Ethics of security-related research

Ethical Goals

From the view point of ethics, it is the goal of the scientific work at WIAS to achieve essential contributions to the advancement of mathematics and of mathematical models and methods in other sciences, as well as to enable and promote innovative applications of such results in technics and other areas of life. Therewith our work is devoted to cultural and social progress, to the improvement of the living standard, and to peacekeeping. An open and free scientific research on international scales is the basis of our work, and it should be promoted.

Dangerous trends and abuse

Of course, we are aware of the problems of our research activities. WIAS does not participate in research projects, which at home and abroad lead to wars, human rights violations, political dictatorship, cruelty to animals, intolerance and discrimination. More complicated, however, is the danger of misusing research results for immoral, unjust, and ruthless purposes (dual use). Unfortunately, it is the very nature of mathematics that abstract models offer versatile applications. Surely, we cannot avoid to develop the fundamentals of mathematics. Nevertheless it is important to think how to deal with results relevant for applications serving beside the original aim also critical ones. Research results, which immediately can be used for unethical purposes, should not be published by members of WIAS. Any cooperation with scientific colleagues or institutes, which exclusively work in these directions, must be rejected.

Implementations of the goals

Any scientific coworker of WIAS must be aware of his responsibility for a morally correct research activity and has to check his research goals from the ethical point of view. His colleagues should advise him of such problems. In conflict situations the coworker and his colleagues contact the "committee on dual use" (KEF after the german translation "Kommission für Ethik in der Forschung" for "Commission for Research Ethics"). On the one hand, there is the KEF of the Leibniz association, which is concerned with all issues that are of importance for the whole association. For all other issues the KEF of WIAS (statute: pdf document , contact persons: A. Linke and A. Rathsfeld) is responsible. Both KEFs have been initiated by the activity of the "joint-committee-on-dual-use" of DFG and Leopoldina. In a non-public session the KEF debates the doubtful research project and gives a recommendation how to proceed. In case the research does not comply to the above mentioned requirements, the director of WIAS decides which measure to take.