Academic Freedom and Responsibility Toward Society – Who Decides What Science We Do?

12th Forum on the Internationalization of Sciences and Humanities

11 – 12 November 2018, Berlin


Complete academic freedom is the dream of any scientist and scholar. There is no question that successful societies need to provide space for “blue-sky research” in order to venture into the unknown. At the same time, science and scholarship is not an end in itself. Societies have a legitimate claim to defining the goals for the science and scholarship they fund in order to address the challenges they are facing.

Over the last decades, many societies and supra-national bodies have established support mechanisms for science and scholarship that combine both aspects, leading to a mix of top-down and bottom-up funding mechanisms granting varying degrees of academic freedom to researchers. In many cases, this has enabled successful research results ranging from commercially exploitable discoveries to fundamentally new universal insights.

In recent times, a new challenge has arisen in societies throughout the world impinging on academic freedom: A rise of populism and a deep distrust in elites, including scientists and scholars. These developments are affecting societies in their core. Also, these developments will have an effect on the “academic freedom” of the individual researcher: How much freedom will societies allow their researchers in future? How much freedom can they allow their researchers? And how much freedom may researchers have to give up in order to contribute to the freedom of their societies?

At what is perceived by many as a turning-point for academic freedom, the 12th Forum on the Internationalization of Sciences and Humanities aimed to understand how changing needs in societies around the world affect the science we do – and what researchers should and can do in order to uphold a freedom that goes beyond academia, but ultimately is the condition for academic freedom as well.

12th Forum on the Internationalization of Sciences and Humanities, Berlin (Photos: Humboldt Foundation/David Ausserhofer)

Publication for Download

More Information

Forum on the Internationalization of Sciences and Humanities

International Advisory Board


Alexander von Humboldt Foundation
Jean-Paul-Str. 12
53173 Bonn

Phone: +49 (228) 833 245

Dr. Martin Schaffartzik
Program Director
Strategic Planning Division

Dr. Barbara Sheldon
Head of
Strategic Planning Division