Freedom of scientific research is one of the most important earned rights in our civilization after the Renaissance. In some countries, e.g. Germany, it is even included as a principle in the country's constitution.

Freedom of research has been defined more precisely in the Netherlands already in the 19th century by one of our best known early whistleblowers, Multatuli (1)

Freedom of research is the unobstructed strive for the truth.

The emphasis falls on striving. In science, and certainly in ethics, it is not always clear from the beginning what is ultimate truth.

In science we are used to the research methodology that theories and paradigms are formulated based on primary observations, which are subjected to subsequent observations, experiments or logic argumentation. For quite some time there may remain among scientists disagreement on the proof of a theory if contradictory observations are being made. This disagreement, or better the openness by which uncertainties are discussed, is also a basic principle in science. This originates from one of the founders of western science, Socrates, who always troubled his students with the question: 'Are things as they look like?'

Modern general methodology in science is based on the philosophy of Karl Popper (2), who emphasized that theories can be only worthwhile to be considered, if they can be falsified, that is to say: “criticism is installed as the hallmark of rationality, and the traditional justificationist insistence on proof, conclusive or inconclusive, on confirmation and on positive argument, is repudiated. Science grows, and may even approach the truth [sic!], not by amassing supporting evidence, but through an unending cycle of problems, tentative solutions and error elimination” (3)

The uncertainty principle in science is not always appreciated in the right way by the general public, and certainly not by politicians. 'Scientific proof' is all too easy seen as the truth and the doubting scientists are repudiated.

But also within the scientific community the depreciation of doubt may arise, e.g. among well-known scholars and their students or less established scientists. But 'nullius in Verba' is the device of the British Royal Society, which is short for 'Nullius addictus jurare in verba magistri' (4), or 'there is no obligation to swear by the words of any master'.

Freedom of research is a major component of GSP, being both as a right and a source of creativity. The right should be given as early as possible to the young scientist who has proven to deserve it by the demonstration of competence and objectivity.

The need for objectivity in science was first formulated by Francis Bacon (1561-1626) “Scientists should always be disinterested, impartial and totally objective when gathering data” (see 5)

–> 1.2 Unwritten Rules in the Scientific Community today


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