Defend academic freedom!

Demonstrierende vor dem Berliner Reichstagsgebäude sind zu sehen, dazu ein Schild mit der Aufschrift "Wehrhafte Demokratie jetzt".

Demonstration under the motto "Defend democracy – diversity instead of hate speech" on January 21, 2024 in Berlin.

In the following statement, the Volkswagen Foundation reaffirms its commitment to the protection of democracy and academic freedom.

"The Foundation is committed to the freedom of science", states the preamble to the guidelines of our funding activities. In the view of the Volkswagen Foundation, freedom only exists where people are able to lead a self-determined life, where they experience a climate of tolerance and respect and can count on a fair system of justice that protects inalienable fundamental rights. The democracy in which we are allowed to live in Germany offers all of this.

As this country's largest private science-funding organization, we are deeply shocked that racism, violence, and exclusion have now even found their way into German universities. We proudly look back over a 60-year history of supporting international teams and people who do science – and it is our firm belief that global challenges can only be solved through the worldwide networking of science and researchers. Indeed, the very ability of our society to successfully face the future depends on international dialog and exchange of ideas! Together with major scientific institutions and the fast-growing mass movement in German civil society, the Volkswagen Foundation takes a clear stand against those forces that want to undermine cosmopolitanism and democracy and destroy social cohesion.

For almost 50 years, the Volkswagen Foundation, together with the state of Lower Saxony, has been funding research activities with universities in Israel. As a sign of solidarity with the scientific community there, the funding budget will soon be increased. In the past, the Foundation has also organized help for researchers who had to flee to Germany from Turkey, Afghanistan, or Ukraine. It takes pride in regularly welcoming guests from all over the world to its scientific conferences and the Foundation's offices in Hanover.

The profile area "Societal Transformations" provides insights into current societal challenges – in some cases with proposals for solutions that can be implemented in the short term. In the funding initiative "Challenges and Potentials for Europe", researchers also analyze mechanisms of polarization and radicalization in country comparisons and formulate specific scenarios for their containment. The Foundation is funding four centers for research into science communication – with the aim, among others, of developing new approaches in the fight against fake news and hostility towards science.

This funding commitment, only excerpted here, can only unfold if science enjoys the freedom granted by our constitution. This is why the Volkswagen Foundation is committed to strengthening and defending academic freedom and preserving democracy. As a non-profit organization, we also have a duty towards society in this regard. We take this responsibility seriously. With unswerving determination!