Photo: Thorben Mielke

Conference - Academic Freedom in a New Era


Date: Thursday, May 4 2023
Venue: The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Stockholm, Sweden
Host: The Young Academy of Sweden

Preliminary program

As the world is rapidly shifting, do we need to reconsider the obligations, safeguarding, and opportunities for thinking and acting freely?

On May 4th, we gather to discuss academic freedom, broadly approached and broadly understood.
Wanting to bridge the gap between countries, fields, and professions, we invite you to take part in this one-day conference. It will bring together policymakers, heads of funding bodies as well as world-leading researchers on various understandings of economic, institutional, political and personal aspects of academic freedom.

We hope for a polyphonic and multi-faceted discussion, in which you will be an integral part.

9.00 – Arrival/registration/Coffee

9.30 – Opening session

Moderator: Mia Liinason, Young Academy of Sweden

The European Research Area (ERA) aims to create a ‘single, borderless market for research, innovation and technology across the EU’; what are our hopes and concerns for that development? Is it a ‘market’ we are hoping for? How do we see the current political climate affecting, supporting, or being dependent on academic freedom?

  • Opening remarks – what is the new era?
  • The role of academic freedom for democracy

Keynote: Knowledge resistance and its consequences for academic freedom
Prof. Åsa Wikforss, professor in theoretical philosophy, Stockholm University, Sweden

10.10 – Session 1 – Funding Freedom

Moderator: Marie-José van Tol, De Jonge Akademie, Netherlands

Is academic freedom the start or the endpoint, and who should pay the price for it? What is needed to enable free academic practices such as open-ended curiosity and long-term, high-risk projects, not exclusively those with a clear application? If such systems would be fully in place within Europe, what would be the effects: are there risks, concerns and potential losers?

  • Investigator-driven breakthroughs
  • Funding ecosystems
  • Curiosity as presupposition or privilege
  • Panel discussion

Confirmed speakers:

The role, opportunities, and restriction for funding agencies to promote academic freedom
Arne Flåøyen, Director Nordforsk, Norway

The Index of academic freedom, and the economic aspects at play
Dr. Lars Pelke, postdoctoral researcher, Institute of Political Science, Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Germany

The tensions between the necessity of science communication and the other seemingly necessary logic of branding in science and HE
Salla-Maaria Laaksonen, adjunct professor in Media & Communication Studies, Centre for Consumer Society Research, University of Helsinki, Finland

12.00 Lunch

13.00 Session 2 – The impact of freedom

Moderator: Timo de Wolff, Die Junge Akademie, Germany

How do we see the ideal balance between the needs of society and academic freedom – is there a tension between them? How do academic assessment regimes currently interact with academic freedom, and how could such regimes work in the future? How would we hope academic freedom looks in 2030; what societal effects would that have?

  • Is there a conflict between societal needs and researcher freedom?
  • Agenda 2030
  • Regimes of Assessment
  • Panel discussion

Confirmed speakers:

Academic Freedom in Scandinavia: has the Nordic model survived?
Prof. Terrence Karran, professor of Higher Education Policy, University of Lincoln, United Kingdom

The missing guardrails of academic freedom in Sweden
Prof. Shirin Ahlbäck Öberg, professor in Political Science, Uppsala University, Sweden

14.30 – 15.00 Fika

15.00 Session 3 – The role of a free scholar

Moderator: Jacek Kolanowski, Polish Young Academy

Do researchers have certain opportunities or responsibilities to safeguard, discuss, and impact discussions on freedom? How do we keep, repair, or establish trust in scientific practices? Is there any potential friction between research activism and research integrity? With established principles of academic freedom, such as the Magna Charta Universitatum, long in place, what does and could the practice look like?

  • Activists and research integrity
  • Populism and the trust in science
  • Magna Charta Universitatum – from principle to practice
  • Panel discussion

Confirmed speakers:

Challenging scientific dogmas – a fight against multiple opponents
Prof. Christine Stabell Benn, professor in Global Heath, University of Southern Denmark, Denmark

Internal and external obstacles and opportunities
Prof. Christina Moberg, professor in Organic Chemistry at Kungliga Tekniska högskolan, Sweden, former president of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences

Autonomy for whom? Self-governance of what? The changing institutional conditions for the exercise of academic freedom
Prof. Sharon Rider, professor in Logic and Metaphysics, Uppsala University, Sweden

17.00 – Closing session

Moderator: Lisa Hellman, Young Academy of Sweden

  • Reflections and looking ahead
  • Closing remarks

17.30 – End

The conference is arranged with generous support from Wenner-Gren Foundations and Riksbankens Jubileumsfond, as well as from our main funders Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation, Erling-Persson Foundation, Ragnar Söderberg's Foundation, and the Natur & Kultur foundation.

Sveriges unga akademi
Lilla Frescativägen 4A
SE 114 18 Stockholm