Bonn Declaration: Research Ministers of the EU affirm the central role of freedom of scientific research

The Research Ministers of the European Union and the Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth affirmed the central role of freedom of scientific research through the “Bonn Declaration”, adopted at the Ministerial Conference on the European Research Area on October 20, in Bonn (Germany).

The document upholds the European Research Area by endowing it with the role of “safeguard of freedom of scientific research”, which is regarded as “a pillar of democracy”. The declaration relies on the shared responsibility of governments, research organizations and global research collaborations to ensure the independence, integrity and transparency of research. Therefore, it comprises not only the condemnation of violations of freedom of research but also the commitment to encourage and support structures that safeguard it, including the creation of “incentive and rewarding systems”. 

The document also encompasses an effort to clarify what freedom of research stands for by providing a shared definition of the concept which entails “the freedom of expression, the freedom of association, the freedom of movement, and the right to education”.

A core principle of the European Union, anchored in the Charter of the Fundamental Rights of the EU, the concept of freedom of scientific research is also protected by the United Nations’ International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights ratified by more than 170 states. Hence, the document not only asserts the importance of such principles in the European context, but addresses partner countries for their efforts in supporting them. It also calls on other countries to express their support.

As an organization that is actively committed to democratic values, UNICA supports the principles of this declaration. While advocating for a global shared responsibility in guaranteeing the freedom of the scientific community, the document strengthens the belief that science is a universal enterprise that acts as a means of social understanding, global collaboration and sustainable development.

Read the complete “Bonn Declaration on Freedom of Scientific Research”.


UNICA and Academic Freedom

UNICA is a community committed to democratic values, acting as a catalyst for the advancement, integration and cooperation of Member Universities throughout Europe. As “a pillar of democracy”, freedom of scientific research is frequently at the centre of different activities carried out by UNICA.

From 2016 to 2019, UNICA was part of the strategic partnership “Academic Refuge” to promote core academic values and welcome refugees and threatened academics to European campuses. Among other outcomes, this project resulted in a MOOC dedicated to “Dangerous Questions: Why Academic Freedom Matters” and an e-Handbook about core academic values, with perspectives from the field.

Together with other associations, we frequently advocate for the values of research, innovation and education. Recent joint statements include the #EUInvestInKnowledge campaign and the statement for a strong post-Brexit future in HE.

We are also strong advocates of the freedom of movement and education, promoting strategies that allow staff (and institutions) to fully benefit from staff mobility schemes. The iMOTION – Erasmus Staff Training platform and the European Project TWE+, which will result in the creation of an online platform of teaching opportunities and a set of policy recommendations on teaching mobility, are just two examples of such endeavours.

Academic Freedom is also a recurrent theme in the workshops and conferences UNICA organizes through its working groups. Upcoming, on November 25, UNICA's CITY Working Group is organizing a webinar focusing on forced displacement of academic staff.