Political Scientist Janika Spannagel Receives International Prize for Fundamental Academic Values

DAAD presents postdoctoral researcher at the Cluster of Excellence "SCRIPTS" and Freie Universität Berlin with award for her work on academic freedom

The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) has awarded political scientist Janika Spannagel with the "Fundamental Academic Values Award." From among the three researchers awarded the prize, Spannagel won first place. This was the first time the award, which includes a monetary prize of 7,000 euros, has been presented. Spannagel is a postdoctoral researcher at Freie Universität. Currently an active project member of the Cluster of Excellence "Contestations of the Liberal Script (SCRIPTS)," she received the award for her publication "The Perks and Hazards of Data Sources on Academic Freedom: An Inventory."

In this publication, Spannagel grapples with new data sources relating to academic freedom, in particular the Academic Freedom Index, and the growing demand for qualitative case studies regarding the extent to which academic freedom is realized in individual countries. According to a statement made by the jury, her publication offers an inventory of the most important data sources available with regard to the current state of academic freedom.

With the results officially announced on November 29, the Fundamental Academic Values Award was given to three junior researchers for their exceptional scientific contributions toward the promotion of fundamental academic values. The award aims to draw attention to people whose work promotes fundamental academic values, including academic freedom, integrity, and autonomy in the European Higher Education Area.

Janika Spannagel is currently researching the diffusion and contestation of academic freedom norms. As part of her work as a postdoctoral researcher, she is involved in the project "Science Friction: Patterns, Causes, and Effects of Academic Freedom Contestations" within the Cluster of Excellence "SCRIPTS" at Freie Universität. This is a three-year research project focused on analyzing, evaluating, and explaining the growing contestation of academic freedom around the world. In her doctoral thesis at the University of Freiburg, Spannagel dealt with the international protection of human rights defenders in authoritarian contexts.

She is a non-resident fellow at the Global Public Policy Institute (GPPi) in Berlin, where she co-developed the Academic Freedom Index prior to her position at Freie Universität Berlin. Over the course of her work and studies, Spannagel has received grants from the Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes (German Academic Scholarship Foundation), the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), and Stiftung Mercator. She has also recently co-authored the book University Autonomy Decline - Causes, Responses, and Implications for Academic Freedom, now available from Routledge.

Second place for the Fundamental Academic Values Award was given to political scientist Dr. Elizaveta Potapova from the Public Policy and Management Institute in Lithuania. Third place went to political scientist Dr. Milica Popovic from the Central European University in Austria. The award is sponsored by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research.


The Cluster of Excellence "Contestations of the Liberal Script (SCRIPTS)" is a research consortium that analyzes why the liberal model of order has fallen into crisis despite its political, economic, and social achievements. Interdisciplinary research teams investigate why alternative concepts of social order are on the rise, how these contestations differ from earlier contestations, and what the consequences are for the global challenges of our time. SCRIPTS has been operating since 2019 and will receive funding from the German Research Foundation (DFG) until the end of 2025 as part of the Excellence Initiative. The Cluster of Excellence is hosted by the Freie Universität Berlin and unites eight major Berlin-based research institutions.