President to DTU researchers: Freedom of research is not up for negotiation

When a broad majority in the Danish Parliament declares that the universities must sharpen their supervision of our researchers’ scientific practice, it shakes a fundamental, democratic cornerstone: the freedom of research. But this is not up for negotiation. Personally, I will fight for it.

I am sure that you have also followed the debate of recent weeks on what is described by politicians as activist research.

The raised political finger insinuates a problem among researchers with political bias, which is so extensive that it requires political interference to solve it. There is no basis for claiming that. On the contrary, the adoption casts doubt on the freedom of research on a minimal basis.

I have already said this in countless interviews, and I would like to repeat it here; I trust the researchers and the research. The postulate that researchers should ‘disguise politics as science’ is something I can not recognize at DTU.

I am therefore sincerely concerned about the consequences of the adoption if it means that you will refrain from participating in the debate to avoid being dragged through the great critique mill or shame from the parliamentary rostrum, simply because you explain the results of your research or research topics that some politicians do not think need to be researched. We as a society will only become more inadequate as a result.

My experience is that the debate has created mistrust between politicians and researchers. Even worse, that it has also given rise to the population becoming distrustful of researchers and research. It is terrible for research but even worse for a knowledge-based society.

As a university and researchers, of course, we must always be open to criticism. It is part of the essence of research. But we must maintain that the scientific practice we adhere to every day is based on a high level of professional integrity and academic self-regulation. There are both rooms for error and disagreement, but new insights and insights are created every day.

In my capacity as rector and as chairman of Danish Universities, I will continue to use my voice and my position to ensure intact research freedom and a healthier climate of debate, where unwelcome research results do not lead to persecution against the researchers behind.

If you are out there with thoughts or ideas for further work on this, you are very welcome to contact me.

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