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Call for Proposals: 2022 AAAS Science, Technology and Human Rights Conference

The AAAS Science and Human Rights Coalition, a network of scientific and engineering membership organizations that recognize a role for science and scientists in human rights, invites proposals for its upcoming conference, October 17-19, 2022. The deadline for the call for proposals has been extended to May 27.

Public health conditions permitting, the current plan is for a hybrid event, with some sessions online and other events in person at AAAS headquarters in Washington, DC.

All scholars, including students, as well as human rights practitioners and community organizers, are encouraged to submit a session proposal. Proposals from those whose human rights are being threatened and who urgently need a platform for their voices to be heard so that their human rights can be respected are especially welcomed.

The theme of this year’s conference is The Human Right to Science and Freedom of Expression.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights protects freedom of expression, which includes the right of everyone to “seek, receive and impart” information and ideas, and the right to share in scientific advancement. As the COVID-19 pandemic and its inequitable impacts have shown, these rights are interconnected and interdependent in many ways. Scientists and health professionals have been attacked for their public health advocacy; access to knowledge to make personal health decisions has been inequitable; in some cases, governments have discouraged and even prohibited scientists from sharing information with each other. At the same time, the growth of global authoritarianism and the spread of misinformation and disinformation, especially on online platforms, pose new challenges to the right to science and the full spectrum of human rights. At this moment, there is an urgent need for concrete actions by governments, the scientific community, and civil society to more fully recognize and implement the right to science in ways that can enhance public engagement with scientific information, promote public participation in science, support evidence-based decisions, and enable scientific freedom and the responsible applications of science for human rights.

Since its founding in 2009, the AAAS Science and Human Rights Coalition has been a leader in promoting the right of everyone to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and its applications. Years of work by scientific and human rights communities led to the adoption in 2020 of General Comment No. 25, an authoritative interpretation of the right, by the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

The Coalition’s annual 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 communities, and students in science, engineering, human rights, health, and law. The event is an opportunity for all those interested in or working on science and human rights to engage with each other, build trust, and develop new partnerships. This year’s event aims to give attendees practical tools so they can better support colleagues under threat, advocate for scientific freedom and responsibility, and articulate how and why the overlaps between the right to science, academic freedom, freedom of expression, and freedom of association are essential to solving today’s urgent human rights challenges.

The Coalition invites sessions that address this theme, including:

  • Actions that could help reach full achievement of the human right to science for populations experiencing discrimination or increased vulnerability due to political, economic and social structures, for historically marginalized communities (such as persons with disabilities), and for the other human rights connected to the right to science and freedom of expression;
  • The human rights of students, scholars, academics, researchers and other community members in places where displacement, conflict, censorship, and/or structural forms of oppression or discrimination make it difficult for them to continue their work;
  • Examples of science journalism, digital media, or other innovative projects that bring together science and human rights to counter misinformation and disinformation;
  • Approaches that expand access to scientific information while ensuring data sovereignty and the protection of traditional knowledge;
  • Strategies for tackling human rights challenges associated with the conduct of science and applications of technology, including ethical guidelines and codes of conduct;
  • Successful methods for building participatory and community-led science projects for human rights;
  • Suggestions for engaging actors who can have an impact on the implementation of the right to science (governments, intergovernmental bodies, civil society, academia, etc.);    
  • New developments and applications in science and technology that support human rights documentation, monitoring, and strategic communications related to the right to science and freedom of expression;
  • Leveraging the human right to science and freedom of expression to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals;
  • The human rights dimensions of COVID-19 and the pandemic response, including COVID-19’s disparate impacts on marginalized populations, strategies to address vaccine inequities, global crackdowns on scientific organizations, and government censorship of facts and findings;
  • Human rights and antiracism in STEM education in formal academic and informal settings, including partnerships between human rights educators and STEM educators.

Two types of sessions are invited:

  • Plenary Sessions: These are 75-minute sessions with a moderator and two or three presenters. Session topics must address the conference theme. Session organizers can choose the format that best suits the topic, which could include a series of presentations, a roundtable discussion facilitated by the moderator, or other formats well-suited to remote participation. These sessions will be held in a hybrid format. Presenters may attend the conference in person or present virtually.
     
  • Workshops: Workshops are 60-minute interactive sessions that focus on (1) an urgent human rights issue or intractable conflict around which collaborations across human rights, science, engineering, health, and technology offer new or emerging opportunities; or (2) collaborations between the human rights community and the scientific community to address a shared human rights concern. Workshop proposals should name a facilitator and can identify up to three discussion leaders from relevant areas of expertise; however, workshops are not panels. These are interactive sessions that engage participants in actively contributing to solutions. Workshop organizers will have the option to include break out discussion groups in their proposed format. We hope to hold these sessions in-person. However, if your proposal is accepted, please be prepared to shift the format of the session to fully virtual if necessary.

Proposals should be submitted in the following format:

  • Topic: In 1-2 pages, outline the topic of discussion, including any issue or problem the session intends to explore, proposals for action and explanations of how this topic meets the proposal criteria noted above. Please be sure to indicate the session type, as described above.
  • Abstract: A one-paragraph summary of your session that can be included in the conference program.
  • Speakers: Provide a separate list of brief bios for all proposed speakers, moderators, and participants. Session organizers will be asked to indicate whether the proposed speakers have confirmed their participation. The proposed session participants do not need to be confirmed at the time of submission, but they should be aware that they are included in the proposal.

Proposals will be evaluated using the following criteria:

  • Action-oriented: Will the session support steps toward real-world impact?
  • Collaborative: Will the session help build new collaborations across science, human rights, and other related sectors? This could be done by sharing examples, offering skills development to support effective collaborations, or creating opportunities during the conference for participants to connect with each other in meaningful ways. The Conference Host Committee will favor sessions that include the perspectives of human rights defenders and impacted communities, and feature members of these communities as speakers.
  • Timely: Will the session address an urgent human rights need or emerging issue at the intersection of science and human rights? Will it provide participants with an opportunity to engage in time-sensitive action?
  • Evidence-based: Will the session share new evidence for successful advocacy and/or collaborations?
  • Inclusive: Proposals that include speakers from diverse cultures, sectors, practice areas, geographic regions, knowledge systems, and backgrounds will be favored. The Host Committee is especially interested in proposals that include presentations by students and/or early career individuals, human rights defenders, communities whose human rights are threatened, and/or historically marginalized populations.

Proposal submissions must be submitted by Friday, May 27, 2022. Proposers will be notified of the committee’s decisions by late June of 2022.

The AAAS Science, Technology and Human Rights Conference Host Committee recognizes and celebrates the value that accessibility, diversity, equity and inclusion bring to scientific knowledge and the scientific enterprise. We welcome all who wish to engage in positive discussion and contribute their perspectives and expertise to help solve some of the world’s most pressing human rights issues.


Questions? Please contact the Coalition Secretariat at srhrl@aaas.org.

To learn more about the AAAS Science and Human Rights Coalition, please visit https://aaas.org/coalition

Event Contact

Nate Weisenberg

Senior Program Associate

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