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Home > Publications > Committee on Freedom and Responsibility in the conduct of Science (CFRS) > Freedom, Responsibility & Universality of Science (booklet, 2008)

Freedom, Responsibility & Universality of Science

Published: October 2008

Note: This is a previous edition of this booklet, it has been updated in 2014.


This booklet explains the Principle of Universality of Science and provides a brief overview of issues relating to the freedom to conduct science and responsibilities of scientists. It also includes some illustrative examples of the role that the International Council for Science (ICSU) and its Members have played in defending the freedom of scientists. It should be of interest to everyone involved with science—students, scientists themselves, science managers and policy makers, and also the broader community. While, primarily, the focus is on science in academia, it is also relevant to individuals in many different settings practicing or concerned with science.

The Committee on Freedom and Responsibility in the conduct of Science (CFRS), which has produced this booklet, was established by ICSU in 2006. It is the latest in a series of policy committees that have been responsible for promoting and safeguarding the freedoms of scientists as described in the Principle of Universality (ICSU Statute 5). The new committee differs significantly from its predecessors in that it has been explicitly charged with also considering the responsibilities of scientists. The impetus for this change came from a strategic review of Science and Society: Rights and Responsibilities (ICSU, 2005) that analysed the changing context for scientific practice and its relationship with, and influence on, other sectors of society.

This booklet does not attempt to dictate new universal norms and codes. ICSU’s role is rather to provide an overall framework for reflection and debate. The booklet deliberately raises many unanswered questions and might best be considered as a stimulus to future thinking. We hope you enjoy it, learn something from it and are motivated to discuss the issues it raises with colleagues and friends.

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