Current research projects
BMBF-funded project: Academic Freedom in the People's Republic of China
Project management: Prof. Dr. Katrin Kinzelbach
Duration: 1. July 2021 – 31. December 2023
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.
DFG-funded project: Academic Freedom, Globalised Scholarship and the Rise of Authoritarian China“
Staff: Dr. Eva Seiwert
Duration: 1. September 2021 – 29. February 2024
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. 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.
SCRIPTS Cluster of Excellence: Science Friction
Project management: Prof. Dr. Tanja Börzel (FU), Prof. Mattias Kumm, S.J.D. (WZB) und Prof. Dr. Katrin Kinzelbach
Duration 1. September 2021 – 31. August 2024
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.
Volkswagen Foundation: Academic Freedom Index
Staff: Dr. Lars Pelke
Duration: 01.09.2021 – 31. August 2026
This project enables the continuation of the Academic Freedom Index covering the years 2021-2025 (assessments in 2022-2026). The index provides a solid empirical foundation for better understanding and protecting academic freedom. The underlying conception of the Academic Freedom Index is based on legally binding commitments made by 171 states through their ratification of the UN Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
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 de facto 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.