Background: AAAS and the Human Right to Enjoy the Benefits of Scientific Progress

The Ethics Committee is liasing with the AAAS (and in particular its Science and Human Rights Program) as part of a survey on what is means to say that people have the right to enjoy the benefit of scientific progress. The AAAS has released a survey of 12 questions, and is now seeking the feedback of various professional organizations. The LSA ethics committee will be posting the survey questions on the blog, with some introduction, and would like feedback from readers. We will then collate responses into a report for the AAAS. Members are also welcome to submit their own reports.

Posts on this topic will be under the category of “Article15”.

Over the fold is some general background on the topic, prepared by Jessica Wyndham, Senior Project Officer in the AAAS’s science and human rights program.

First internationally recognized in 1948, the human right to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress remains largely unknown and underutilized by the scientific and human rights communities.  Recently, however, the United Nations (UN) has begun to define and encourage implementation of the right. It is vital for the scientific community to be part of this process.

In April 2010, the Board of Directors of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) adopted a statement recognizing the importance for the scientific community to contribute to the ongoing process to define the right to the benefits of scientific progress. AAAS is committed to engaging the scientific community in this process and to ensuring that good scientific practices are taken into account when the right is applied in practice.

The AAAS Science and Human Rights Coalition together with AAAS staff have developed a series of questions aimed at soliciting input from professional scientific organizations and individuals about the meaning of the right and barriers to its realization. Responses to this questionnaire will be collated and presented to the UN Committee responsible for monitoring the implementation of the right to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress. The findings of this process will also be used to inform future programmatic work of AAAS.

Background information

The right: Article 15 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights requires governments to:

  1. recognize the right of everyone to benefit from scientific progress and its applications
  2. take the steps necessary for the conservation, development and diffusion of science
  3. respect the freedom indispensable for scientific research, and
  4. recognize the benefits of international contacts and co-operation in the scientific field.

The obligations: In order to meet their legal obligations to realize this right, governments must respect, protect and fulfill the right. This means:

  • respect – refrain from doing anything that will violate the right (e.g., refrain from censoring scientists who publish politically inconvenient findings);
  • protect – ensure that private actors do not violate the right (e.g., protect research subjects involved in private clinical trials); and
  • fulfill – take the steps necessary to ensure the right is enjoyed by all (e.g., provide the institutional support necessary for implementing effective science curricula).

The practical steps: The steps governments must take to meet their obligations will include a combination of constitutional, legislative, institutional, programmatic and financial measures.

By answering the attached questions, you can help ensure the right is interpreted and applied in a way that reflects the realities and concerns of your discipline.

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One Response to Background: AAAS and the Human Right to Enjoy the Benefits of Scientific Progress

  1. Jacquelyn Kendrick says:

    Humans have the right to scientific progress, if the use of that knowledge doesn’t harm society. Also, there is a differences between scientific progress and Monogenus knowledge and wisdom. Humans do not have the right to the later. IT is presented when appropriate.

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