Research – a balancing act between freedom and responsibility


In our December issue, we invite you to embark on a journey with us through the world of research, a place where freedom and responsibility are inextricably linked.

While for some people freedom of research goes too far, others believe it is in danger. Our cover image symbolises the balancing act between freedom and responsibility. While the winged figure is all set to take to the skies, illustrator Tim Martin leaves it up to the reader to decide how the ropes in the picture are to be interpreted. Do they represent ideological, religious or state-imposed shackles that populists would like to place on researchers due to the fear of progress? Or are they protective ropes that should serve to protect researchers against their own false ambitions, ensuring that their flights of fancy don’t end in disaster like Icarus? Applied research, which is the task of universities of applied sciences, is conducted in this area of tension between freedom and limits. While an openness to results, a free choice of methods and the sharing of knowledge are likewise considered quality criteria here, these aspects must be repeatedly renegotiated in cooperation with research partners from business and institutions. “As universities of applied sciences don’t only generate knowledge, but rather also help their partners in implementing it in practice, they change the world in a very concrete manner,” says Christoph Heitz, an expert in algorithmic fairness at the ZHAW, in the interview found in this edition of Impact (page 26). He therefore considers another scientific aspect to be at least as important as freedom: the assumption of responsibility by researchers for their actions and their consequences from an ethical, sustainable and social perspective. Heitz calls for people to be trained in this way of thinking, as there is no need to fear the freedom of research. After all, researchers usually know best themselves where the risks of their work lie.


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