Best Practices for Defending the Human Rights of Scientists
By Pamela Flattau
On January 21, the Scholars at Risk (SAR) Network conducted a training session at the Headquarters of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Washington, DC, to prepare scientific societies and associations to respond to alleged human rights violations against scientists. SAR promotes academic freedom and defends the human rights of scholars and their communities worldwide by providing temporary academic positions to those scholars “seeking to escape dangerous conditions and to continue their important work. In return, scholars contribute to their host campuses through teaching, research, lectures and other activities.” APA OIA Director Merry Bullock and APA CIRP co-chair Pamela Flattau attended the workshop along with representatives from a wide range of professional societies. Using case studies, the highly interactive workshop focused on “best practices” by which scientific organizations can respond to the situations of scientists laboring under such restrictive conditions as: (1) censorship; (2) research interference; (3) restrictions on dissemination of findings (e.g., patent and copyright violations) (4) mobility (e.g., visas); (5) personal welfare; and (6) government interference (e.g., requests for information that is not in the public domain).
The workshop was made possible by the AAAS Science and Human Rights Coalition, a network of scientific membership organizations that “recognizes a role for science and scientists in efforts to realize human rights.” The aim of the Coalition is to facilitate communication and partnerships on human rights within and across the scientific community, and between the scientific and human rights communities. The American Psychological Association is an active member of that coalition. On January 22 the Coalition marked its first anniversary, spending a considerable portion of the meeting to discuss a joint initiative to realize the human right to “the benefits of scientific progress” (Article 15, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights).
For further information about the work of the Coalition, see the Science Magazine article that appeared in February 2010.