Freedom of science

Gerhard Fink

Publication: Scientific journalJournal articlepeer-review


Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to highlight the importance of "freedom of science"("academic freedom")for the advancement of society and mankind, which, however, is permanently endangered by powerful organisations, groups and individuals, who in pursuit of their one-sided interests are seeking to constrain information about the truth. As a broad term, freedom of science embraces freedom in research, learning, teachingand publication. All of these activities should be dedicated to identifying the truth and learning about the truth. Design/methodology/approach – Three theoretical approaches are of importance for framing issues related to freedom of science, which in this paper are integrated into the framework of mindset agency theory: freedom is a value; "freedom" is claimed by agents who pursue specific interests (goals), which might constrain others; and individuals are agents who are interacting with each other within a social system–cooperation, ignorance or conflict. Findings – Freedom as a value is at the core of intellectual autonomy. Intellectual autonomy is a necessarycondition for innovation and advancement of knowledge. The observable modes of interaction/coexistenceamong researchers are influenced by individual research goals and by the researchers' access to resources, which may be deliberately constrained by opponents or other researchers as competitors. Research limitations/implications – For further research, which is beyond this paper, the authors can refer to: analyses of challenges of "academic freedom" – in terms of ethics, protection of individual humanrights, political pressures and conflicts of interests; the issues of truth, i.e. the impact of fake news andcreation of "alternate facts"; and the relation between academic freedom and employment (academic tenure) inpresent-day societies. Owing to lack of space, this paper cannot deal with the danger emerging from powerful organisations or powerful individuals, who are challenging freedom of science. Social implications–If there is no freedom of science then social progress is constrained. If there is no access to right data, decisions will be wrong. Originality/value – So far, a comprehensive cybernetic model was not published, which supports systems thinking about scholars and teachers (inter)acting in research organisations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1935-1952
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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