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Facts and Findings

Turning point? Civil clauses!

by Christian E. Rieck

Why military research belongs at German universities

There has been no militarization of science in the Federal Republic of Germany since German reunification, but in view of the tense security situation, a strict ban on military research at universities in the form of civilian clauses no longer seems appropriate. Christian E. Rieck gives five recommendations for action for science and politics, and an overview of the discussion in the German press rounds off the analysis.

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Since German reunification, there has been no militarization of science in the Federal Republic of Germany. On the contrary, military research has become much less important since 1990. Civilian clauses are intended to guarantee that university research serves exclusively peaceful goals.  In this context, as well as in the competitive situation with non-university research institutes, civil clauses fundamentally impair the competitiveness of university research. However, the general underfunding of universities by the federal states remains the far greater problem here and military research cannot be the solution.

A general ban on cooperation between the defense sector and universities not only demonstrates a deep mistrust of the Bundeswehr - a constitutional body after all - but also of the state-funded research system. In contrast, academic freedom as a constitutive principle of university research may only be restricted in individual cases. Nevertheless, the constitutionally enshrined freedom of science and scholarship entails a value-based responsibility on the part of individual scientists, who should be sensitized to the potential dangers of civil-military cooperation in science and research.

The civil clauses remained only a marginal aspect of the German public debate surrounding the turn of the century. Several authors spoke out in the press in favor of adapting to the tense security situation. A strict ban on military research at universities would no longer be appropriate against the backdrop of the desired turnaround.

This publication is dedicated to civilian clauses and their influence on research and science. Military historian Christian E. Rieck gives recommendations for action for science and politics. The analysis is rounded off with a look at the german press landscape.

The entire analysis “Turning point? Civil clauses” can be read here as a PDF.

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Martin Falbisoner

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Head of Media Analysis and Archive +49 30 26996-2497 +49 30 26996-52497


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