Current research projects
Academic Freedom in the People's Republic of China
Principle Investigator: Prof. Dr. Katrin Kinzelbach
Researcher: Dr. Alexandra Kaiser
Duration: 1. July 2021 – 31. December 2023
Funding: German Federal Ministry of Education and Research
The project explores the legal and institutional framework of the “freedom indispensable for scientific research” as well as the empirical reality of this freedom in China. To understand the current opportunities and limits in the Chinese research and innovation system, it is necessary to examine academic freedom in the era of Xi Jinping from a socio-legal perspective. Our project focuses the institutional autonomy of Chinese universities, and on the freedom of academic exchange, which are both subdimensions of academic freedom as enshrined under international law. Taking international law as the benchmark, we are particularly interested in evaluating developments since President Xi Jinping assumed office in 2013. We analyze relevant primary sources, including statutory provisions, policy guidelines, political documents as well as statutes of select universities. Furthermore, we examine the empirical reality of institutional autonomy by undertaking case studies. Together with the German Centre for Higher Education Research and Science Studies, we will undertake a pilot bibliometric study to measure the freedom of academic exchange in different disciplines. Last but not least, we will conduct interviews and a survey amongst scholars. The project aims to broaden our understanding regarding the opportunities and limits of scientific collaboration with Chinese partners.
Principle Investigators: Prof. Dr. Katrin Kinzelbach; Prof. Dr. Georg Glasze und Prof. Dr. Blake Walker
Researchers: Lama Ranjous and Raphaela Edler
Duration: 01. September 2022 – 31. August 2025
Funding: German Federal Ministry of Education and Research
The project “Geospatial data for the digital documentation of human rights violations” (GeoDatRights) aims to a) use satellite-based remote sensing and social media data to investigate the destruction and military appropriation of educational institutions in war zones, and b) to enhance, over the course of the project, human rights-related digital analysis skills in German academia. FAU has already established a distinctive human rights profile and wants to expand this in a future-oriented manner. Internationally, digital human rights investigations are playing an increasingly important role in research and teaching; in Germany, only a few non-governmental organisations address the topic so far, in particular the Syrian-led organisation Mnemonic, whose comprehensive digital archive will be made accessible for the project’s researchers. Attacks on educational institutions in Syria are the focus of our analysis. The intergovernmental Safe Schools Declaration contains a series of commitments to strengthen the protection of education from attack, and to limit the use of schools and universities for military purposes. Signatory states to the Safe Schools Declaration (including Germany in 2018) have agreed to a series of commitments that include the need to collect data about attacks on educational institutions. With this project, we explore the usability of geospatial data for this purpose, drawing on interdisciplinary cooperation involving political scientists focused on empirical human rights research and geographers who will contribute, in addition to their regional expert knowledge, methodological competence from digital geography.
Academic Freedom, Globalised Scholarship and the Rise of Authoritarian China“
Principle Investigators: Prof. Dr. Katrin Kinzelbach; Prof. Dr. Eva Pils (KCL)
Researcher: Dr. Eva Seiwert
Duration: 1. September 2021 – 29. February 2024
Funding: German Research Foundation
In August 2021, the research project Academic Freedom, Globalised Scholarship and the Rise of Authoritarian China started under the leadership of Prof. Dr. Katrin Kinzelbach and Prof. Dr. Eva Pils (KCL). The project is funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). The collaborative German-UK research project brings together a team of scholars working in the fields of law, political studies, Chinese area studies, human rights and moral philosophy. Together with our partners at King’s College London (KCL), we investigate how transnational authoritarian influence shapes concrete relationships of academic cooperation and exchange with academic actors in China. At FAU, the Research Associate in this project is Dr. Eva Seiwert.
In the context of today’s globalised scholarship, academic freedom faces novel threats. Autocracies, such as the Chinese one-party state, not only curtail academic freedom within their own borders, but also attempt to export censorship and other repressive practices to other states. Our project is driven by the insight that both empirical study and a normative assessment that can shape intelligent and legitimate responses to authoritarian, transnational pressure on academia are crucially needed. To this end, we will develop a systematic understanding of relevant norms and available responses to undue influence and infringements of academic freedom. We do not consider universities in liberal democracies as mere passive targets. Instead, we focus on studying the perspectives, decisions, and actions of UK and German actors engaging in academic collaboration with authoritarian China in a comparative way. Taking into account the different institutional designs of academia in both countries, we will design six comparative case studies, which will provide insight into existing difficulties in the cooperation of German and British academic actors with actors in China and possible solution approaches for these issues.
Principle Investigators: Prof. Dr. Tanja Börzel (FU), Prof. Mattias Kumm, S.J.D. (WZB) und Prof. Dr. Katrin Kinzelbach
Duration: 1. September 2021 – 31. August 2024
Funding: Cooperation with SCRIPTS Cluster of Excellence
The project brings together the disciplinary perspectives of international relations and comparative politics with international and comparative constitutional law to analyze, assess and explain contestation of academic freedom around the world. We start by identifying the core content of academic freedom and how it relates to the liberal script. We then map patterns of contestation of academic freedom focusing on select case studies. We also seek to identify major causes before we explore some first consequences of academic freedom contestations.
Academic Freedom Index
Principle Investigators: Prof. Dr. Katrin Kinzelbach; Prof. Dr. Staffan I. Lindberg (V-Dem Institute, University of Gothenburg)
Researcher: Dr. Lars Pelke
Duration: 01.09.2021 – 31. August 2026
Funding: Volkswagen Foundation
171 states have ratified the UN Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which obligates states parties to respect the freedom of scientific research. The Academic Freedom Index is a word-wide effort to assess the de facto compliance with this legally binding commitment.
The project involves close cooperation between the Institute of Political Science at FAU Erlangen-Nürnberg and the V-Dem Institute at the University of Gothenburg. It relies on a sophisticated methodology, which is informed by item response theory, and provides comprehensive expert-coded data on the realisation of academic freedom worldwide. Annual updates will open up a wide range of possible applications in science promotion, management and policy. These data also provide the basis for two postdoctoral projects on the causes as well as the consequences of declining/increasing academic freedom levels.
Science Portal on The History of Human Rights
Editorial Board: Prof. Dr. Simone Derix, Prof. Dr. Jan Eckel, Prof. Dr. Andreas Frewer, Dr. Rainer Huhle, Prof. Dr. Katrin Kinzelbach, Dr. Daniel Stahl, Prof. Dr. Annette Weinke.
Duration: 01.02.2020 – today
Funding: Fritz Thyssen Foundation
The science portal www.geschichte-menschenrechte.de was launched in 2015 by the Working Group Human Rights in the 20th Century (University of Jena). FAU took over the coordination in June 2020. The website brings together biographical interviews and commentaries that historicize the development of human rights since the 20th century. The focus is on national and international actors, concepts and practices: In what way and with what motives have different groups and individuals acted as human rights norm-entrepreneurs? What practices have they established? How do different institutions such as the UN, the European Court of Human Rights or the International Criminal Court shape the history of human rights? On what normative grounds do supporters but also opponents of human rights operate?