Introduction

In this context, ‘dissemination‘ is defined as researchers’ exchange of knowledge and competencies in society, including participation in public debate. This may take place through articles, reviews, features and letters from readers in newspapers, books that convey knowledge to a wide audience of non-specialists, participation in radio and television broadcasts, as well as providing education to a wide audience of non-specialists at, for example, university extension courses and adult education centres

In this context, researchers enjoy an extensive – though not unlimited – freedom of expression, as discussed below.

The UBVA symposium 2015 included several presentations about this topic (in Danish), which are available as webcast at this link.

See also scientific freedom and academic freedom.

Freedom of expression

In Denmark, freedom of expression is protected under section 77 of the Danish Constitution:

”Any person shall be at liberty to publish his ideas in print, in writing, and in speech, subject to his
being held responsible in a court of law. Censorship and other preventive measures shall never again be introduced”.

The European Convention on Human Rights also contains the following provision on freedom of information and expression:

”Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers…”

A similar provision is contained in article 11(1) of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.

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The bounds of freedom of expression

Freedom of expression is not absolute. In Denmark it is thus a criminal offence to make statements that are defamatory or an invasion of privacy, and it is illegal to disclose or use confidential information. This falls under the provisions of the Danish Penal Code, the Danish Public Administration Act and the Danish Trade Secrets Act, and the employee may by agreement (e.g. in the employment contract) be subject to specific confidentiality obligations.

Public employees’ freedom of expression

Public authorities (including Danish universities) may lay down rules for who can speak on behalf of the Authority and how this is to be done. 

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For further details, please refer to

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Researchers’ freedom of expression

Public sector researchers enjoy the same extended freedom of expression to speak out on their own behalf  (including by taking part in the public debate) like other public employees (as described above).

It also follows from section 2(3) of the University Act that universities should encourage researchers to participate in public debate. This provision per se limits the ability of the universities to interfere with the researchers’ opinions through management. Please see

Some research institutions have established rules for researchers in the public debate. An example is the University of Copenhagen’s Legal guidelines for the use of the UCPH name and logo. Among other things, these rules limit researchers’ access to refer to their workplace (the University of Copenhagen) in the public debate, if the debate relates to topics that are ”completely outside the scope of their area of employment”.

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The bounds for researchers’ freedom of expression have recently been tried in two cases by the Danish courts.

On 3 June 2015, the Supreme Court of Denmark ruled in a lawsuit brought by Jørgen Dragsdahl against the historian Bent Jensen (the ruling is available here).  On 21 June 2016, the City Court of Copenhagen ruled in a lawsuit brought against Politiken’s then chief editor, Bo Lidegaard. Professor Jørn Vestergaard has discussed these rulings and the relevant rules in an article which Forskerportalen.dk has been given permission to bring here:

No duty to speak

Researchers’ freedom of expression does not entail any duty to speak out.