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Science and Human Rights

As a partner of the AAAS Science and Human Rights Coalition, Sigma Xi works to help its members use their scientific knowledge and skills to support human rights.

Below are resources related to science and human rights:

  • Human Rights Projects: Guidelines for Scientists and Human Rights Organizations
    This document outlines considerations for scientists and human rights groups that want to work together.

  • Connections Between Science and Human Rights
    Get a primer on what is involved in the discussion surrounding science and human right

  • On-Call Scientists
    AAAS has a project called On-Call Scientists, which matches volunteer scientists, engineers, and health professionals with human rights organizations. In this video, volunteers and members from human rights organizations talk about their work.

  • SciTech for Human Rights: Brian R. Shmaefsky
    The first interview of this podcast series from AAAS features Brian R. Shmaefsky, professor of biology and service learning coordinator at Lonestar College-Kingwood. His field is environmental physiology. He discusses how his research has addressed the right to nutrition and the right to access clean water.

Sigma Xi Partners with AAAS to Address Human Rights

Read an article from the 2014 May-June issue of American Scientist about this partnership.

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.

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.


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