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

March 1, 2011

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.

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Article 15: Questionnaire 1:

March 1, 2011

Article 15 says that governments should “recognize the right of everyone to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and its applications.”  The first two questions ask you to think about the benefits of science in the context of linguistics.

1. How does linguistics benefit society and the individuals within it?

Language from your professional association’s mission and/or vision statement may be useful here.

2. Please give at least one example of current work in linguistics that is benefiting or will benefit society and/or individuals.

It might be useful to think of applications of linguistics research in answering this question.  These examples may come from your own work or other linguists.


Article 15: Questionnaire 2:

March 1, 2011

Article 15 requires governments to “respect the freedom indispensable for scientific research.”

3. Describe the challenges that scientists within linguistics experience in exercising the freedom necessary to conduct their work and disseminate their findings. These challenges may arise due to the topic, content, or method of their research or expression.  Please provide specific examples, when possible.

Note: please answer this question in terms of linguists working and living in the country where you are currently located.  If appropriate, add a response related to the challenges of linguists working in/residing in other countries.

4. Enjoying the benefits of science necessarily includes protection from the misuse of science, whether through intention, accident or neglect.[1] What do you see as the potential dangers or misuses of linguistics?


[1] The context for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was the brutality and destruction of WWII, including the Nazi genocide.  UDHR drafters were highly cognizant of both the beneficial and destructive potentials of science.  (Chapman 2009).


Article 15: Questionnaire 3:

March 1, 2011

Under Article 15, governments are required to take the steps necessary for the “conservation, development, and diffusion of science.”

5. In linguistics, what types of knowledge, products and tools (e.g., data, ancient texts) must be conserved (saved, stored, or protected)? What methods are best for ensuring appropriate access to that knowledge? What kinds of scientific knowledge in linguistics are currently not being conserved?

6. What are the necessary conditions for linguistics to develop and grow?

For example, equal access to high quality education has been cited as one necessary pre-condition for all scientific advancement.


Article 15: Questionnaire 4:

March 1, 2011

Under Article 15 governments are asked to recognize the benefits to be derived from the encouragement and development of international contacts and cooperation in science:

7. What “international contacts” and forms of “international cooperation” are required to effectively conduct or participate in linguistics?

8. What government policies impose obstacles to the development of international contacts and cooperation in linguistics? What government policies exist to encourage the development of international contacts and cooperation?

Note: please answer this question with reference to specific examples of the laws, policies and/or programs of your government.

9. What other kinds of activities should the government be undertaking to facilitate international contacts and cooperation in linguistics?


Article 15: Questionnaire 5:

March 1, 2011

A basic tenet of human rights requires particular attention be paid to vulnerable and marginalized populations in the realization of human rights.

10. From the perspective of linguistics, what, if any, persons or communities require special protection in the realization of this right? (e.g., scientists, clinical trial participants, minority students, women, convicted prisoners)

11. What barriers exist for the general public in terms of availability of, and access to, the benefits of linguistics?

12. The development, growth and diffusion of science can be impacted by the intellectual property laws adopted and trade agreements entered into by governments.  How do government actions of this kind impact the development of science and technology and dissemination of the benefits of science within linguistics?

When you think about the right to enjoy the benefits of progress in linguistics, is there any other issue that you think we should consider and discuss?