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Developing a risk-free cooperation between civilian and military research

On 15 March, the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) published a position paper on linking academic freedom with national security. The comprehensive security policy position paper includes specific recommendations to enable a risk-free cooperation between civilian and military research.  

Concerning the most important target dimensions, several recommendations are presented, but the following are in particular worth emphasising:   

  • The strict separation between civilian and military research in Germany has to be reviewed. The extent to which funding incentives for increased cooperation between civilian and military research in suitable areas would be useful should also be considered.  
  • Measures to ensure research security should have a central function. As research is increasingly exposed to risks such as external interference or spying on employees, guidelines and instruments should help to expand knowledge in this area.  
  • To support scientific staff and institutions in the risk management of safety-critical technologies, a central information platform and clearing centre needs to be established.  
  • More than 70 German universities operate civilian clauses that prohibit military or defence-related research. Due to the changed geopolitical situation, the appropriateness of these clauses must be reassessed.  

While the Federal Association of the German Security and Defence Industry (BDSV) has expressed its approval of the new position paper, the Science Alliance is less enthusiastic about this proposal. Concerns are being expressed regarding the fact that research should not be restricted by increasing research security.  

The BMBF has announced further talks with relevant government agencies for the future. At the same time, European solutions are being considered.