Freedoms and Responsibilities in Science

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, to pursue and communicate knowledge, and to associate freely in such activities.

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.

Freedoms and Responsibilities in Science

The Council’s Committee for Freedom and Responsibility in Science (CFRS) is the guardian of the Principle of Freedom and Responsibility in Science, which is enshrined in the Council’s Statutes.

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.

The Committee works at the intersections between science and human rights to uphold and protect the freedoms that scientists should enjoy, and the responsibilities they carry, while engaging in scientific practice.

Current Campaigns

Responsibility in science

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 application. The maintenance of ethical standards by scientists and their institutions is a prerequisite for trust in science by both policymakers and the broader public.

Access resources on the promotion of ethical, responsible conduct of science, including declarations of World Conferences on Research Integrity and national codes of conduct from around the world.

Scientific freedoms

For science to progress efficiently and for its benefits to be shared equitably, scientists must be afforded scientific freedoms. This includes individual freedom of enquiry and exchange of ideas, freedom to reach scientifically defensible conclusions, and institutional freedom to apply collectively scientific standards of validity, replicability and accuracy.

The ISC seeks to uphold four fundamental scientific freedoms:

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. CFRS monitors individual and generic cases of scientists whose freedoms and rights are restricted as a result of carrying out their scientific research, and provides assistance in such cases where its intervention can provide relief and support activities of other relevant actors.

The Committee works to monitor and respond to threats to scientific freedoms around the world. For details on how CFRS selects and responds to cases, please refer to this CFRS Advisory Note.

More information

Should you have any questions on the ISC’s work on the Freedoms and Responsibilities in Science, please contact:

CFRS Executive Secretary & Senior Science Officer

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.

Photo by Robynne Hu on Unsplash.

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