Freedom of Movement

Freedom of movement is one of the fundamental scientific freedoms that the ISC Committee for Freedom and Responsibility in Science (CFRS) seeks to promote and uphold. Visa restrictions can undermine these freedoms and negatively impact international collaboration.

Freedom of Movement

ISC position on visas and online accessibility (issued May 2021)

The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms a person’s right to ‘leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country’ (Article 13.1).

However, measures taken by some national authorities to prevent illegal immigration can make the visa application process complex, expensive and unpredictable. This may interfere with international scientific meetings, events, teaching opportunities, and research collaborations, when scientists require visas for travel.  

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, conferences and teaching are increasingly conducted online. Some governments have placed restrictions on scientists to limit their participation in online gatherings, often citing concern for national security. These restrictions may serve to weaken international relationships between researchers, as well as creating inequalities in access to information and opportunities among scientists in different countries.   

The right to engage in scientific enquiry, pursue and communicate knowledge, and to associate freely in such activities, is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the ISC’s Principle of Freedom and Responsibility in Science. CFRS calls on national authorities to protect and respect the freedom of movement for scientists. Arbitrary visa restrictions and excessive regulation of participation in online meetings limit the sharing of knowledge between scientists, and the generation of new knowledge through international collaboration. Such restrictions may also create or exacerbate iniquities between researchers from different countries, particularly regarding opportunities for career development and the capacity to contribute to scientific exchange and cooperation. 

In accordance with ISC Statute 7, all ISC Members that organise or sponsor international scientific meetings – both online and in person – are expected to ensure that participation of scientists is free from discrimination of any kind.  This means Members must consider the visa requirements of travelling scientists, as well as online accessibility for digital conferences, and should endeavour to ensure that equitable participation can be achieved for all participants. Individual scientists have a responsibility to comply with visa requirements and technology regulations, and should raise any issues they face with the relevant ISC Member. 

ISC guidelines for international travel and visa issues 

The ISC’s Principle of Freedom and Responsibility in Science entails the freedom of movement, association, expression and communication for scientists, as well as equitable access to data, information, and other resources for research. In advocating the free and responsible practice of science, the Council promotes equitable opportunities for access to science and its benefits and opposes discrimination of any kind.

As guardian of the Principle of Freedom and Responsibility, the Committee for Freedom and Responsibility in Science has developed the following guidance for science-related travel.  



For event and meeting organizers: 

For meeting sponsors: 

For travelling participants: 

Download this information as a PDF.

Header image: Detail from photo by Robynne Hu on Unsplash.

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