Responsible Research

This website is continuously being expanded.

Statement of the University of Bremen

Flaggen der Universität Bremen

The University of Bremen is a place of freedom of science and research, freedom of opinion and speech, recognition of the equal value of all people, and respect for human rights, regardless of origin, religion/belief, social status, gender, age, disabilities, and sexual orientation.

The diversity of our students, researchers, employees, and cooperation partners is one of our greatest strengths, irrespective of which part of the world they come to us from.

At the University of Bremen, we research, teach, and learn in a manner that is responsible for society and for peaceful and sustainable global development. In this context, the academic transparency of the research findings and methods applied is an important feature of all activities at the University of Bremen. We share our knowledge and cultivate open discourse.

The University of Bremen stands for an open, accessible institution interested in collaborations and exchanges globally. We are aware of the challenges that international collaborations in particular can bring.

Scientific Cooperation Within a Complex Framework

Guide to Responsible Cooperation in General and in Particular Relating to Cooperation with Partners from the People's Republic of China

It is of great importance for the University of Bremen to maintain and expand the dialog and cooperation with international partner institutions. This should be done on the basis of a clear commitment to the freedom of research and in consideration of good academic practice. The academic cooperation with the People's Republic of China, for example, is to be viewed as positive, but requires a nuanced approach with regard to content, goals, and concrete framework conditions in cooperations [1].

In cases of cooperation with partners from countries with a low Academic Freedom Index [2], such as the PRC, we recommend the consideration of the German Rectors' Conference (HRK) [1] guiding questions on higher education cooperation with the People's Republic of China. However, these guiding questions can be applied in general, as they offer "guidelines and standards in international higher education cooperation" [...] "against the background of profound changes in the global environment [...]" [3].

If any of the following questions raise uncertainties, advisory services should be considered. Contacts for this can be found at Advisory Options.

Summary of the German Rectors' Conference's Guiding Questions Regarding China

The German Rectors' Conference (HRK) suggests the following guiding questions [1, 3] in order to be able to concretely evaluate cooperations with partners from countries with a low Academic Freedom Index [2], such as the PRC. These are listed here without the sub-questions [1, 3], which help to analyze the respective topic in more detail:

Strategy and Governance:

  1. How is sustainable engagement and equal partnership ensured?
  2. How solid is the basis for cooperation and mutual respect?
  3. How stable is the governance and how professional is the management?
  4. How transparent and balanced is the funding over the project period?
  5. How is transparent communication ensured?
  6. How are basic institutional rights (intellectual property, Germany's free democratic basic order, etc.) secured?

Teaching, Learning, and Conducting Research Together:

  1. How is the freedom of research and teaching ensured?
  2. What is the added value of joint teaching, learning, and conducting research within a concrete cooperation?
  3. How is the quality of cooperation in teaching and learning ensured?
  4. How is the quality of cooperation in research and innovation ensured?
  5. How are scientific, ethical, and legal standards respected and ensured?
  6. How is mobility of students, teachers, and researchers promoted and supported?

Universities as Transnational Spaces:

  1. How is intercultural dialog to be guaranteed, as well as fact-oriented and tolerant exchange within the regulations that apply equally to all university members ensured, and how are cultural and linguistic barriers to be broken down and channels of communication opened up (transnational campus)?
  2. How is a lively "welcome culture" being implemented?
  3. How is language competence and multilingualism promoted in concrete collaborations?

The fewer of these questions that can be answered positively or completely, the greater the need to refrain from cooperation.

Analytical tool for the assessment of international cooperation

A pragmatic, quick analysis tool and thus also the first alternative to the guiding questions defined by the HRK offers an analysis of values, interests, benefits/responsibilities and risks (Figure below). In the style of a SWOT analysis, this approach can reduce complexity and make ambivalences visible more quickly. Thus, conflicting goals can be revealed and polarizations can be avoided.
This type of analysis supports the visualization of decisions and avoids simple black-and-white thinking (good vs. bad cooperation). In this sense, it is possible that in cooperations, interests clearly outweigh values or risks and that these are thus evaluated more positively, which in turn can lead to a decision in favor of cooperation.
It should be noted, however, that the analysis with the matrix in the Figure below cannot be complete, since complexity is reduced. The qualitative analysis using the matrix does not determine a decision and does not specify any measures. However, it helps to classify a cooperation and to make a political decision.

VIBR Analysis for the evaluation of international cooperation under complex framework conditions


  • Freedom of Research
  • Transparency & verifiability
  • Non-discriminatory access and participation
  • University autonomy
  • Social responsibility



  • Knowledge generation
  • Reputation
  • Third-party funding
  • Access to resources/infrastructure
  • Personal exchange
  • Recruitment of talent
  • Political will


  • Sustainable Development Goals
  • Understanding between nations
  • Capacity building
  • Global challenges
  • Science Diplomacy


  • Security situation on the ground
  • Dual Use
  • Loss of reputation, scandals
  • Instrumentalisation for ideology/political purposes
  • Threat to own rights and security (IP, espionage)

English version of VIBR analysis (Values, Interests, Benefits/Responsibility, Risk). This analysis tool offers a quick pragmatic way to analyse and evaluate international cooperation. The matrix shown here adapts the version developed by the AAA/IOs of the Baden-Württemberg universities (21.07.2022), which was kindly made available to us.

Examples of High-Risk Collaboration Partners:

China Academy of Engineering Physics (CAEP):

CAEP [4] is "China's nuclear and advanced weapons R&D complex" and thus serves entirely military purposes. CAEP is a central facility of China for research, development, and production of nuclear warheads. It is also involved in economic espionage, according to ASPI. CAEP reports directly to the CMC - Central Military Commission, the highest defense organization in the People's Republic of China and the Communist Party. CAEP is classified as deriving benefit from any research for nuclear weapons development: From the CRSI report by Jeff Stoff (p. 22): "Given that CAEP reports to China's CMC with a mission to research, develop, and produce nuclear and other advanced weapons and supporting components, collaborating institutions must assume CAEP will seek weapons applications from any research it conducts or funds, even in areas considered theoretical or fundamental in nature. Any partnership or collaboration with CAEP represents critical risks to national security."

Seven Sons of National Defense:

Seven Sons of National Defense universities [5] are not members of CAEP. These universities are affiliated with and funded by the Department of Information Technology. Members of this group are Northwestern Polytechnical University, Harbin Engineering University, Harbin Institute of Technology, Beihang University, Beijing Institute of Technology, Nanjing University of Science and Technology, Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

PRC's Highest Risk Institutions and China Defence University Tracker

"Highest Risk" institutions are classified currently as civilian institutions that were established as military institutions or as part of ministries. An example here is the National University of Defense Technology.

The links between military and scientific institutions are quite well illustrated by the website of the "Australian Strategic Policy Institute" [6]. The site firstly analyzes the problem and secondly provides a tracker to identify potentially critical institutions .

Advisory Services and References

Links and References:

  1. Guiding Questions on Higher Education Cooperation with the People's Republic of China, Resolution of the HRK Presidium of September 9, 2020,
  2. accessed  April 05, 2023
  3.  German Rectors' Conference (HRK), Guidelines and Standards in International Higher Education Cooperation. Resolution of the HRK Presidium of April 6, 2020;, accessed March 15, 2023
  4., accessed January 20, 2023
  5., accessed February 21, 2023
  6., accessed February 21, 2023