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AAAS Science, Technology and Human Rights Conference 2019: Program

This three-day conference brings together human rights leaders from around the world, academic researchers across different disciplines, scientists and engineers who work in private industry, government officials, members of impacted and vulnerable communities, and students in science, engineering, human rights, health and law. Together we will take stock of progress made towards building effective partnerships between the scientific community and human rights communities, share lessons learned, and develop collaborative, multidisciplinary approaches to the most urgent human rights challenges ahead of us.

Wednesday, October 23



(Second Floor Lobby)


Welcoming Remarks


Jessica Wyndham, Director, AAAS Scientific Responsibility, Human Rights and Law Program


Keynote Address

Science and technology as a vital tool for human rights: partnerships for justice


Alfred Brownell

Alfred Brownell, Distinguished Scholar in Residence, Northeastern University School of Law and Founder and Lead Campaigner, Green Advocates International, Liberia


Balancing Power Through Data: How Haitian Farmers Demanded Justice for a Land Grab and Won


The Kolektif Peyizan Viktim Tè Chabè (Kolektif) are a collective of farmers and their families (approximately 4,000 in all) who were displaced from their agricultural land in Northeast Haiti in 2011 to make way for an internationally financed industrial park. Over a multi-year period, The Kolektif engaged in a dialogue process with the Inter-American Development Bank and Government of Haiti to restore the farmers’ livelihoods. That historic process resulted in an agreement between the parties in December 2018 that provides for remedial support, with a combination of land, employment opportunities, agricultural equipment and training, and support for micro-enterprise focused on women and the most vulnerable members of the community. Throughout the negotiations, evidence from community-led surveys, independent environmental assessments, and emerging communication and information sharing tools played a critical role in shaping the dialogue process and mitigating the power imbalance faced by the Kolektif. This panel will share lessons learned from the Kolektif's dialogue as a model for community campaigns for justice in Haiti and beyond, with a focus on how innovative research methods can reshape power dynamics by expanding the scope of access to information and translating local community knowledge into actionable data.

Samer Araabi, Research Director, Accountability Counsel
Community Representative, Kolektif Peyizan Viktim Tè Chabè (The Collective of Peasant Victims of the Land at Chabert)

Kirsten Nicholson, Professor of Environment, Geology and Natural Resources, Ball State University and AAAS On-call Scientists Volunteer



(Second Floor Lobby)

Lightning Talk

Citizen evidence, science, and technology in the fight for human rights


Scott Edwards, Amnesty International


Concurrent Sessions

(1) The Scientific-Human Rights Nexus in Latin America: Cross-Discipline Action to Improve the Legacy of Mining and Oil & Gas Projects


Latin America is now the most dangerous region in the world for environmental defenders. Technical assistance involving scientific and engineering analyses or health risk assessments can provide empirical evidence for legal advocacy organizations, communities, and governments seeking to prevent human rights violations. This panel will address critical and timely issues related to scientific inquiry and human rights concerns, with speakers who have been on the front lines of human rights issues in Latin American communities experiencing the effects of large-scale mining and oil & gas development projects. The panel will emphasize that many more scientists are needed to accomplish real change and protect human rights linked to environmental degradation

Andrés Ángel, Science Fellow, Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense
María Guadalupe de Heredia, Journalist and Ecuador Coordinator, E-Tech International
Ann Maest (Moderator), Chief Scientist, E-Tech International
Marcella Ribeiro d’Avila Lins Torres, Human Rights and Environment Fellow, Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense

Case Studies:
The Role of Water Quality Information in the Defense of Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples in the Peruvian Amazon Affected by Oil Exploitation

The global demand for fossil fuels and metals has profound effects on the environment and communities, particularly on indigenous populations and their territories which have rich deposits of minerals, oil and gas. It is estimated that by 2020, between 50 and 80 percent of all mineral resources will be on lands claimed by indigenous peoples. These territories often lack pollution controls and enforcement of environmental laws. Access to environmental quality data is very limited for those living in remote areas such as the Amazon rainforest, affecting access to justice for indigenous peoples. This case study examines the influence of obtaining environmental quality data on the human right to clean water among indigenous groups in oil concession Block 192 in the Peruvian Amazon. It examines to what extent water quality data was useful in decision-making processes to improve the environmental conditions in Block 192, and the potential and limitations of environmental quality data in asserting the local people’s human right to clean water. It aims to shed light on the potential and limitations of environmental quality data in environmental decision-making processes, and in the enforcement of the human right to clean water for indigenous communities affected by oil extraction.

Mercedes Lu, Staff Scientist, Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide

Reconciliation in the Antler-Thames Watershed: Indigenous-Settler Collaborations

This case study aims to share Oxford County’s Roadmap to Reconciliation between Earth and Health that can be used by Water Protectors and Land Defenders in any watershed through the application and implementation of: i) the Great Law of Peace (Gaianarekowa), ii) the 94 Calls to Action from the 2015 Truth & Reconciliation Report and the 231 Calls for Justice from the 2019 Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Report, iii) high-quality environmental data for a particular “space” (time-place) ) from Geological Survey of Canada Open File 8528/Ontario Geological Survey Open File Report 6349, iv) local Indigenous teachings that promote numeracy in the format of co-created JUMP (Junior Undiscovered Math Prodigies) curriculum, v) a human rights law framework, and vi) selected STEM insights from Dan Fagin’s 2014 Pulitzer Prize-winning account of the childhood cancer cluster in New Jersey (“Toms River: A Story of Science and Salvation" (2013), Bantam) within a biosocial intervention strategy approved by Harvard’s Global Health Delivery certificate course in 2018.

Heather Dawn Gingerich, International Medical Geology Association/Office of Tsikonsase/Water School for Decision-Makers (W1SD0M)

(2) Science and Human Rights Policy Advocacy Workshop


This workshop is designed for STEM early career professionals and students who are interested in learning about the role of science in policy-making, to introduce them to the federal policy-making process, and to empower them with ways to become a voice for science and human rights throughout their careers.  The workshop is designed for early career individuals and students with limited experience and knowledge of policy and advocacy who want to learn more about how human rights policy and science policy intersect.

Sean Gallagher, Senior Government Relations Officer, AAAS
Theresa Harris, Project Director, AAAS
Chloe McPherson, Associate, Government Relations, AAAS

(3) Innovations in Human Rights Program Evaluation Methods and Technology


In this workshop, participants will learn about and contribute ideas for two Science and Human Rights Coalition projects that aim to help human rights organizations strengthen their internal impact evaluation capacities with scientific methods and tools. One project is from a team that has developed a webinar series sharing new knowledge on aspects of the evaluation process and how the success of human rights focused programs can be determined. The second project concerns a widespread and critical evaluation problem: how to handle missing values in data sets

John Curtis, Independent Consultant, Washington, DC
William Mawby, Independent Consultant, Greenville, SC
Oliver Moles (Moderator), Webinar Project Team Leader, Capital Area Social Psychological Association
Mindy Reiser, Vice President, Global Peace Services USA

(4) Urban Metabolism and Minority Pulse


The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aim to transform our world by promoting well-being, economic prosperity, and environmental protection. The attainment of the SDG agenda greatly depends on including all members of society, including minority groups. This workshop will discuss using the SDGs as a common language to educate the most vulnerable members of society. It will explore data collection strategies in cities, tailored methodology and strategy actions, and policy implementation tools for working with minority populations.

Gabriela Fernandez, Co-Founder, Metabolism of Cities
Carol Maione, Master of Science Candidate, University of Michigan



(Second Floor Lobby)

Lightning Talk

AAAS computer aided evaluation


William Mawby, Independent Consultant, Greenville, SC


Concurrent Sessions

(1) Towards Measuring Academic Freedom: Collaborative Review of a New Methodology


Despite the impact of attacks on academic freedom on both the scientific community and society as a whole, our knowledge and understanding of such restrictions are very limited so far. In 2019, the Global Public Policy Institute (GPPi) launched a pilot project to explore ways to measure academic freedom worldwide. Improving information on levels of academic freedom across the world will facilitate much-needed research into the subject, serve as a concrete basis to reevaluate transnational partnerships in the academic field, and provide incentives for states and universities to improve or uphold academic freedom. The session will introduce a new, expert-based quantitative approach that GPPi developed in partnership with the V-Dem Institute and the Scholars-at-Risk Network. The workshop then seeks feedback on new case study research guidelines. The workshop organizers hope to engage a wide range of academics, including natural scientists and engineers, on this issue and on their experiences with academic freedom infringements. In addition, participants will have an opportunity to discuss alternative ways of how specific issues like academic self-censorship could be assessed in the future.

Omar Mohammed, Scholar of history and citizen journalism from Iraq
Robert Quinn, Executive Director, Scholars at Risk Network
Julie Schmid, Executive Director, American Association of University Professors
Janika Spannagel, Research Fellow, Global Public Policy Institute
Radwan Ziadeh, Scholar of political science from Syria

(2) Advancing Science in a Global Context: Scientific Engagement at the United Nations


This skill-building workshop will draw from the myriad ways that scientists can contribute their expertise and skills to the United Nations and civil society organizations through the world. The workshop will be led by knowledgeable individuals and scientists, including psychologists, who have successfully negotiated the complex organizations of civil society at the UN. Three interactive sessions will explore various levels and modes of engagement. Speakers will discuss the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues' involvement at the UN for more than 25 years; how individual scientists can get involved at the United Nations; and how graduate students can apply their training to act as advocates, researchers, and organizers in areas of sustainable development and integrate the goals of the United Nations into their careers.

Maya Godbole, Doctoral Student, City University of New York
David Livert, Associate Professor, Penn State University
Sarah Mancoll, Policy Director, Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues
Teresa Ober, Doctoral Candidate, City University of New York
Priyadharshany Sandanapitchai, Research Associate, Francois Xavier Bagnoud Center, Rutgers University
Peter Walker, Fellow, American Psychological Association

(3) Closing the Gap: How Can Scientists Better Support Communities Impacted by Mining?


Mining host communities experience severe environmental and physical human rights abuses, often without legal, technical or psychological support. Scientists play a crucial role in helping communities protect their environmental and human rights before, during and after mining. Using real-life cases provided by communities in Sub-Saharan Africa, we will explore the challenges these communities face in connecting with scientists and generate creative solutions to close the gap. Workshop participants will spend the majority of their time in small groups, using design thinking methods to generate concrete solutions. The ideas, insights and solutions generated in this workshop will provide inspiration not only for communities impacted by mining, but for similar cases and scenarios resulting from industrial agriculture and large-scale infrastructure construction.

Onyekachi Okoro, Project Officer, Media Awareness and Justice Initiative
Stephen Steim, Executive Director, New Media Advocacy Project



(Second Floor Lobby)

Lightning Talk

Title coming soon


Tanya Harrison, Planet Federal


Preventing Harm to Migrant Children in Detention: A Case Study of Collaboration Between Health Whistleblowers, Professional Associations & Public Interest Organizations


Drs. Scott Allen and Pamela McPherson serve as the medical and mental health subject-matter experts for the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. When the current Administration began expanding detention of migrant children as part of the implementation of its “zero-tolerance” immigration policy, Drs. Allen and McPherson approached Government Accountability Project, a public interest whistleblower protection and advocacy organization, about how they could speak out about the imminent and foreseeable harm to children posed by expanded and prolonged detention. This case study will describe how Government Accountability Project attorneys and advocates crafted a campaign to both protect Drs. Allen and McPherson as they exercised their rights as whistleblowers to communicate with Congress about serious concerns, but also to ensure their actions made a difference, in large part by working in collaboration with both medical professional associations and leading justice organizations. This case study will demonstrate not only the power of whistleblowers—be they medical doctors or in other areas of scientific expertise—to protect the most vulnerable populations through the power of information, but also how the risk of reprisal is reduced and the effectiveness of their disclosures is exponentiated when they receive support for speaking up and validation of their concerns by professional societies and public interest organizations.

Dana Gold, Senior Counsel and Director of Education, Government Accountability Project


Connecting Space to Human Rights


Modern satellite imagery, available in all sizes and frequencies, provides another meaning to the long-standing phrase “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Satellites see no boundaries, don’t differentiate between any section of society, and offer a bird's eye view of the world that may otherwise be inaccessible for geopolitical or security reasons. Satellite images have the potential to become an ally to frontline human rights defenders, helping prevent abuses, protect human rights defenders, and investigate violations. In this session, we invite scientists, users, and all other stakeholders to participate in an interactive discussion aimed at enhancing coordination and advancing knowledge of satellite image applications for human rights. This session will explore our current understanding, research tools, and conceptual framework, and discuss evidence-based case studies that focus on interdisciplinary assessments and science-based humanitarian and human rights response. It is intended to be of interest to practitioners and application-oriented users, particularly those working on or near areas where frequent visits may not be possible. Attendees will enhance their knowledge of the availability of types of satellite data, ways it can be used, challenges faced by the community, limitations, and potential trade-offs.

Jonathan Drake, Senior Program Associate, AAAS Scientific Responsibility, Human Rights and Law Program
Umesh Haritashya, Associate Professor, University of Dayton
Shelley Inglis (Moderator), Executive Director, Human Rights Center
Nicole Widdersheim,
Senior Policy Advisor, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum Center for the Prevention of Genocide


Featured Speaker

Connecting science policy with human rights activism


Sam Brinton

Sam Brinton, Head of Advocacy and Government Affairs, The Trevor Project


Science and Human Rights Innovators Recognition



As part of its 10th anniversary celebration, the AAAS Science and Human Rights Coalition will recognize outstanding examples of human rights projects that have effectively incorporated science and technology as integral to the achievement of their goals.



(Second Floor Lobby)


Optional Common Table Dinner Groups

Sign up at the registration table throughout the day to join a group of eight to twelve other attendees for dinner together at a local restaurant.