Commission on the Ethics of Security-Relevant Research

What is security-relevant research?

The constitutionally protected freedom of science and research is an essential basis for advancement and innovation. However, this freedom of research also requires a sense of responsibility on the part of every individual researcher, given that in almost all fields of science there is a risk that significant and valuable research results may be misused.

Research projects that are expected to pose significant risks to human dignity, life, health, freedom, property, the environment or peaceful coexistence are classified as security-relevant. Security-relevant risks also exist in academic work that is subject to the so-called "dual-use problem": Such work is likely to produce knowledge, products or technologies that can be misused directly by the persons involved or by third parties.

What are the responsibilities of the KEF?

In the area of tensions between academic freedom and responsibilities in research, the Commission for the Ethics of Security-Relevant Research (KEF), and as the first contact person its chairperson, provides support by advising and assessing ethical and legal aspects in security-relevant cases.

In particular, the KEF's mission is to advise university members prior to conducting a research project in cases where significant security-relevant risks could be associated with the project. In addition, the KEF is also the point of contact if such risks or potentials for abuse become apparent during the implementation of a research project. In the event of relevant enquiries or tangible suspicions, the chairperson convenes the KEF.

In addition, the KEF pursues the goal of fostering awareness of safety-relevant aspects of research within the university to raise awareness of the problem of possible misuse of research findings and techniques and to provide a point of contact for advice on challenging ethical issues.