Monday, November 25, 2013

German universities conduct research on behalf of the Pentagon - Tagesspiegel

clock 17:30 of Amory Burchard and Tilmann Warnecke
According to reports of the NDR and the Increase image According to reports of the NDR and the” Sueddeutsche Zeitung “to 22 German universities and research institutes in recent years, more than $ 10 million research money … – Photo: AP

explosives, drones, bombs – at German universities, research has on behalf of the Pentagon. Is this objectionable?

The U.S. Defense Department has about German universities millions of dollars for research. More than ten million U.S. dollars have received at least 22 universities and research institutes since 2000, according to research by the “Süddeutsche Zeitung” and the “NDR”. Some projects are still running – the cases are likely to fuel the debate about where the boundaries of research should be


Which projects do it?

alone LMU Munich last year received $ 470,000 from the Pentagon to improve military explosives.

University of Marburg explored on behalf of the U.S. Air Force drones and “precision guided munitions”, the Fraunhofer Institute for High-Speed ??Dynamics conducted research on new types of warheads. The Technical University of Munich developed marine propulsion. Some projects come from the field of speech recognition and encryption: The TU Dresden received about a million dollars to study the encoding and decoding of MP3 files. The University of Saarbrücken examines the mathematical processing of language structures. At the University of Bremen satellite research is supported.

How strong is the military aspect?

Some projects are clearly weapons research, such as the work of ammunition and explosives. The LMU chemist Thomas Klapötke is one of the few openly acknowledge the military value of his research. In a high security area, he developed a new type of bomb that are in the toxic explosives replaced where possible against “ecologically and toxicologically tolerated” substances. This is intended as “cost-intensive cleaning work on military training areas” are unnecessary, he says. When asked how he justifies his military technical commitment, Klapötke writes in an email: “I do not need to justify. Germany, the German Army and is a member of NATO. So it is only logical to support its own forces and those of our allies wherever it goes, even by first-class research! “

Not always is the military benefits so clearly obvious. Most institutions rely on the fact, in the funded projects if it were only to basic research. The TU Darmstadt about the Pentagon paid in 2011 well $ 200,000 for an area that deals with the optimization of aircraft wings. TU spokesman Jörg Feuck says issue in principle to “eco-efficient flying” of military research could be no question. The German Research Foundation supported the area with many millions of euros. In general, only the flight behavior of large civil aircraft would studied, but not smaller fighter jets. The fact that the Air Force has large aircraft, Feuck can not apply as an argument.

to the question whether intelligence agencies could use the encryption of MP3 files that explores the Dresden University of Technology, the University does not say anything, because the scientists are now working elsewhere. In another project funded to microalgae it were “pure basic research”. At the University of Potsdam, a workshop was funded to random motions with close to 10 000 dollars. This involves the question of how to describe the way molecules into cells or the spread of disease by the movement of people, says project manager Ralf Metzler.

How does that fit with the ethical stance of science?

How far scientists should engage in the military, where the limit civilian research opportunities – it ignite at German universities regularly heated discussions. Not least, the German past plays a role. Finally, German researchers have warfare agents and military equipment for the world wars of the 20th Century developed. Against this background, have in recent decades 14 universities nationwide introduced a civil clause, including the TU Berlin. Thus they undertake to do research only for civilian purposes or eliminate research with military use. The clause is controversial: the boundary between civil and military research is not easy to draw the opponents say. The argument of the double benefit (“dual use”) plays a major role in the debate: Who exclusive military use, also do much of the civilian research impossible. It would involve a fundamental encroachment on the freedom of research.

Pikanterweise have with Darmstadt, Bremen, Ilmenau and Frankfurt / Main now get four universities from the Pentagon money, have a civil clause. For the TU Darmstadt it was not a contradiction, says their spokesperson – because research indeed serve civilian purposes. The clause does not exclude in principle, to take money from military contractors. For Rainer Braun of the “Association of Lawyers against nuclear weapons,” the cases are a sign that civil clauses are not effective. He calls for better “verification systems” at the universities and greater transparency in the acquisition of external funding in order to avoid military research. “Research for the war I think is not ethical.”

Horst Hippler, President of the German Rectors’ Conference (HRK), ultimately holding each research project with a double benefit justified. Drones to condemn the military research opponents as deadly war machine could also be used “to track down over natural resources”. A “red line” between immoral and moral civil war research research will not let get dressed. “The moral responsibility lies with each individual scientists,” said Hippler.

What role does the Pentagon in the field of basic research?

The Pentagon has for funding research over huge sums of money: $ 72.5 billion, it was 2013. Although a large part of it goes into the development of new weapons. However, $ 12.5 billion left over for basic research in engineering and science, which is almost the entire budget of the German Ministry of Research. In the natural sciences, engineering and life sciences, the Pentagon was as the main promoter, according to a report by the “American Association for the Advancement of Science” (AAAS). The sociologist Ulrich Schreiterer the Science Centre for Social Research Berlin (WZB) says that U.S. universities looked at the Pentagon hardly different from civilian support organizations.

Researching German universities for the German military?

The Ministry of Defence has according to its own information in the past three years an average of ten million euro research funding per year awarded to German universities. For HRK President Hippler it is very simple: “Everything that is funded by the Bundeswehr, is peace research.” Some 900 million euros are the Ministry each year for research and development. So about institutes of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft be promoted seven have joined together to form a “Fraunhofer Group for Defense and Security Research”. They develop high-performance fuses for missiles and missile protection systems against antitank weapons and software components for drones.

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