Time for Cinderella to go to the ball: Reflections on the right to freedom of scientific research
Affiliations: School of Law, University of KwaZulu-Natal; School of Law, University of KwaZulu-Natal
Source: South African Law Journal, Volume 138 Issue 2, p. 260-288
Despite the fact that the Constitution explicitly protects the right to freedom of scientific research, this right features neither in the preamble to any legislation, nor in any reported case law. If the right to freedom of scientific research remains in obscurity, South Africa could slip into totalitarian control of the scientific enterprise, to the detriment not only of scientists, but also of society in general. The right to freedom of scientific research should play a more central role in policy-making. This is not only because it is an enumerated constitutional right, but also because it is important in its own right, as it serves purposes that are at the core of our constitutional value-system: promoting individual autonomy, facilitating the search for truth, and supporting democracy. The right to freedom of scientific research is unique in protecting not only the exchange of scientific thoughts and information, but also in particular the physical activities entailed by scientific research, such as performing experiments. The notion that government should somehow seek to regulate every new scientific development is erroneous, as freedom should be the default position in science-related policy, and should only be limited by regulation if, and to the extent that, it is constitutionally justified.