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Mural in Berlin

Mural in Berlin
Image Credit: Michael Zalewski

Cause for celebration: This year marks the 75th anniversary of the Basic Law, Germany’s constitution. The law, passed in 1949, governs and safeguards the underpinnings of our democracy – from the fundamental rights of citizens and residents to the organization and functions of the state and beyond to matters of defense. Academic and scientific freedom is also enshrined in the Basic Law; Article 5 reads, “Arts and sciences, research and teaching shall be free.”

Within the Berlin network of excellence, scholars and scientists consider issues of democracy from a wide range of different perspectives. What risks does our liberal democracy face? How do we strengthen bonds within society? And what role does academic freedom play for researchers who are refugees from other countries? The examples presented here show that democracy is the foundation for a strong, tolerant, and peaceful society, but it is not self-evident. Science and academia can provide important insights into where the dangers lie and what mechanisms they are based on. The research sector benefits from open dialogue with society, which enriches researchers’ work and leads to new solutions and ideas.