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How independent can science be?

39/2012, 14.11.2012

On the occasion of its tenth anniversary, the BfR invites experts to a European stakeholder conference held in Berlin-Marienfelde

On 20 and 21 November 2012 national and international experts will discuss the possibilities and limits of scientific independence.  On the occasion of its tenth anniversary, the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) invites experts to a two-day European stakeholder conference. A central issue will be to adumbrate the conditions under which scientific independence can be guaranteed. As part of this discussion, the question will be probed what this means for scientific advice to politicians which is an area of conflict situated between politics and science. "Independence is a high valuable asset for science", says BfR President Professor Dr. Dr. Andreas Hensel. "This does not mean, however, that a type of science that is completely autonomous and without relations to other societal realms is possible or even desirable." During the subsequent ceremony, Consumer Protection Minister Ilse Aigner will inaugurate the exhibition "The History of Consumer Health Protection in Germany".

In the process of generating knowledge, science aims to be neutral and objective, but it is nevertheless invariably caught between the conflicting priorities of different interest groups. The debate on how to ensure scientific independence will be at the heart of the conference held at the BfR. The term independence is analysed from different perspectives. Thus independence can be interpreted as financial independence, but also as freedom from restraints or from specifications by interest groups including politics.

On the first day of the event, speakers from the world of politics, business and science will give their views on the subject of scientific independence. On the second day, representatives of social interest groups and stakeholders of the BfR will discuss the limits, possibilities and necessities of independent science.

An integral part of the scientific conference, a ceremony and the opening of the exhibition “The History of Consumer Health Protection in Germany” will take place on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the BfR. The festivities will be inaugurated by Consumer Health Protection Minister Ilse Aigner on 20 November at 5:30 pm.

The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment celebrates its tenth anniversary this year. The foundation of the Imperial Health Office in 1876 marked the beginning of the institutional history of consumer health protection in Germany. As the successor establishment of the German Federal Health Office and the German Federal Institute for Consumer Health Protection and Veterinary Medicine, the BfR sees itself as a scientific institution which promotes consumer health protection.

To mark its tenth anniversary, the BfR has published a special brochure. Beside examples from 10 years of scientific work in the service of consumer health protection, the brochure also contains background information on the institute, its working method and history. The brochure “10 years of BfR” can be downloaded or ordered free of charge at

About the BfR

The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) is a scientific institution within the portfolio of the Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection (BMELV). It advises the Federal Government and Federal Laender on questions of food, chemical and product safety. The BfR conducts its own research on topics that are closely linked to its assessment tasks.


Publications - Brochures

Date Title Size
BfR Anniversary Brochure
10th Anniversary of the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment 4.0 MB