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2003 Award for Scientific Freedom and Responsibility Recipient

2003 Award Recipients

AAAS Award for Scientific Freedom and Responsibility


Dr. Walter Reich is the recipient of the AAAS Scientific Freedom and Responsibility Award. He is honored for his longstanding devotion to human rights issues, particularly his role in making known the abuses of psychiatry in the Soviet Union and spearheading an international effort to condemn such practices.

The AAAS Scientific Freedom and Responsibility Award honors scientists and engineers whose exemplary actions, often taken at significant personal cost, have served to foster scientific freedom and responsibility. The recipient receives $5,000 and a commemorative plaque.

Walter Reich is the Yitzhak Rabin Memorial Professor of International Affairs, Ethics and Human Behavior at The George Washington University, a Senior Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Lecturer in Psychiatry at Yale University, and Professor of Psychiatry at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. Dr. Reich’s career-long devotion to a broad spectrum of human rights issues and other moral and ethical issues facing society earns him this recognition.

As a resident in psychiatry at Yale University in 1972, Dr. Reich became aware that political dissenters in the Soviet Union were frequently diagnosed as suffering from a mental illness and hospitalized in special facilities. Until the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Dr. Reich was a leader of world opposition to the Soviet practice of abusing psychiatry in order to suppress and punish dissent. In addition to writing extensively on this subject for both professional and general audiences, Dr. Reich led the effort at the 1977 meeting of the World Psychiatric Association to condemn this practice and expel the Soviet Union from the Association.

Dr. Reich’s interest in Soviet abuses was followed by a career-long involvement with human rights issues in a variety of venues, focusing primarily on those abuses that involve medical matters. He has served as Co-Chair of the Committee of Concerned Scientists (and is currently Co-Chair for Psychiatry); as Chair of the Committee on Human Rights of the American Psychiatric Association; and as a member of the AAAS Scientific Freedom and Responsibility Committee. His concerns regarding Soviet psychiatry led Dr. Reich to embark on an examination of diagnostic practices in the United States, in order to ensure that similar abuses will not occur here. He has been especially concerned with the potential dangers that can result from explaining unacceptable behavior psychiatrically, thereby losing a sense of responsibility for one’s behavior.

Born in wartime Poland, Dr. Reich has a strong interest in the Holocaust and other gross crimes against humanity. He has written extensively on these subjects and served as Director of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. In that position, he dedicated himself to establishing the museum as an institution of education and serious scholarship. Never afraid to wade into controversial waters, he has written articles expressing his views on physician assisted suicide and has urged human rights organizations to examine themselves for possible biases.

In 1983, AAAS bestowed its Scientific Freedom and Responsibility Award on Dr. Anatoly Koryagin, the Soviet psychiatrist who first brought to the world’s attention the abuse of psychiatry in his country. It is especially fitting, therefore, that Dr. Reich, who was in a position to pursue this issue, and did, be the recipient of the same award. His accomplishments serve as an inspiration to young scientists and physicians, calling on them to broaden their interests to include the well being of all humanity.

Please click here for a list of past recipients.