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US Military funding for German science

German universities and research centres have received third-party funds from the US Pentagon. This ‘uncovering’ revealed by the public radio and television broadcaster Norddeutscher Rundfunk (NDR) and by the German daily newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) has dominated the German media landscape for weeks, raising questions about the ethical dimension of research for military purposes. 

According to NDR and SZ sources, at least 22 German universities have benefited from third-party research funding directly or indirectly financed by the US Department of Defence. This is, indeed, news even for the harshest arms industry critics. German universities and research centres are said to have benefited from more than USD 10 million (EUR 7.26 million) from 2000 onwards. Yet, among those universities some are signatories of a so called ‘civil clause’ which is a self-commitment, restricting research activities to non-military purposes. Nevertheless, many of the US pentagon-funded research projects are not necessarily labelled as armaments research but fall into the category of basic research – blurring the lines between research for civilian and military purposes. Although NDR and SZ found information on research funding from the US Department of Defence, the content of every research project has not been laid open, as some of the concerned universities have refused to publish information.

In many cases, research results are dual, applicable for any kind of ends. The uncovering has revealed a considerable problem with regard to a lack of transparency in publicly disclosing sources of third-party funding. However research for military ends does not necessarily have to be considered as unethical as such.

Sü (in German) (in German)

Federation of German Scientists (in German)