Jul 122013
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David Huesmann (d.huesmann@uni-mainz.de) is a doctoral candidate at the department of chemistry in Mainz, a member of the Max Planck Graduate Center, and an editor for JUnQ. He obtained his diploma in chemistry at Johannes Gutenberg- University in 2011. His research focuses on the synthesis of polypeptidic nanoparticles for drug delivery.

Science has always been about breaking boundaries, but can scientists go too far? Are there boundaries that scientist should not overstep? And if so who defines these boundaries? A critical area is so called dual use research that is aimed at civilian and peaceful applications, but has also potential uses in war and terrorism. The most promi- nent example is possibly nuclear technology, which can be used to construct nuclear power plants on the one hand and weapons of mass destruction on the other. But also everyday technologies like the global positioning system (GPS) are problematic. Here they help me to navigate my car through an unknown city, but in crisis regions the same technology is used to effectively guide missiles that kill people. Research on dual use topics is often controversial and in the end it boils down to the questions: Is the (potential) benefit greater than the risk? And where does the freedom of researchers end?

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  One Response to “The Limits of Freedom in Science – Dual Use Research”

  1. I have never understood the concerns about dual use research, especially in german universities. A simple argument: Obviously, it is by no means forbidden (but granted by freedom of science), to do “single use research”, that is directly driven by the needs of the army. Defense of the country by armed forces enjoys a constitutional rang in democratic states almost anywhere in the world. Shall we allow that our soldiers, no matter if volunteers or liable to service, do not get sufficient equipment?
    To sum up: As long as “single use” exists why should dual use be a critical area? And: The individual decision and responsibility of any researcher should not be replaced by institutional rules, like resolutions from a university board.

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