Science and Human Rights
Scientific freedom and responsibility have to be enabled and practised. They benefit both scientists and policymakers; they also benefit all of us. Yet, these benefits will not be achieved if the status of scientific freedom and responsibility as a human right, as well as their linkages with other human rights, are not well understood or are plainly neglected.
At present, we have a human rights knowledge-gap that needs to be closed if science is to be objective, evidence-based, free from undue interference and accessible. Closing this gap will enable scientific researchers to claim and exercise their rights and responsibilities relating to the conduct of science, and will enable policymakers to meet their human rights obligations and create a healthy environment for rights-driven science, which is a cornerstone for achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
More specifically, by anchoring science in human rights we contribute to a range of critical questions. These include: setting and financing the science agenda; using science to strengthen human rights; and delineating the scope of protection of scientists, science-participants more generally and the beneficiaries of scientific progress. These questions predated the COVID-19 pandemic; at the same time, the ongoing crisis has made their significance much clearer - through, for example, threats to and attacks on scientists and public health officials as well as the range of other obstacles to their work, including limitations on free expression and a surge in conspiracy theories and misinformation.
In order to help close the knowledge gap amongst scientific researchers, policymakers and others, UNESCO and the Global Campus are offering a Massive Online Open Course. This MOOC is the first dedicated educational engagement on the human rights-based approach (HRBA) to scientific freedom and responsibility, which is also accessible, at scale and cross-disciplinary in its engagement with human rights.
The MOOC runs over 5 weeks and is organised in 2 modules.
Module 1 explains connections and frameworks and tackles two important questions:
- Why connect science and human rights?
- What is a human rights-based approach (HRBA) to scientific freedom and responsibility?
Module 2 is devoted to the HRBA in practice and responds to 3 key questions:
- What is science for human rights?
- What is an enabling environment for scientific freedom and responsibility?
- How can you use a HRBA to science to help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)?
Upon completion of this course, participants will have gained:
- Increased awareness about the connections between human rights and scientific freedom and scientific responsibility.
- Clearer understanding - through reference to available data – of the need to link science and human rights, including gender equality, in accelerating progress on the SDGs.
- Robust knowledge on human rights principles, standards and practices.
Ultimately, the course is a pathway to:
- Empower scientists, students of science, and policymakers through education on the human rights-based approach to scientific freedom and responsibility.
- Amplify dialogue on the relationships between science, human rights, ethics and law.
This five-week English-language MOOC includes:
- 30 hours of active learning (6 per week) through readings, videos, discussions and quizzes.
- Examples from different areas of the world and on different themes allowing the identification of cross-regional and cross-cutting issues and enabling a global and multidimensional understanding of the topic.
- A participatory approach aimed at developing and reinforcing personal critical reflection and peer-to-peer learning.
- A toolbox that includes glossaries of legal and scientific terms.
Free certificate of participation
Participants who have successfully completed all discussions and quizzes will receive a free certificate confirming their participation.
This MOOC is mainly for scientists, university-level science students and policymakers around the world who want to understand and practise a HRBA to scientific freedom and scientific responsibility. Promoting diverse participation, including in terms of gender, is a key consideration.