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January 28, 2011

Sigma Xi Partners with AAAS to Address Human Rights

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, NC – In April 2009, Sigma Xi joined the newly formed American Association for the Advancement of Science's Science and Human Rights Coalition (SHRC). The goal 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.

These goals are consistent with the mission and purpose of Sigma Xi, particularly in the areas of ethics and improving the human condition.

Since joining the coalition, Jeffrey Toney at Kean University and Jerry Baker, Sigma Xi executive director, have served as representatives of Sigma Xi on the SHRC Council and have been active serving on workgroups and contributing to the development of new programs and resources.

One such resource is the Starter Kit on Helping Your Scientific Society Promote Human Rights. The purpose of the kit is to provide resources, tools, models and background information how to address human rights within an organization such as Sigma Xi.

In addition to the kit, the coalition has been busy working on the Article 15 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) Initiative to help realize the human right to “the benefits of scientific progress.”

First internationally recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948, Article 27) and subsequently elaborated as part of the internationally binding International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966, Article 15), the right to the benefits of science remains one of the least well known and understood aspects of the international human rights framework.

In 2007, UNESCO initiated a process to elucidate the meaning of the right, leading to the adoption in July 2009 of the “Venice Statement,” which outlines the core content of the right. The Venice Statement also calls upon the scientific community, among others, to contribute to the further elucidation and promotion of the right, and to monitoring of its implementation.

A great deal of work remains to be done in clarifying the meaning of the right to benefit from scientific progress, and Sigma Xi can help by providing input into what this right means within the disciplines or professional areas we represent. In the near future we will provide a link to a survey to collect information from Sigma Xi members.

We will also be hosting a focus group to discuss science and human rights. If you have thoughts or comments about what the benefits of scientific progress mean for your discipline/field/profession, we would very much appreciate hearing from you. Please contact Jerry Baker at ExecutiveOffice@SigmaXi.org.

This input from Sigma Xi members will be synthesized with that of other coalition organizations and will ultimately lead to a presentation of findings and recommendations to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in December 2011.

About Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society
Founded in 1886, Sigma Xi is the international honor society of research scientists and engineers, with more than 500 chapters at colleges and universities, government laboratories and industry research centers. Membership is by invitation, in recognition of research potential or achievement. Over the years, more than 200 Sigma Xi members have received the Nobel Prize. In addition to publishing American Scientist, the non-profit Society awards hundreds of grants annually to student researchers and sponsors a variety of programs that support science and engineering.


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