability or age. Their settings are often complex and it may be difficult to disentangle the scientific, political, human rights or socio-economic aspects of specific cases.

Scientists are responsible for conducting and communicating scientific work with integrity, respect, fairness, trustworthiness and transparency, and for considering the consequences of new knowledge and its use. The maintenance of ethical standards by scientists and their institutions is a prerequisite for trust in science by both policymakers and the broader public.

The guardian of this work is the ISC Committee for Freedom and Responsibility in Science (CFRS).

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The Principle of Freedom and Responsibility in Science is enshrined in ISC Statute 7

The Principle of Freedom and Responsibility in Science: the free and responsible practice of science is fundamental to scientific advancement and human and environmental well-being. Such practice, in all its aspects, requires freedom of movement, association, expression and communication for scientists, as well as equitable access to data, information, and other resources for research. It requires responsibility at all levels to carry out and communicate scientific work with integrity, respect, fairness, trustworthiness, and transparency, recognizing its benefits and possible harms.

In advocating the free and responsible practice of science, the Council promotes equitable opportunities for access to science and its benefits, and opposes discrimination based on such factors as ethnic origin, religion, citizenship, language, political or other opinion, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, or age.


History of scientific freedom and responsibility at the ISC:

  • 1963: Standing Committee on the Free Circulation of Scientists (SCFCS) established
  • 1993: renamed to Standing Committee on Freedom in the Conduct of Science, retaining the acronym SCFCS
  • 1996: Standing Committee on Ethics and Responsibility in Science (SCRES) established
  • 2006: Committee on Freedom and Responsibility in the conduct of Science (CFRS) established as a merger of SCFCS and SCRES, following a strategic ICSU review
  • 2018: Following the merger of ICSU with the International Social Science Council, a new Committee on Freedom and Responsibility in Science was elected according to Statute 31 of the new organisation’s statutes
  • The new committee can be found here.

Resources:

See also the short history of CFRS and its predecessor organisations, written by the former Committee Secretary Peter Schindler in 2009:



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