The Guild calls for the creation of European Ombudsperson to defend academic freedom

17 Jun 2021 | Network Updates | Update from The Guild
These updates are republished press releases and communications from members of the Science|Business Network

Jan Palmowski, The Guild Secretary General.

As a core principle of the EU, academic freedom must be protected vigorously and decisively by the European Commission and all EU institutions. The Guild urges for the creation of a European Ombudsperson for the defence and support of academic freedom.

At a time when scientific findings are being contested, distorted and undermined by influencers, organisations and platforms denying evidence and facts, academic freedom is critical. The ability to pursue evidence-based enquiry, free of any external influences, is indispensable to excellent research and research-led teaching. 

The Guild voices its concern on the threats academic freedom continues to face. The EU must be proactive in the defence of academic freedom to protect European researchers at home and abroad. The European Court of Justice has a critical role in this, but we need to go further. Therefore, The Guild calls for the creation of a European Ombudsperson for the defence and support of academic freedom. The Ombudsperson would ensure that infringements on academic freedom are responded to quickly, impartially, and effectively, based on the Bonn Declaration on Freedom of Scientific Research.

The Guild underlines its support for the Bonn Declaration and particularly its emphasis on researchers’ right to freely define research questions. We call upon all European governments, and the Commission, to ensure that researchers and educators have the freedom to pursue all fields of enquiry. Any attempts by national governments or politicians to outlaw, discriminate or verbally abuse any academic subjects, disciplines, fields of enquiry or institutions must be criticized and sanctioned.

To defend academic freedom, it is crucial to strengthen the institutional autonomy of universities. Universities must be safe spaces that safeguard diversity and inclusion, while providing a crucial place for open debate. The Guild urges for all those engaging in academic debate to be protected from hate speech, violence, harassment and all kinds of discrimination.

Jan Palmowski, Secretary-General of The Guild, said “Academic freedom is not a luxury researchers indulge in. It is essential to scientific discovery, the vitality and breadth of knowledge, and the education of our students. The EU must do everything in its power to safeguard academic freedom: as a principle and as a practice.”

This article was first published on June 17 by The Guild.

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