Academic Freedom

“Why is it necessary to study the historical genesis of a linguistic detail?” / “What is a research finding even worth if ‘new truths’ are being hailed in the news every month?”

Six minutes for academic freedom

– that’s what five members of Die Junge Akademie are calling for in a joint project. Anna Lisa Ahlers, Martin-Immanuel Bittner, Nausikaä El-Mecky, Anuscheh Farahat, and Fabian Schmidt are working on six-minute films in which they present their own perspective on the question of why academic freedom is valuable to society. The goal of the project is to create a total of five films that will be released in 2018 and 2019.

Numerous tendencies to restrict academic freedom can currently be observed around the world. Researchers who produce ‘undesirable’ results often find themselves placed under political and financial pressure while opportunities for the international exchange of knowledge among scientists are impeded and unwanted research findings are openly discredited. So far, academic freedom has not been directly challenged in Germany. But even here academia is being subjected to new pressures to justify itself, such as when research projects are required to adhere to cost-benefit stipulations, or when the reason for being – especially when it comes to theoretical research, but also for highly specialized fields with limited possibilities for application – is generally called into question.

The complex framework of research and society involved often makes it difficult for the layperson to understand in this debate and gives rise to numerous questions: “Why is it necessary to study the historical genesis of a linguistic detail?”, or “What is a research finding even worth if ‘new truths’ are being hailed in the news every month?”

One of the goals of the project is to engage with these questions and provide a vivid explanation for why academia cannot function without freedom. The series is a collaboration between Die Junge Akademie, Antonia Schanze (videojournalist), and Christopher Kuß (media- and communication designer).

In July 2018, the first two films were published. Click here for the Press Release. Two more film were released in January 2019. Click here for the Press Release.

19TH JUNE, 2019


Academic FREEdoms: Perspectives on a fundamental right

Die Junge Akademie, together with the German National Academy of Sciences – Nationalen Akademie der Wissenschaften Leopoldina, is organising a film and discussion evening. The event is part of the campaign “Freedom is our System. Together for Science”, an initiative of the Alliance of Science Organisations in Germany. More information about this initiative can be found at

In short film contributions, several members of Die Junge Akademie report their perspectives on Academic Freedom; how scientific work functions for them, what Academic Freedom means within their respective fields of research, in what ways they may be limited as researchers, and under which circumstances free research is itself limited. After the screening, art historian Nausikaä El-Mecky and oncologist Martin-Immanuel Bittner, both members of Die Junge Akademie, will discuss the different perspectives on academic freedom with scientists from the Leopoldina, such as the the historian Ute Frevert and the jurist Jochen Taupitz. The event is moderated by Yve Fehring, who, among other functions, moderates the science programme “nano”.

The idea for this event was developed within the framework of the film project regarding the research group Academic Freedom.



The panel discussion will explore the question of academic freedom in Germany. What does it mean when more and more cost and benefit aspects of science come to the fore, when theoretical research and so-called orchid subjects are denied the right to exist? What are the conditions of scientists working in Germany and where are there (unwanted) boundaries and interventions? Where do we have to actively protect the freedom of science and what should we do about it?

Panel guests:

Prof. Dr. h.c. Jutta Allmendinger, Ph.D., President of the WZB Berlin Social Science Center
Dr. Nausikaä El-Mecky, Tenure Track professor Art History, Universitat Pompeu Fabra Barcelona and Die Junge Akademie
Ilyas Saliba, Research Fellow of the Research Uni "Democracy and Democratization", WZB Berlin Social Science Center
Prof. Dr. Uwe Schimank, professor for sociology, University of Bremen

This event is part of the WZB series "Achtung: Demokratie" and is moderated by Dr. Fabian Schmidt (Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics and Die Junge Akademie).

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participating Alumnae / Alumni