In the context of its commitment to corporate responsibility, the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft is dedicated to its responsibility whenever its activities have an impact on the economy, on staff, the environment or society. In the case of research with major ethical implications, the Fraunhofer Ethics Committee for Security-Relevant Research (REC) provides guidance and promotes reflective practice.
In addition to the Fraunhofer ethics consultancy set up in 2015, the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft’s Executive Board established an Ethics Committee for Security-Relevant Research (REC) that will commence its work in 2019. This REC will address research activities associated with considerable risks for human dignity, life, health, freedom, ownership, environment and peaceful coexistence. Security-relevant risks are inherent above all in scientific work where it can be assumed that knowledge, products or technologies will be created that may be used to the detriment of, or damage to humans and the environment.
Help with decisions in place of obstacles
“With many of today’s ethical challenges in application oriented research, there is no panacea for clearly differentiating between right and wrong. Instead scientists need to gain a certain competence in dealing with ethical questions. The Fraunhofer Research Ethics Committee will provide guidance for action in the relevant fields of research and make a contribution to overcoming normative uncertainties. Dealing with ethical questions should not become an obstacle barring innovation, but should encourage reflection on the scope for action and potential use of our research results,” says Fraunhofer President Prof. Reimund Neugebauer.
The Research Ethics Committee is not designed to counteract fields of activity, but to sensitize scientists to ethical questions and encourage them to actively address these issues in their projects.
Guidance instead of voting
As an internal advisory body, the Fraunhofer REC also advises the Executive Board as well as the employees of the Fraunhofer Institutes once the relevant application has been made. It can be convened on an ad-hoc basis by the REC office and, in coordination with the REC Steering Committee and the Presidential Council, draws on experts depending on the case in hand. REC works on the basis of the prevailing law and the pertinent scientific standards, as well as in accordance with the REC’s articles of association. It does not grant any votes but provides orientation in the form of position papers, guidelines or recommendations.