NOU 2022: 2

Academic freedom of expression — A good culture of free speech must be built from the bottom up, every single day

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4 Academic freedom of expression internationally

4.1 Introduction

Protecting and promoting academic freedom of expression is not only a national affair. Internationalisation, i.e. collaboration between academic communities and the exchange of academic staff and students across national borders, is necessary to solve the challenges facing society today, meaning academic staff and students are far more mobile than previously. The Commission’s mandate includes describing threats to academic freedom in light of international developments. The fact that this is a global challenge is underlined by the UN Secretary-General’s stark warning against the «infodemic plaguing our world» and the «war on science». He calls upon the UN member states to defend a common, empirically backed consensus around facts, science and knowledge.1

4.2 Challenges

Internationally, academic freedom and freedom of expression face a wide range of different threats, some of which are more transferable to Norway than others. In the following, the Commission will focus on three developments in particular. First, global online platforms have a major impact on the conditions for academic freedom and freedom of expression, also in Norway. Second, trends and tendencies can be identified in some of our closely associated nations that to varying degrees have spread or may spread to Norway. Third, some countries that are not in the category of «closely associated nations» may exert an influence on academic freedom of expression in Norway through collaborative research partnerships, etc.

4.2.1 Online attacks on knowledge and stewards of knowledge

Misinformation, disinformation, denial of facts and conspiracy theories are not new phenomena. Throughout history, political interests, economic interests and popular delusions have contributed false claims, such as that the Holocaust never happened, the world is ruled by the Illuminati, tobacco is not harmful, and climate change is a hoax.

What is new in historical terms is that we now, for the first time, have a common global public sphere where discussions take place in real time and where virtually everyone can take part, unfiltered. And we have global communication platforms that stimulate, accelerate and globalise the spread of untruths. Social media are run on a business model that rewards posts that are sensational and polarising. Since untruths are often more sensational than truths, and social media do not distinguish clearly between fact and fiction, attacks on knowledge and stewards of knowledge have never been easier, occurred more rapidly, or reached such a wide audience.

This development benefits political populists, nationalists and autocrats, who are served by polarising the debate and stoking animosity. The academic elite is an easy target, allowing populists to combine lies with branding of those who promote and manage knowledge as the enemy.

We also see that the developments mentioned have a strong impact on the framework conditions for the exercise of academic freedom of expression, with ripple effects far beyond social media platforms. In several countries, researchers on politically sensitive topics such as immigration and integration, gender and climate change2 have been exposed to intimidating, hateful and threatening responses when participating in the public debate. During the COVID-19 pandemic, immunologists and public health experts were particularly at risk.3 These tendencies have also been seen in Norway: Norwegian researchers in these fields are among those who self-censor to the greatest extent in their dissemination.4 This kind of self-censorship occurs not least out of fear of negative reactions from colleagues, with some people concerned about the possible consequences for their academic merit ranking due to subtle threats and harassment from within academia. However, fear is also created by pressures from outside academia, such as interference by politically motivated actors or foreign intelligence services.5

The situation is not without its paradoxes, since many countries have a more highly educated population and a stronger culture of knowledge than ever before. Parallel to this increase in threats to and intimidation of researchers, there has also been an increase in the public’s trust in research during the pandemic.6 Digitalisation and social media have also contributed to the professionalisation of research dissemination, as well as making it easier for researchers themselves to access others’ research and impart their own research to more people.

4.2.2 Developments in selected countries: challenges to academic freedom

Global developments are also having an impact in countries that are close to Norway and with which we have extensive academic cooperation. We are therefore also seeing trends and tendencies that to varying degrees have spread or may spread to Norway. The Commission has gathered information about the situation in a number of selected countries. Although there may be differences in the framework conditions in the various sectors and institutions, there are clear commonalities in terms of both restrictions on academic freedom of expression and initiatives to defend it. Below are examples of various types of interference and limitations from different countries.

Political, legal and administrative limitations of academic freedom

Both academic freedom and freedom of expression have long and strong traditions in the USA. Despite this, restrictions have been imposed on the extent of these freedoms in recent decades. One frequently cited explanation is that permanent positions have increasingly been replaced by temporary employment.7 The development has been further amplified by the technological, social and political dynamics in American society. During Trump’s presidency, for example, it was forbidden for the administration or researchers in public institutions to use the phrase «climate change».8 The ideological polarisation in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic has also contributed to higher levels of conflict and attacks on researchers.

A number of political guidelines at both the national and regional level have had a negative impact on academic freedom of expression. For example, in 2020 Donald Trump issued a presidential order on «Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping», which prevented universities from using funds to «promote» racial and gender stereotypes that the administration deemed «divisive». This presidential order has now been revoked. However, this has not prevented a number of senators in states such as Arkansas, Iowa, New Hampshire and Oklahoma from launching similar bills to regulate discussions of race on campus.

Many Republican politicians in the USA seem to regard universities as tantamount to enemies of society and are trying to challenge academic freedom at a variety of different levels – institutionally, at the faculty level, and individually. Florida has recently announced the introduction of annual surveys of university professors’ ideological views and is offering legal protection to students who report what they consider to be ideological statements from their lecturers.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has reported on several court cases where interference with academic freedom is an issue. In October 2021, the University of Florida prohibited three professors from providing expert testimony in court, because it was deemed to be contrary to the university’s interests as a public university that employees took part in a court case against the state authorities.

In an open letter from FIRE to President Biden in 2021, it was pointed out that several universities and colleges have unconstitutional rules and unreasonable disciplinary procedures: «students and faculty of all political persuasions and demographic backgrounds are routinely censored and denied any semblance of a fair, impartial hearing…».

Perhaps the best-known case of a Western country launching a direct attack on academic freedom is Hungary. The most notable example is the legislative amendments that led to the closure of the Central European University (CEU)’s main campus in Budapest in 2018, resulting in the university moving to Vienna.9 Since then, several legislative and regulatory changes have been introduced that allow academic institutions to be monitored by the government and its supporters. Gender study programmes have been removed from Hungarian universities by government decree. These kinds of restrictions affect the entire Hungarian higher education system. In 2021, Norway decided to suspend all payments to Hungary through the European Economic Area (EEA) and Norway Grants schemes, because Hungary would not agree to an independent manager for the fund for civil society. The suspension of funds also applies to the research programme.

In Poland, political interference in the media and the judicial system during the Law and Justice (PiS) party’s term of office has fuelled a worrying development for freedom of expression, which is also affecting the higher education sector. In 2020, the Polish education minister stated that he would reduce funding for universities that helped students and staff take part in the «women’s strike» in connection with the ban on abortion in Poland. The criticism was directed at the rectors of the universities in Wrocław and Gdansk in particular, who had granted staff time off and encouraged students to take part in the demonstrations.10 In 2021, a court asked two renowned Holocaust scholars to apologise to a person for defaming her late uncle over his wartime actions.11 The ruling party stated that it views allegations of Polish complicity as dishonouring the country.12 This judgment must be viewed in light of this and has had a chilling effect on academic freedom in Poland, according to the Scholars at Risk network.

The situation for academic freedom in Turkey became severely strained after the failed coup attempt in 2016. Many academics were imprisoned and persecuted during the ensuing state of emergency. A number of universities and student halls of residence were shut down as a result of a decision that gave the government the right to intervene in the autonomy of universities. Scholars at Risk’s latest reports show that academics are still being arrested and prosecuted in Turkey. The authorities have implemented mass dismissals of academics with a permanent ban on employment, public service and foreign travel. A clear majority of the academics who were not dismissed and who are still working in academia report that they do not feel free to share knowledge and voice their opinions, even in scholarly publications and at academic gatherings. Turkish President Erdogan’s appointments and dismissals at the prestigious Bosphorus University over the past year have led to widespread protests.13

One of the countries with the most dramatic deterioration in academic freedom in recent years is India,14 which is also one of Norway’s priority partner countries for higher education and research. Many researchers are experiencing restrictions in their right to express their ideas and opinions. Reports from Scholars at Risk show that political tensions in India have led to violent riots on campuses between students, security forces and groups from outside the campus. The authorities have prosecuted academics under the country’s anti-terrorism laws and have introduced disciplinary actions against academics who criticise Prime Minister Modi, his Hindu nationalist party the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and his government. The freedom of researchers and academics to discuss politically and culturally sensitive topics has been severely curtailed. The state interferes in academic issues and other topics at most of the universities in the country, and it is common for senior positions in the sector to be highly politicised. India’s ranking on the Academic Freedom Index is now on a par with Russia and Brazil – which have also fallen considerably over the last ten years – and is now lower than Pakistan’s.

One important country that falls into a slightly different category is China, which has no tradition of academic freedom. In connection with China’s emergence as a global superpower and research nation in recent decades, some of the country’s universities and research institutions are now also ranked among the leading academic institutions in the world. The development from the 1980s to the 2010s was characterised by gradually increased openness and academic freedom, albeit still far behind by Western standards, and strengthened international academic cooperation. This trend has now reversed. Joint publishing between the USA and China stagnated in 2020 and declined in 2021, but relative to other international collaboration, there has been a clear decline since 2016.15 The Chinese authorities have tightened their grip on the universities,16 and research is subject to strict restrictions, especially research into the origins of COVID-19.17

Defence of academic freedom – which may also entail challenges

There is an ongoing debate in many countries about conformity, cancel culture and identity politics in academia.18 This applies, for example, to cases where students find something in the teaching offensive, often resulting in staff no longer wanting to or being willing to voice their opinions.19

In November 2021, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) cancelled a guest lecture by a University of Chicago lecturer who has compared academia’s «diversity regime» to Nazism. This triggered a debate that was further intensified as a result of the fact that Princeton University chose to invite the same lecturer to hold a guest lecture. This case has resulted in the establishment of a committee at MIT to discuss whether separate guidelines need to be developed for academic freedom.

Another manifestation of criticism of conformity is accusations of «research activism». A majority of the Danish parliament voted in favour of adopting a statement highlighting the principle of academic self-regulation as essential to ensure research quality and freedom of thought in order to counter what they considered excessive activism in certain research communities.20 This was met by strong protests from many researchers, who were concerned that rather than leading to increased diversity, it would undermine their freedom of research and lead to more self-censorship.21 The OsloMet report22 points out that the Danish right’s «cultural struggle» against the left’s alleged dominance at universities and in cultural life began long before the debate on identity politics and cancel culture, and the example from Denmark is therefore perhaps another example of a public debate characterised by a polarised struggle over perceptions of reality.

In France, the Minister of Higher Education, Research and Innovation caused an uproar by launching an investigation into activism-driven research and calling for greater pluralism in the research sector in the wake of the so-called «Islamo-leftism» debate. 23 She held that there are voices in academia that are being silenced and that the state must intervene to ensure diversity of opinion. Among other things, all French institutions must have separate advisors for ethics, reporting irregularities («whistleblowing») and academic integrity, and a national ethics committee shall be activated in cases of pressure on academic freedom of expression.

In the UK too, the science minister has raised the issue by putting forward a bill to protect freedom of expression in higher education.24 The bill requires universities and student unions to protect academic freedom of expression, by, for example, offering compensation to individuals who are denied the use of the institution’s premises (so-called «deplatforming»), and through the establishment of an ombud to monitor cases of deplatforming, academic dismissals, etc. The objective is to protect students, academic staff and visiting researchers who voice controversial opinions. Critics of the bill point out that it might have unforeseen consequences, such as forcing universities to provide a platform for and protect Holocaust deniers. It was noted that the use of fines might serve to reduce, rather than increase, freedom of expression at universities.

4.2.3 Academic freedom and collaboration with challenging states

Academic freedom of expression is under pressure both within individual countries and across national borders. This is making international collaboration both more important than ever and more difficult. Collaboration can help defend academic freedom by providing individual researchers with more platforms and protection against government interference. However, collaboration can also entail a risk of curtailment of academic freedom of expression. Collaboration with researchers in authoritarian states may be limited by these countries’ authorities preventing research on specific topics or cracking down on research-based social criticism. There is direct political interference in research and politically motivated restrictions on dissemination in several relevant countries. Around the world, state authorities are responsible for researchers, educators and students being subject to threats, persecution, torture, wrongful deportation, prosecution or imprisonment.25

Some states do not stop at their own borders in their attacks on their country’s researchers or students. In Australia, there is currently heated debate about hostile Chinese interference and harassment of Chinese overseas students, in part based on a report by Human Rights Watch.26 Based on interviews of 48 Chinese-speaking students, the report describes how China is trying to influence the image of China on foreign campuses, influence academic discussions, monitor Chinese students, censor research work, and otherwise curtail academic freedom. In response, the Australian Department of Education, Skills and Employment, in partnership with Australian universities, has published updated guidelines to counter foreign interference in Australia’s university sector.27

Collaboration with universities and research communities in authoritarian states may entail a heightened risk of self-censorship.28 For example, even world-leading universities in the USA have been accused of bending to appease China.29 In May 2019, the Trump administration established the Joint Committee on the Research Environment (JCORE) with the aim of re-introducing «American values» in the R&D sector and at universities. This work has been continued by the Biden administration.

For democratic societies – and their academic institutions – the trust and openness on which they rest may entail a vulnerability in collaboration with authoritarian states. There has been an increased focus on the risk of espionage, cyberattacks and knowledge transfer in sensitive areas in several Western countries.

Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February 2022. In response, the EU has adopted a comprehensive package of sanctions,30 including suspension of payments to Russian institutions involved in EU-funded research and innovation projects.31 The war in Ukraine is also having consequences for higher education and research in Norway. The Norwegian government has decided to freeze all bilateral cooperation between Norwegian and Russian authorities. The negotiated research agreement with Russia has been put on hold. However, no general academic boycott of Russia has been introduced, and individual research collaboration projects may be continued. The current advice is that researcher-to-researcher collaboration should be continued as long as the institutions consider it prudent. The government is working on measures to support students from the affected countries in Norway, and has encouraged universities and university colleges to contribute by allowing refugee students to study and offering work to refugee researchers and academics.32

The Commission discusses Norway’s challenges in international partnerships in more detail in section 6.3.4.

4.3 Different types of initiatives to protect and strengthen academic freedom

Naturally enough, in light of the diversity of the threats and challenges to academic freedom and freedom of expression, various initiatives have emerged for the purpose of protecting these freedoms. The Commission will present a selection of examples that illustrate the breadth of these initiatives.

4.3.1 Alliances

Many countries have established alliances for academic freedom. In the USA, the Academic Freedom Alliance (AFA) was launched in March 2021 by professors from Princeton University, and now includes academics from a variety of different university communities with different political affiliations.33 In Europe, a group of 130 professors from Germany, Austria and Switzerland have established a similar network for academic freedom.34

4.3.2 Guidelines, declarations and policy statements

Another widely used strategy is the formulation of guidelines and policy statements. In the USA, several professional organisations, such as the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), have published formal statements of position on academic freedom.35 Many universities have also drawn up internal guidelines on academic freedom, in the form of policy statements on academic freedom.36

In Europe, Dutch universities are currently compiling a guide for institutions and researchers on participation in public debate. Following the so-called beef scandal in Denmark, a number of Danish universities, together with the Ministry of Education and Science, have published guidelines on sponsored research and consultancy work with recommendations covering contracts, data collection and quality assurance of results, but also researchers’ freedom of expression in connection with publishing and communicating research findings.37 The Finnish Union of University Researchers and Teachers (FUURT) has prepared guidelines on how researchers can deal with online harassment.38

4.3.3 Campaigns and support initiatives

A third strategy is organised campaigns and support initiatives. Two years ago, a major campaign for academic freedom was carried out in Germany involving everyone who was active in the research system. The topic was considered particularly relevant for the situation in Germany’s immediate neighbours. The German parliament has called on the government to end cooperation with countries that restrict academic freedom, while others see Germany as building bridges to difficult counterparties and providing a lifeline for researchers, students and academics in these countries. The Phillipp Schwarz initiative gives researchers in countries where academic freedom is challenged the opportunity to continue their research in Germany. Many scholars from Turkey make use of this scholarship. The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) provides similar scholarships for students from Belarus, which have been particularly relevant since the 2020 presidential election.

In Finland, 2021 was declared as the Year of Research-Based Knowledge, with the goal of making research-based knowledge more visible and accessible, and in this connection academic freedom was also put on the agenda.39

In 2023, Sweden will hold the Presidency of the Council of the European Union and in this context has indicated that academic freedom will be one of the research and innovation focus areas for their presidency.40

4.3.4 Legislative protection of academic freedom of expression

In several countries, academic freedom is regulated by law, albeit with wide variations in how clearly the legislation regulates individual and institutional rights.

Academic freedom is a constitutional right in some countries. For example, in Germany, freedom of research and academic freedom of expression are enshrined in the constitution. In the USA, the Supreme Court has concluded in multiple court cases that academic freedom is to be regarded as a constitutional right. In Europe, the European Court of Human Rights has underlined in several cases that academic freedom of expression is protected by Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

In the USA, one of the first things the Biden administration did was to present a presidential decree with the aim of restoring people’s trust in the government through scientific integrity and evidence-based policy making.41 A separate Scientific Integrity Fast-Track Action Committee (SI-FTAC) has been appointed to pave the way for this work. The Committee has recently presented a report on integrity in government-commissioned research activities.42 It should also be noted that six of the 27 presidential orders signed by President Biden in the first few days after his inauguration can be regarded as having a positive impact on academic freedom.

In Sweden, academic freedom as a general principle of all activity at universities and university colleges has recently been enshrined in their Higher Education Act (inspired by Norway).

4.4 International organisations, etc.

A number of international organisations of which Norway is a member, and the EU, where Norway is a committed and integrated partner in education and research cooperation, have activities that play an important role in promoting and protecting academic freedom and freedom of expression. Below is a brief overview of the initiatives and arenas that are most relevant to Norway.

The United Nations

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) works with various aspects of freedom of expression and challenges related thereto. They have prepared recommendations on science and researchers (the UNESCO Recommendations on Science and Scientific Researchers (2017)), addressing rights and standards linked to research, and in 2020 the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Opinion and Expression also reported on academic freedom for the first time.43 Academics were encouraged to articulate allegations of violations and make the institutions aware of them. Denmark’s delegation to UNESCO has mapped the work in a recently published report: Critical Voices: UNESCO’s Instruments in Defence of Freedom of Expression of Artists, Journalists and Scientific Researchers.44

In a speech to the General Assembly of the United Nations,45 the UN Secretary-General highlighted challenges such as the war on science, the misuse of data, misinformation and cybercrime. He has proposed the establishment of a global code of conduct to combat misinformation online and promote integrity in public information.

The Council of Europe

The Council of Europe has a number of initiatives to promote freedom of expression in connection with schools, teaching and research.46 For example, in 2019 the Council organised a large global forum on academic freedom, institutional autonomy and the future of democracy,47 which resulted in a declaration with recommendations for, among others, the Ministerial Conference of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) in 2020.48


Academic freedom is a recurring topic, explicitly or implicitly, in much of the OECD’s work and especially in the Global Science Forum. There is currently a project working on scientific integrity and security,49 which aims to strike a balance between academic freedom and transparency on the one hand and national economic and security interests on the other. This work was initiated to address concerns that information leaks and foreign interference pose a serious risk to national security and economic interests as well as a threat to academic freedom through some countries abusing the openness and transparency in academia. Another relevant OECD project is the report on scientific advice and the role and responsibilities of individual experts and scientists, motivated by the L’Aquila earthquake, where scientists who had given advice were prosecuted and convicted of manslaughter. The report links academic freedom to responsibility.50


The proposals from the Council of Europe’s global forum were followed up in the 2020 Rome Communiqué on academic freedom.51 This was adopted at the ministerial meeting of the Bologna Process by the 49 countries participating in the EHEA/Bologna process that coordinates and develops joint measures and policies for higher education. Both the Rome Communiqué and the Declaration of the Council of Europe came in response to the Central European University in Budapest being evicted from Hungary in 2018. As a follow-up to developments in Europe, the International Bonn Declaration on Freedom of Scientific Research was adopted by the EU in autumn 2020 and has been signed by all the member states and Norway.52

Through the EEA Agreement, Norway is an active participant in the EU’s cooperation on education, research and innovation through the world’s largest research and innovation programme, Horizon Europe, and the European Research Area (ERA), as well as through the Erasmus+ programme for education, training, youth and sport, and the European Education Area.53 Norway’s participation provides Norwegian educational and research communities with a multitude of opportunities for funding for high-quality projects and mobility and defines the framework for the development of policy in the disciplines. Horizon Europe has recently become more strongly oriented towards finding solutions to societal challenges and aims to contribute to increased trust in research. The Commission has identified a number of knowledge needs that Horizon Europe is to meet – distrust of authorities, democratic institutions and experts, disinformation, fake news and hate speech – that they want to address in the work programme for the period 2022–2024. The Commission is therefore preparing calls for proposals on these issues.54

In autumn 2021, the European Parliament’s Panel for the Future of Science and Technology (STOA) argued that EU treaties ought to contain specific references to academic freedom.55 The European Parliament is discussing whether an evaluation of academic freedom in member states should be included in the mid-term evaluation of Horizon Europe.56

The Council’s conclusions from December 2020 on a new European Research Area (ERA)57 include strengthening and monitoring academic freedom in the higher education sector and ensuring compliance with the Bonn Declaration. They ask the Commission, member states and academic institutions to follow the experiences of the Bologna Process closely and assess its implications for research and work together in particular with respect to potential indicators, evaluation and monitoring methods and their relevance for further reinforcing freedom of scientific research within the ERA.

In one of the Council conclusions, the Commission called for a pact on research and innovation for the new ERA.58 It identified freedom of scientific research (i.e. academic freedom) as a common value and indicated shared priority areas where member states will jointly develop common priority actions. The Council is currently developing new priorities for the ERA, and in this respect is considering launching a measure to protect academic freedom in Europe. This will be achieved through the development of an action plan based on the Bonn Declaration, monitoring academic freedom in Europe, and support for higher education organisations and research-performing organisations in recognising and dealing with foreign interference. Several countries point to the potential for incorporating the Academic Freedom Index (AFi)59 as a source of data for measuring performance in relation to the ERA priorities in the future. The European Higher Education Area (EHEA) and the underlying Bologna Process are assessing how they can use the Academic Freedom Index. It contains indicators for the freedom of academic exchange and dissemination, and the freedom to research and teach, among other things. Some EU countries, such as France and Austria, have shown particular interest in this index. The Commission encourages research-performing organisations to consult the index when they want to identify countries and partner institutions where academic freedom is at risk.60

The EEA and Norway Grants schemes

Through the European Economic Area (EEA) and Norway Grants schemes, Norway contributes to reducing social and economic disparities in a number of EU countries with weaker economies. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is responsible for these schemes in Norway. In countries such as Poland and Hungary, political developments involving growing government interference in the rule of law, the press and research communities are putting pressure on public discourse and academic freedom. Norway is considering priorities that might strengthen human rights, the rule of law and democracy in the next programme period.

Advocacy organisations for higher education and research

Many pan-European and global advocacy organisations have issued so-called «position statements on academic freedom» in connection with incidents in individual countries or various initiatives from the Commission. In its university strategy for 2030, the European University Association (EUA) calls for universities to «uphold academic freedom, which is the freedom of thought and inquiry for the academic community to advance knowledge and the freedom to communicate this knowledge based on accepted standards of academic ethics and integrity». Universities must work with the communities around them, participate in public debates and address major societal challenges.

The Guild, a network that brings together the research-intensive universities in Europe, has also issued a number of statements on academic freedom. In the latest statement following the Bonn Declaration, they call for the creation of a European Ombudsperson for the defence and support of academic freedom.61 The League of Research Universities of Europe (LERU), the Young European Research Universities Network (YERUN) and the European Consortium of Innovative Universities (ECIU), which collectively represent the innovative universities, have not been particularly vocal on the issue of ensuring academic freedom. CESAER, which unites the universities of science and technology in Europe and beyond, refers to a number of key documents on research integrity, academic freedom and institutional autonomy, evidence-based policy development and knowledge sharing.

The International Science Council (ISC) is a non-governmental organisation that brings together international scientific unions, associations, institutions and research councils with the aim of promoting science as a global public good. They have published a discussion paper titled The free and responsible practice of science in the 21st century,62 which examines scientific freedom and responsibility in a modern society, addresses challenges, and proposes a number of measures. The measures include advice to researchers when communicating about research, the institutions’ responsibility to promote dissemination, support and protect researchers, and the authorities’ duty to create an enabling environment for the free and responsible practice of science.

These advocacy organisations give the Norwegian institutions a stronger voice in policy making and debate in Europe. In this way, they can do important advocacy work in arenas where the Norwegian authorities do not have influence.

The Nordic region

Several Nordic countries are working on topics such as disinformation, radicalisation and alienation across educational levels in their national policies. The goal is to build greater understanding of democracy and active citizenship. The framework conditions for communicating as an academic have been the subject of debate in several Nordic countries, particularly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and in relation to research on controversial topics.

4.5 Human rights violations: the SAR and StAR schemes

Around the world,63 researchers, educators and students in a number of countries with authoritarian regimes risk or are subject to intimidation, persecution, torture, wrongful deportation, prosecution or imprisonment by their own state. Their situation is serious, but relates more generally to the human rights situation in these countries, as opposed to academic freedom of expression in particular. Norway is nevertheless affected by the conditions for academic freedom in other countries. We depend on foreign research results being reliable, and many researchers in Norway collaborate with researchers in countries with challenging regimes. The fact that researchers in some other countries do not have academic freedom entails a risk for research in Norway, since we cannot be certain that the findings are not politically motivated. Norway accepts some of these vulnerable academics and students who are in countries that may qualify for official assistance through the international Scholars at Risk (SAR)64 scheme and the Norwegian Students at Risk (StAR)65 scheme. These individuals are given the opportunity to continue their research or studies and finish their degree at Norwegian universities and university colleges. The schemes also help Norwegian institutions gain a broader perspective on the situation in other countries. Scholars at Risk encourages universities and university colleges to invite the persecuted researchers and students to speak on campus. The most important channel for disseminating research is through education and teaching, and encounters with SAR colleagues or StAR students adds invaluable content to the students’ learning.66 We have a responsibility to act in solidarity to promote academic freedom and support persecuted students and researchers.



Secretary-General’s report on Our Common Agenda. The purpose of the report is, among other things, to promote the implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. In this context, it is worth mentioning that freedom of expression and the right to information are covered by the UN Sustainable Development Goal no. 16 on peace, justice and strong institutions, one of the underlying targets of which is to ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms.


A group of researchers recently created an open access journal, the Journal of Controversial Ideas, to promote the free examination of controversial topics, where researchers can publish under a pseudonym to protect them from threats to their careers or their personal safety. The OsloMet report also refers to a number of examples where researchers have experienced harassment and threats, such as gender researchers in Sweden.


See, for example, from the USA: After Threats, Anthony Fauci to Receive Enhanced Personal Security – The New York Times (, and from Sweden: Jonas F Ludvigsson slutar forska efter hat och hot [Jonas F Ludvigsson stops researching after abuse and threats] –


Mangset, M., Midtbøen, A.H. Thorbjørnrud, K., Wollebæk, D., Fladmoe, A: (2021). Forskerne og offentligheten – om ytringsfrihet i akademia [Researchers and the public sphere – on freedom of expression in academia]. Institute for Social Research (ISF)


During the pandemic, both the Norwegian Directorate of Health and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (FHI) have filed police reports pertaining to threats to and harassment of researchers.


How Covid-19 has increased the world’s trust in science The Wellcome Global Monitor 2020: Covid-19 report.


According to the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), since 2016 only an estimated 27 per cent of the academic workforce in the USA is in a permanent post.


An example from the press about the use of the word «climate change» in the US Energy Department: Energy Department climate office bans use of phrase ‘climate change’


Central European University – information dated 3 December 2018:


Article on, dated 6 November 2020: Minister of Education is threatening to cut funding for universities that support the women’s protest,173236,26486997,the-minister-of-education-is-threatening-to-cut-funding-for.html


Article published in The Guardian on 9 February 2021: Fears for Polish Holocaust research as historians ordered to apologise


Article on the BBC 1 February 2018: Poland’s Senate passes controversial Holocaust bill


Article posted in the Norwegian online newspaper for higher education and research on 2 February 2022 on the protests in Istanbul


Katrin Kinzelbach, Staffan I. Lindberg, Lars Pelke, and Janika Spannagel. 2022. Academic Freedom Index 2022 Update. FAU Erlangen-Nuremberg and V-Dem Institute. DOI: 10.25593/opus4-fau-18612.


Times Higher Education (THE): US–China research collaboration ‘waning’ (February 2022) and National Science Foundation’s indicator report show stagnation. (Publications Output: U.S. Trends and International Comparisons. October 2021). NIFU arbeidsnotat 2022-1 Norway’s scientific collaboration with China in a global context discusses US and Chinese perspectives on the decline.


American Association of University Professors (AAUO): Academic Freedom and China. (Fall 2019.)


AP News: China clamps down in hidden hunt for coronavirus origins (30 December 2020)


The report Et ytringsklima under press? [A climate of expression under pressure?]


The University of Austin tackling self-censorship:


On 1 June 2021, the Danish parliament adopted a statement on excessive activism in certain research communities


In response to the parliamentary decision, 262 researchers, many from migration research and gender research, signed a petition in the newspaper Politiken. They objected to what they perceived as harassment in their work as a researcher, and were also concerned about their freedom of research. A few days later, 3,241 researchers from a wide range of disciplines, including several Norwegian academics, signed an open letter in support of the petition. They called on the government to retract the decision.


The report Et ytringsklima under press? [A climate of expression under pressure?]


Articles discussing the debates in the wake of French Minister of Higher Education Vidal calling for an investigation into «Islamo-leftism» at universities, the origin of the term, and the further handling of the matter:,,,,


Government bill: A Bill to make provision in relation to freedom of speech and academic freedom in higher education institutions and in students’ unions; and for connected purposes. Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill


Scholars at Risk’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities.


Human Right Watch: «They Don’t Understand the Fear We Have» How China’s Long Reach of Repression Undermines Academic Freedom at Australia’s Universities.


Guidelines to Counter Foreign Interference in the Australian University Sector – Department of Education, Skills and Employment, Australian Government.


Mangset, M., Midtbøen, A.H. Thorbjørnrud, K., Wollebæk, D., Fladmoe, A: (2021). Forskerne og offentligheten – om ytringsfrihet i akademia [Researchers and the public sphere – on freedom of expression in academia]. Institute for Social Research (ISF)


See, for example, America’s Elite Universities Are Censoring Themselves on China The End of the Harvard Century


The EU packages of sanctions:


The EU’s suspension of payments to Russian partner institutions in research and innovation projects and other countries’ boycotts are discussed here:


The government puts research and education cooperation with Russia on hold:


Academe Blog: The Academic Freedom Alliance: A Q&A with Keith Whittington


Netzwerk Wissenschaftsfreiheit


Academic Freedom


Cornell University. The Faculty Handbook. Cornell Policy Statement on Academic Freedom and Freedom of Speech and Expression.


Nye principper og anbefalinger om forskningsbaseret samarbejde og rådgivning [New principles and recommendations on research-based collaboration and practical advice] – Universities Denmark


Know Your Rights: Guidelines for dealing with online harassment


Year of Research-based knowledge 2021;


In the minutes from the ERAC council meeting of 30 September 2021.


Memorandum on Restoring Trust in Government Through Scientific Integrity and Evidence-Based Policymaking 27 May 2019 January 2021:


Scientific Integrity Task Force: and the report:


Report A/75/261 of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Opinion and Expression:


Critical Voices. UNESCO’s Instruments in Defence of Freedom of Expression of Artists, Journalists and Scientific Researchers, Permanent Delegation of Denmark to UNESCO (


Secretary-General’s remarks to the General Assembly on his Priorities for 2022.


One initiative for the school sector is «Free to Speak – Safe to Learn», in which the European Wergeland Centre is involved:


Global forum on Academic Freedom, Institutional Autonomy, and the Future of Democracy June 2019.


Global Forum on Academic Freedom, Institutional Autonomy, and the Future of Democracy. Declaration June 2019


The project «Integrity and security in the global research ecosystem: managing conflicts of interest and conflict of commitment» is largely closed to other member states, but policy recommendations are scheduled to be published in the second half of 2022.


OECD (2015), «Scientific Advice for Policy Making: The Role and Responsibility of Expert Bodies and Individual Scientists», OECD Science, Technology and Industry Policy Papers, no. 21, OECD Publishing, Paris,


Rome Ministerial Communiqué:


The Bonn Declaration on Freedom of Scientific Research:


See the Norwegian government’s strategies for Norway’s participation in these long-term programmes:;


See the work programme, which is currently under development, for the period up to the end of 2024 for Cluster 2 in Horizon Europe: Culture, creativity and inclusive society. The work programme for 2021–2022 also mentions issues related to threats and academic freedom:


The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union does not define academic freedom: Article 13: Freedom of the arts and sciences. The arts and scientific research shall be free of constraint. Academic freedom shall be respected.


MEPs push to include academic freedom in EU treaties:


Council conclusions on the New European Research Area, Brussels, 1 December 2020:


Pact for Research and Innovation in Europe (2021)


Katrin Kinzelbach, Staffan I. Lindberg, Lars Pelke, and Janika Spannagel. 2022. Academic Freedom Index 2022 Update. FAU Erlangen-Nuremberg and V-Dem Institute. DOI: 10.25593/opus4-fau-18612. This report reviews the state of academic freedom in the world by, among other things, measuring institutional autonomy, freedom of academic exchange and dissemination, freedom to research and teach, academics as critics, campus integrity, etc.


European Commission, Directorate-General for Research and Innovation, Tackling R&I foreign interference: staff working document, 2022


The Guild of European Research-Intensive Universities: The Guild Statement on Academic Freedom (June 2021)


The free and responsible practice of science in the 21st century


Scholars at Risk’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities.


Scholars at Risk | Protecting scholars and the freedom to think, question, and share ideas


The StAR scheme was initiated by the Norwegian Students’ and Academics’ International Assistance Fund (SAIH) and the National Union of Students in Norway (NSO) in 2012. To date, 52 student activists have come to Norway. Germany and Poland have also established StAR programmes.


Summarised from the 10th anniversary conference for Scholars at Risk, University of Oslo, 21 September 2021.

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