Conference: Public Research and Private Knowledge – Science in Times of Diverse Research Funding

Due to the current corona pandemic the conference has been postponed to July 22nd-23rd, 2021. We will provide updated information on the conference in due time on this website.

March 26th-27th, 2020 (New Date: July 22nd-23rd, 2021)

Center for Applied Philosophy of Science and Key Qualifications (ZiWiS)

Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Erlangen (Germany)


The conference aims to explore whether the influence of private funding changes the selection of research topics in an epistemically or otherwise (un-)desirable direction, whether it leads to a privatization of knowledge, and what the consequences of such a privatization would entail.


Bilder: FAU/Erich Malter                                                                               Universitätsklinikum Erlangen

Keynote speakers:

Manuela Fernández Pinto (Universidad de los Andes)

Bennett Holman (Yonsei University)

Naomi Oreskes (Harvard University)

Sergio Sismondo (Queen‘s University, Kingston)

Please register until June 25th, 2021, by writing an E-Mail including your general information (name, contact, affiliation) to

The conference fee is 80 € (reduced fee for students: 50 €) and includes lunch and coffee breaks on both days. The fee is payable via bank transfer (we will send out detailed information after confirming your participation). Please note that the fee is refundable only until June 25th, 2021. Regrettably, cancellations received at a later time are not eligible for a refund. Conference fees are waived, if the conference must be held online.


Call for papers:

Public Research and Private Knowledge – Science in Times of Diverse Research Funding.

Please click here for further information.

Date: July 22nd-23rd, 2021 (new Date!)

Conference Language: 


Submission Format: 

Abstract approx. 500 words

Submission Deadline: 

April 18th, 2021

Submission Details:

There are several slots for presentations (up to 20 minutes for the talk, followed by 10 minutes for discussion).

Please send an anonymized abstract (approx. 500 words) and a separate document specifying your general information (name, contact, affiliation) by April 18th 2021 to Notifications of acceptance will be sent out by April 30th. We welcome proposals from individuals at all stages of their career.

Please note that unfortunately we cannot cover expenses for travel and accommodation. The conference fee (80 € / 50 €) also applies to accepted speakers.


The production and distribution of knowledge is a key process in scientific and scholarly inquiry. However, this process is not and has never been limited to universities and public research institutes alone, but extends to agents as diverse as the Research & Development departments of companies, citizen scientists, and private non-profit research institutes. In recent years, these agents have shown an increased interest in basic ˗as opposed to applied ˗science, for example in fields of rising social significance such as AI or biomedical technology. These specific research interests in turn direct attention to the sources of funding, and, as a consequence, to the direction of inquiry and the accessibility of results.

The main problem that arises from this development can be expressed in two questions: First, does the influence of private funding change the selection of research topics in an epistemically or otherwise (un-)desirable direction? And second, does it lead to a privatization of knowledge, and if so, what are the consequences of this privatization?

Some key questions that arise in this area of investigation are:

  • Where do new sources of research funding come from, and how important a role do they play? Which agents foster the development, which methods do they use, and what are their primary motivations?
  • What are the epistemic consequences, and who is affected by them? What is the impact of business interests on epistemic norms and ideals, and are there any (additional) sources of bias to be expected?
  • Have there been any (changes of) institutional structures in the last decades that have stimulated or hindered these tendencies? Which historical idea of science is at stake? Which factors affected the practices of organizing the production and distribution of scientific knowledge during the second half of the 20th century?
  • Is academic freedom threatened by these developments, and if so, to what extent? How could it be maintained? What are the epistemic effects of endowment chairs and industry-sponsored PhD Projects?
  • Does public financial support for private (pharmaceutical) companies to accelerate research and development (such as e.g. currently witnessed with respect to SARS-CoV2 vaccines) have relevant epistemological or ethical implications?

This set of questions requires an epistemological assessment as well as a historical, sociological, and economic perspective. Therefore, the interdisciplinary conference of the Center for Applied Philosophy of Science and Key Qualifications at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (Erlangen, Germany) aims at bringing together researchers from all pertinent fields in order to further our understanding of this apparent organizational shift in knowledge production and distribution and to accurately evaluate the challenges and opportunities it presents.

Further Inspiration:


Michael Jungert, Julia Böttcher, Jon Leefmann, Christoph Merdes, Sebastian Schuol

Center for Applied Philosophy of Science and Key Qualifications (ZiWiS)

Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Erlangen (Germany)

Preliminary Program

The program will be published in May 2021.

Directions to Erlangen

By train

Erlangen and Nuremberg both lie on major train routes and are served by long-distance ICE trains and regional trains. Timetables are available from Deutsche Bahn and the local public transport company, VGN.There are at least four regional train connections between Nuremberg Main Station and Erlangen every hour (S-Bahn in the direction of Bamberg or Forchheim; RE in the direction of Bamberg, Coburg, Jena, Leipzig or Saalfeld). All connections take about 20 minutes.

By car

Erlangen is accessible via the A73 highway (Frankenschnellweg).

By plane

Underground trains run directly from Nuremberg airport to the center of Nuremberg, where there are connections to trains and the public transport network. There is also a direct bus connection between Nuremberg airport and the center of Erlangen (Hugenottenplatz).

Directions from Erlangen Main Station

After arriving at the main train station (Erlangen Hauptbahnhof) leave the station building towards the city centre. Go straight on Universitätsstraße until you reach the corner Universitätsstraße/Östliche Stadtmauerstraße. Turn left into Östliche Stadtmauerstraße. Follow the street into Ulmenweg. The venue is on the right side.

Accomodation in Erlangen

Accomodation in walking distance to the conference venue is available at Das Hotelchen, Hotel Rokokohaus and Zeitwohnhaus. Somewhat further away but still close to the city center there is Hotel Bayerischer Hof.

The workshop will take place in Ulmenweg 18, Hörsäle Medizin, Erlangen.