Dec 27

Science & Human Rights Coalition Update December 2017

Coalition Calendar

Jan. 25-26, 2018 Coalition Meeting: Human Rights in STEM Education

At the next Coalition meeting, learn from case examples and contribute to discussions aimed at identifying key challenges, considering potential models for integrating human rights into STEM education, and articulating needs and opportunities for mentoring and other types of support. The keynote speaker will be Dr. Juan Gilbert from the University of Florida. Registration is now open.

Coalition Accomplishments and Activities

Webinar: Evaluation 101 for Human Rights Organizations, Part 4

The fourth Evaluation 101 for Human Rights Organizations webinar was held on December 7. Theresa Harris (AAAS) and Gary Shapiro (Statistics Without Borders and the American Statistical Association) discussed the various scientific partnerships available for human rights program evaluations. Recordings of all four webinars and an annotated bibliography developed by the group are available at aaas.org/evaluation101.


Coalition Members Honor International Human Rights Day

Several member organizations planned activities to commemorate Human Rights Day, the anniversary of the UN General Assembly’s adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10, 1948. Many members participated in the live Twitter chat (Dec. 12) that was co-organized by the American Psychological Association (APA), the American Chemical Society (ACS), and AAAS.

  • The American Anthropological Association (AAA) added a Human Rights category to its AAA Blog, as well as a series of posts celebrating Human Rights Day. AAA also shared its blog series on social media.
  • AAAS held Human Rights Day training sessions on Monday, December 11 to discuss the concept of human rights, how human rights intersects with science and what AAAS is doing today to support those rights. Additionally, Jessica Wyndham and Theresa Harris participated in a live Trellis Q&A on December 12 to talk with AAAS members about the Human Right to Science.
  • The American Association of Geographers participated on social media by showcasing some of its recent projects in Human Rights, such as the Geographers and Civil Rights Database and the 2017 Human Rights Annual Meeting theme. It also highlighted its involvement in the Coalition’s activities and shared information about the Twitter chat.
  • The ACS helped to co-organize the live science and human rights Twitter chat.
  • The American Educational Research Association posted information and resources regarding science and human rights to its website as well as information about the Coalition. Additionally, the organization shared information about the Universal Declaration on Human Rights via social media on Human Rights Day.
  • The American Philosophical Association tweeted about its support for human rights and on its membership in the Coalition.
  • The American Physical Society (APS) tweeted a number of resources on human rights and the intersection with physics, including a bibliography on physics and human rights and information on human rights that was put together by the APS Committee on International Freedom of Scientists.
  • The American Political Science Association (APSA) posted information on human rights to its website and published an article, Speaking Rights to Power, by Alison Brysk (University of California Santa Barbara), in PSNow, a website by the APSA covering people, research and news in political science.
  • The APA co-organized and moderated the live Twitter chat for science and human rights. Several Coalition members participated in the discussion as well as many members from the scientific Twitter community.
  • The American Statistical Association (ASA) issued a statement on its website to commemorate Human Rights Day. Additionally, a number of ASA colleagues have written op-eds, blogs and given presentations. Two of those pieces can be found here and here. ASA participated in the live Twitter chat and shared calls to action to help persecuted scholars.
  • The Global Alliance for Behavioral Health and Social Justice tweeted on human rights and directed followers to its human rights webpage, which features information materials and various methods for involvement.
  • The Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (SPSSI) added information about the Coalition to its website and how the organization is working at the intersection of human rights and public policy. Additionally, SPSSI participated in the live Twitter chat.
  • The Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD) expressed its support for international human rights and the connections to child development. It also shared its 2016 and 2017 Social Policy Reports. Additionally, SRCD posted on its website information about the Coalition and how people can join as affiliated individuals.
  • Sigma Xi participated in the live Twitter chat on science and human rights. Its main Twitter account publicly thanked Jeff Toney for representing Sigma Xi on the Coalition.

Action Alert!

Call for help for “Peace Petition” scholars to be tried in Turkey

Scholars at Risk (SAR) is gravely concerned about a growing number of scholars in Turkey who face criminal charges solely as a result of the nonviolent expression of ideas; specifically, having signed a petition in January 2016 (the so-called “Peace Petition”), criticizing government policy in the southeast of the country. Several of these scholars’ trials were scheduled to begin in December.

Urgent Call for Letters of Appeal on behalf of Ahmadreza Djalali

After being sentenced to death on October 21, 2017 in Iran, a scholar of disaster medicine, Ahmadreza Djalali, and his family were given 20 days to file an appeal with the Court. Although Dr. Djalali’s family had readied the appeal and was informed by the Court it had been submitted in a timely manner, they later found out that the lawyer, Mr. Daryabeighi, at the direction of Judge Salavati, never submitted the case for appeal. The 20 days have since passed, and the sentence has been re-confirmed. The Endangered Scholars Worldwide is calling for letters of appeal on behalf of Dr. Djalali. Presidents of AAAS and the American Physical Society have signed a letter to Iranian President Rouhani expressing urgent concern about the situation.


Professional Development Opportunities

Call for Coalition Project Leaders

Are you looking for a way to get involved in the Coalition in 2018? The Coalition is seeking individuals to become Project Leaders for new projects. These are projects that have been identified by Coalition members as important for advancing the Coalition’s mission and goals. Most can be done remotely with online communication, email, and teleconferences. This is an opportunity to gain leadership experience, network with scientists, engineers, and health professionals interested in human rights, and make a lasting contribution. Click here to learn more.


Executive Director, Human Rights Center of the University of Dayton

The University of Dayton (UD) seeks a collaborative and strategic leader to serve as the Executive Director of the University’s Human Rights Center (HRC). This is an exceptional opportunity for an innovative leader to advance an interdisciplinary human rights research and advocacy center that represents a major priority for the University.


Jan. 15, 2018: Fellowships for Threatened Scholars, IIE-Scholar Rescue Fund

The Institute of International Education Scholar Rescue Fund (IIE-SRF) has announced a January 15 deadline for its next round of applications from scholars facing threats to their lives or careers. Fellowships support temporary academic positions at colleges, universities, and other research institutions anywhere in the world where the scholars can continue their academic work in safety.


Feb. 1, 2018: Research Initiatives Manager, Human Rights Funders Network

Human Rights Funders Network is looking for a new Research Initiatives Manager to lead efforts to build knowledge about and influence the field of human rights philanthropy. This position will oversee the Advancing Human Rights initiative, which maps the field of human rights philanthropy and presents case studies that demonstrate the diversity and breadth of human rights funding.


Feb. 20, 2018: Applications for Course on Health Systems Through Crisis and Recovery

The Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna in Pisa, Italy, is hosting a course, “Health Systems Through Crisis and Recovery,” from April 9–20 2018, which will focus on human rights, conflict management, and development cooperation. Applications are due Feb. 20, 2018.

Science and Human Rights in the USA                                                          

Op-Ed Addresses Harassment in Science                                                           

A recent op-ed in Science addresses the issue of sexual harassment in science-based fields, including academia. The article points to studies that show that more than half of women in academia have experienced harassment. The authors say the greatest opportunity for change rests with individual scientists, teams, and professional societies. They identify three arenas—individuals working to understand the prevalence of harassment, teams developing a code of conduct, and societies providing training toward ethical leadership—that have the potential to stimulate change.

EPA Chief Says Agency Scientists are Free to Discuss Their Work
US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt said that the agency has put into place procedures to allow EPA scientists to make presentations at conferences. Pruitt responded in a letter to Senate Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) following the cancellation of participation of three EPA-affiliated scientists in a conference in late October 2017 regarding environmental issues of the Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island and a related watershed workshop. The EPA, which helped fund the research presented at the conference, was scheduled to send three scientists to present material they had contributed to a report and share their expertise on the challenges facing the Bay. In his letter, Pruitt said that he has instructed EPA’s Office of Research and Development political and career senior leadership that they have the authority to make decisions about event participation. 

Artificial Intelligence (AI) Conference Discusses Potential Human Rights Concerns
The Neural Information Processing Systems Conference, a scientific conference on machine learning and computational neuroscience, held in early December in Long Beach, California, addressed ethical issues in artificial intelligence and related technology. Microsoft researcher Kate Crawford and co-founder of the AI Now Institute at NYU, which studies social implications of artificial intelligence, offered the keynote address to highlight issues of concern, such as the use of image-processing algorithms that learned and amplified gender stereotypes and potential issues that may arise in government and business use of machine learning in areas such as criminal justice and finance.

US Withdraws Participation from a UN Global Compact on Migration
The US has withdrawn its participation in a United Nations (UN) compact, the Global Compact on Migration, which seeks global cooperation to protect the safety and rights of refugees and migrants. The Global Compact is being developed to improve the governance on migration, to address the challenges associated with today’s migration, and to strengthen the contribution of migrants and migration to sustainable development. US participation in the Compact process began in 2016 following the US government’s decision to join the UN’s New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, which was adopted in September 2016 by the UN General Assembly. The Global Compact for safe, orderly and regular migration is to be voted on for adoption by UN member states in September 2018. Ambassador Nikki Haley, US Permanent Representative to the UN said in Dec. 2, 2017 statement: “…[O]ur decisions on immigration policies must always be made by Americans and Americans alone. We will decide how best to control our borders and who will be allowed to enter our country. The global approach in the New York Declaration is simply not compatible with US sovereignty.”

International News 
UN Launches Campaign To Recognize Universal Declaration of Human Rights
In commemoration of Human Rights Day on December 10, the United Nations launched a year-long campaign to recognize the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which will be December 10, 2018. “[The Universal Declaration of Human Rights] establishes the equality and dignity of every human being,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres in a statement at a special UN Headquarters event to commemorate Human Rights Day. The campaign, Stand Up For Human Rights, has three core objectives: to engage a broad base of audiences globally, help promote understanding of how the Universal Declaration of Human Rights empowers society, and encourage further reflection on the ways that individuals can stand up for rights. The campaign outlines specific ways in which civil society and organizations can become involved,  including: an awareness campaign of the Declaration with communication materials provided by the UN; an exhibition on human rights; participation in the  “add your voice project,” which allows the recording of articles in more than 125 languages; highlighting organizations’ work in human rights; and having heads of organization stress the importance of human rights and the Declaration in videos, statements, and social media.

Ethiopia: Report Highlights Government Use of Malware to Target Opponents
Human Rights Watch reports that Ethiopian authorities have carried out a renewed campaign of malware attacks by using commercial spyware to monitor government critics abroad and has called on the government to stop such practices. The group cites a technical analysis by a Toronto-based research center, Citizen Lab, which showed a renewed government malware campaign aimed at Ethiopian activists and political opponents. These attacks follow a long, documented history of similar government efforts to monitor critics, inside and outside of Ethiopia.

Concerns Raised Over Use of Data and Algorithms To Identify Criminal Offenders
A recent article on the BBC website reports on the use by police in Durham, UK of a system which  uses algorithms to help decide whether to keep a suspect in custody. The Harm Assessment Risk Tool (HART) uses historical data to classify suspects as low, medium, or high risk of offending. The tool uses information such as offending history, the type of crime a suspect has been accused of, their postcode, and gender. The National Council for Civil Liberties, also known as Liberty, a human rights group in the UK, has raised concerns over the system, which it says should only be advisory in nature. The system has also raised concerns about the lack of diversity in the technology sector contributing to unintentional bias in algorithms.

Updated Human Rights Principles for the Treatment of LGBTI People Released
International human rights experts have released a supplement to the Yogyakarta Principles, a universal guide to human rights related to sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, and sex characteristics that applies to all United Nations member states. The original Yogyakarta Principles were drafted by human rights experts in 2006 in Yogyakarta, Indonesia in response to documented human rights abuses against LGBT people worldwide.

UN Designates 2021 to 2030 as Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development

The United Nations has designated the years 2021 to 2030 as the “Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development” to boost international coordination and cooperation in research and scientific programs for better management of ocean and coastal zone resources and reducing maritime risks. The UN Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) will be leading the campaign. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) call for specific action for the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans, seas and marine resources (SDG 14), including human rights and labor standards.


Congratulations to Oliver Moles for shepherding the Coalition’s project to provide resources on program evaluation to human rights organizations. Under his leadership, the project team grew to include professional evaluators from a range of academic disciplines who shared their expertise through a series of workshops and webinars as well as an annotated bibliography. The webinar recordings and the bibliography are available at http://www.aaas.org/evaluation101. Ollie Moles represents the Capital Area Social Psychological Association (CASPA) on the Coalition Council and is a Fellow of the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (SPSSI). He earned his Ph.D. in social psychology from the University of Michigan and had a long federal research career before he retired in 2002 from the Office of Educational Research and Improvement in the US Department of Education. He has designed several national program evaluations using a variety of research methods and study designs, written research reports and syntheses, and edited research journal issues and two books.

Publisher: AAAS Scientific Responsibility, Human Rights and Law Program

Editor: Patricia Van Arnum

Associate Editor: Mary Cate Carroll

Contributors: Joel Ericsen, Theresa Harris, Jessica Wyndham