About the Journal

Laboratorium: Russian Review of Social Research is an open-access, peer-reviewed journal in social sciences, established by the Centre for Independent Social Research (Saint Petersburg, Russia) and produced by an international group of scholars. The bilingual (Russian and English) journal comes out three times a year and publishes materials based on empirical qualitative social research.

Call for paper for a special issue on “Reconceptualizing Academic Freedom: Perspectives from Inside and Out”

Guest editors: Katerina Guba, EUSP, and Dmitry Dubrovsky, Charles University, CISRUS

Current debates about academic freedom bring not only the need to find a definition that could be translated to different national and policy contexts but also one that would be inclusive to different groups and functional in times of crises. The following challenges were identified as a call to rethink the classic idea of academic freedom.

The first challenge is the exclusivity of the definition when it comes to beneficiaries of academic freedom. Key scholarship in the field and primary policy documents (UNESCO definition, Rome Communiqué) suggest operationalizations that are relevant primarily for educators and scholars, leaving other groups on the margins. One of the underrepresented in the discussion groups is students, whose rights are seen primarily as freedom to learn and access to learning materials and information, thus narrowing down students’ role to education consumers. Another group left out is independent scholars and people affiliated with think tanks—or nonacademic researchers. Only people affiliated directly with research or educational institutions are considered academic rights holders, even though knowledge production and dissemination go significantly beyond university walls. In other words, the “law on citizenship” in the intellectual “republic” can and should be challenged to be more inclusive.

The second challenge is the challenge for the universality of academic freedom: it is criticized from the corporaptivist’s positions for not being “socially responsible,” both to the local community and to society in general. The cultural exclusivity of a “Western” university regarding the definition of values does not automatically include an anti-colonial perspective and can even serve as an imperialist tool. The concept and practices of academic freedom are situated in specific social and historical contexts. As much as a university does not exist in the vacuum of its social and political context, the commitment to protecting the freedom to produce and disseminate knowledge should reflect the challenges living in the national and historical contexts. The turbulent time of war and the topics brought by the critical scholars in the context of this escalation bring a discussion about the possibility of academic collaboration and the challenges that commitment to academic freedom faces in times of crisis.

Finally, the pressure of the neoliberal paradigm and managerialism is observed universally across different national systems. This pressure has resulted in the suppression of specific research themes and methodologies and challenged the roles social scientists used to play in their societies. Maximizing efficiency on the institutional and individual levels has led to a change of research focus and industrialization of relationships within the academic community. The neoliberalization of universities has different faces depending on the state’s political regime. Its impact on the university’s autonomy and freedom of scholars to pursue knowledge deserves more in-depth analysis to see the prospective implications.

The goal of the proposed special issue of Laboratorium is to explore the gaps caused by the diversity of academic practices and contexts. The purpose is not only to reflect the limitations but also to see the opportunities arising from the revision of the concept.


Potential topics for contributions might involve:

  • Making sense of academic freedom for students
  • “New” and “old” beneficiaries of the academic freedom
  • Challenge to the universalism of academic freedom
  • Academic integrity and a neo-corporate productivity race
  • Academic freedom in a time of crisis

We invite authors to submit their papers (research articles, essays, literature reviews, field notes) in English via the Laboratorium website: www.soclabo.org (please register before).

The deadline is October 31, 2023. When making submission, please indicate “For the issue ‘Reshuffling academic freedom.’” Should you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact the journal’s managing editor Oksana Parfenova (laboratorium@soclabo.org), or the guest editors Katerina Guba (kguba@eu.spb.ru) or Dmitry Dubrovskiy (dmitry.dubrovsky@gmail.com). 

Previous Issues

Vol. 14 No. 1 (2022)

Vol. 13 No. 3 (2021)

Vol. 13 No. 2 (2021)

Rethinking Neighborness

Vol. 13 No. 1 (2021)

The Corporation in Russia

Vol. 12 No. 3 (2020)

Vol. 12 No. 2 (2020)

Shifting Normativities in the Life of the Elderly

Vol. 12 No. 1 (2020)

Migrants in the Post-Soviet City