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J Med Ethics 33:342-344 doi:10.1136/jme.2007.020594
  • Ethics

What constitutional protection for freedom of scientific research?

  1. Amedeo Santosuosso1,
  2. Valentina Sellaroli2,
  3. Elisabetta Fabio3
  1. 1Corte d’Appello, Milano (I), Milan, Italy; Università degli Studi di Pavia, Centro di Ricerca Interdipartimentale European Centre for Life Sciences, Health and the Courts (Presidente), Pavia, Italy
  2. 2Procura della Repubblica per i Minorenni di Torino (I), Torino, Italy; Centro di Ricerca Interdipartimentale European Centre for Life Sciences, Health and the Courts, Università di Pavia (I), Pavia, Italy
  3. 3Dottoranda in Diritto Costituzionale, Università degli Studi di Milano (I), Milan, Italy
  1. Correspondence to:
 A Santosuosso
 Corte d’Appello, Milano (I) Milan, Italy; Università degli Studi di Pavia, Centro di Ricerca Interdipartimentale European Centre for Life Sciences, Health and the Courts (Presidente), Pavia, Italy; amedeo.santosuosso{at}unipv.it
  • Received 29 January 2007
  • Accepted 29 January 2007

Is freedom of research protected at the constitutional level? No obvious answer can be given to this question, as European and Northern American constitutional systems are not unequivocal and the topic has not been discussed deeply enough.

Looking at the constitutions of some European and Northern American countries, it is possible to immediately note that there are essentially two ways to deal with freedom of scientific research. On the one hand, in Canada and in the US, constitutions have no specific provisions to protect freedom of scientific research, with the result that such freedom ends up having to be protected as a specific aspect of the wider freedom of thought and expression (protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution). On the other hand, other countries’ constitutional systems, mainly European ones, expressly recognise freedom of research and teaching arts and science. For instance, article 5 of the German Constitution states that “Art and science, research and teaching are free”, article 33 of the Italian Constitution1i establishes that “The arts and sciences as well as their teaching are free” and article 59 of the Slovenian Constitution states that “Freedom of scientific research and artistic endeavor shall be guaranteed”.

Within this second group, some constitutions limit their protection to the provision of freedom of scientific research, whereas other fundamental laws engage governments in promoting and supporting it. For example, the Italian Constitution, which states that “The Republic promotes cultural development and scientific and technical research” (article 9), the Spanish Constitution, according to which “public authorities shall promote science and scientific and technical research for the benefit of general interest” (article 44) and, also, the Greek Constitution, whose article 16 establishes that art, science, research and their teaching are free, and their promotion is mandatory for the State.2 It …