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Policing research

COSMOS Conference - Surveillance, repression and the academia

While state repression of researchers and academics has always existed, today academic freedom seems to be increasingly under attack around the world. In Turkey, thousands of academics face prosecution, dismissal and harassment for signing an open letter protesting military action by the Turkish government in the Kurdish region of the country. In Egypt, the military coup in July 2013 unleashed a wave of state repression against academics and researchers suspected of sympathies with labour unions, student movements and the Muslim Brotherhood. In Russia, research institutes have been shut down under the accusation of hosting “foreign agents”, whereas in Italy a researcher has been condemned for “moral complicity” with the offenses perpetrated by the social movement she studied in her undergraduate dissertation.

Increasing authoritarianism, coupled with the new forms of surveillance and repression made available by data abundance, makes the position of scholars engaged in sensitive research dangerous, while it gives them increasing responsibilities when it comes to the protection of the personal data they collect. What is the state of the art of academic freedom and repression around the world? How can social movements and researchers engage with new forms of academic and state surveillance? In trying to answer these questions, this conference addresses repression in the academia from the point of view of scholars, practitioners and activists, discussing the challenges they face, the newforms of resistance they develop, with the goal of outlining best practices to deal with academic surveillance and repression.

Donatella Della Porta (Scuola Normale Superiore)Opening Address

Joseph Saunders (Human Rights Watch)Academic Freedom: A Human Rights Perspective

Francesca Coin (University of Venice)The role of academic inquiry in social and political freedom

Jannis Grimm (Freie Universität Berlin)Kevin Köhler (The American University in Cairo)Enhancing Awareness and Security for research in the Mena through peer to peer cooperation and exchange

Ilyas Saliba (WZB Berlin)Monitoring Academics in the World: Developing an Academic Freedom Index

Open discussion


Donatella Della Porta (Scuola Normale Superiore)Pietro Castelli Gattinara (Scuola Normale Superiore)Emiliano Treré (Scuola Normale Superiore)


If you have any further questions please feel free to contactPietro Castelli Gattinara ( Treré (