Ethics and Scientific Responsibility

Fraunhofer is very aware of its responsibility in dealing with both the freedom of research and the potential risks associated with research. Fraunhofer supports the initiatives of the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft or DFG) and the German National Academy of the Sciences Leopoldina in the context of "Scientific Freedom and Scientific Responsibility – General Guidelines on Dealing with Security-Relevant Research".

In addition to legal compliance with foreign trade regulations and the associated inspections for Dual Use criteria, Fraunhofer encourages internal and external dialog on responsible actions in research, above and beyond conventional legal obligations. In the interaction among business, society, politics and science we regard ourselves as a partner contributing to societal and political debates with scientific expertise in our research fields and as a leader of strategic initiatives for the resolution of future challenges.

In their respective research fields, our scientists are concerned with the relationships between technical, social, economic and ecological systems and their impact on the future. We intend our research to be a contribution to sustainable development in the sense of an ecologically intact, economically successful and socially balanced world. We feel obligated to fulfill this responsibility.


Information, consulting and sensitization

In realizing its ethical responsibilities, Fraunhofer relies on information, consulting and sensitization. A variety of measures actively promote our employees' sense of responsibility with the objective of systematically handling issues of ethics and scientific responsibility. We provide support with organization-wide consulting services for questions and challenges relating to ethics. In our research projects we obtain the advice and/or votes of external ethics commissions and make use of existing structures in support of responsible research. 


Dealing with Dual Use

In order to ensure legally compliant realization of the stipulations of foreign trade regulations, Fraunhofer has established an export control system for all actions and activities which centrally controls the topic of Dual Use under the inclusion of Fraunhofer Institutes and facilities. This export control system is intended to protect Fraunhofer as a globally networked organization from conflicts with German or European foreign policy or security policy interests. This is particularly true in the context of the export of high-value goods and technologies which are to be classified as Dual-Use goods. 


Conscientious research on a wide scale – Fraunhofer and TNO send a joint message 

Fraunhofer is working together with the Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research TNO as part of an EU-subsidized project to anchor conscientious research in all dimensions. Led by the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research ISI, the EU project Joining Efforts for Responsible Research and Innovation ("JERRI") began in June 2016. During the course of the three-year project, pilot activities will be launched at both organizations in each of the five Responsible Research and Innovation dimensions: Ethics, Gender Equality, Open Access, Involvement of the Community in Key Scientific Questions, Scientific Strategies and Activities as well as Scientific Education. The goal of the project is to initiate the transformation of the organizations in various pilot activities and to facilitate learning effects beneficial to other applied research organizations in Europe.