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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 …
↵iThe Assemblea Costituente discussed the opportunity to introduce an explicit provision to protect freedom of scientific research. Some were critical about the possibility of dedicating a part of the constitutional text to liberties of culture and thought, considered different from the traditional constitutional rights. Others doubted the need of consecrating too gravely such an activity that is free in itself, so diminishing its own value. At last, the importance of letting the social community be free from the fascist cultural subjection prevailed, and article 33 of the Italian Constitution was introduced, protecting freedom of art and science and their teaching as a means of assuring human cultural and spiritual growth. More about the debate that took place in Assemblea Costituente can be seen in Chieffi.1
↵iiFor example, in the recent Italian law on assisted reproduction (Law number 40/2004), it has been introduced, in article 1, that the product of fertilisation should have the same rights as the other subjects involved in the procreation process, to raise it to the dignity of a third party that cannot be harmed.
Competing interests: None.