Documents Ethical Forum 2019

Ethical Forum 2019

Thursday  December 5, 2019, 2 - 6 pm

18th Ethical Forum of the University Foundation

Academics as soldiers? 

Is defence-related research a scandal or a duty?


The European Commission recently decided to make a considerable budget available for academic research that could contribute to the defence of the European continent.

In an era in which defence is just as much about terrorist organizations as about foreign armies, and in which cyberattacks and even fake news have become more damaging than tanks, most disciplines, from engineering to the humanities, are potentially concerned.

The purpose of this Ethical Forum is to stimulate reflection on the following important questions: 

Should universities seize this opportunity as a way of funding interesting research that could be useful for both military and civil purposes? Do they even have a duty to respond positively to this request to help defend the European Union and its values, even if the research involved is of no particular scientific interest nor likely to find civil uses?

Or should they instead turn down this offer as being incompatible with their ethical ideal of producing knowledge for mankind as a whole, without the secrecy and other constraints imposed by defence concerns?

The weight of these various considerations is likely to vary from case to case. Should the decision about whether to engage in defence-motivated research be left to individual researchers? Or should their institutions rather decide, separately or jointly? And what are the criteria that should guide such decisions?

 Read more on the problem statement.

Organizing committee: B. Pattyn (coordinator), J.M. Chaumont (co-coordinator), E. De Keuleneer, H. Garmyn, J.P. Lambert, P. Loobuyck, P. Van Parijs, D. Willems, J. Willems.