Academic freedom in Germany is in acute danger. As soon as tomorrow, the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, a very important funding agency, is going to vote on a proposal that would make whistleblowing on academic misconduct a sanctionable offense. Universities would be forced to implement this rule at the risk of losing their funding. Under such a rule, to name an example, Andreas Fischer-Lescano, who in a review article in 2011 first pointed out that large parts of defense minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg’s doctoral thesis were plagiarized, would have faced disciplinary measures – just for making his findings public, which is what research is all about. The proposed rule, whose exact wording is being kept secret, seems to be an alarming attempt to silence academic whistleblowers and protect those who have something to fear from public discourse about their academic conduct. This is a direct attack on academic freedom, one of our precious safeguards against authoritarianism. I consider it of utmost importance to stop this measure, or at least make our protest heard clearly.
For more details, this blog post has an excellent list of articles (some German, some English).