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COVID-19 and Human Rights Resources

The AAAS Science and Human Rights Coalition Secretariat and Coalition member organizations have compiled this resource list to help students, educators, scientists, activists, and other audiences confront the urgent challenges at the intersections of science, technology and human rights raised by the novel coronavirus pandemic. We will continue to update this list as the crisis evolves.

 AAAS Scientific Responsibility, Human Rights and Law Program staff have been conducting interviews with thought leaders on science and human rights, in which they share their answers to frequently asked questions about the pandemic's human rights implications. Watch the videos below or here, or check out the full playlist on the AAAS YouTube channel.

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The Science journals are striving to provide the best and most timely research, analysis, and news coverage of COVID-19 and the coronavirus that causes it. All content is free to access.

Academic Freedom and Assisting Colleagues at Risk

Many scholars have had to move their work or teaching online, raising questions about how to protect academic freedom. With many governments adopting repressive measures, what are the risks for the human rights of scientists, engineers, and health professionals? How can the scientific and academic communities support colleagues whose human rights are being violated?

Rebecca Everly, Director of the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine’s Committee on Human Rights, describes the concerning trends the Committee is following during the pandemic, including legislation and policy developments and attacks on health professionals.

Are you a scientist, engineer, or health professional looking to support colleagues at risk or volunteer your skills during the pandemic? Everly highlights several different resources and opportunities:

Robert Quinn, Executive Director of the Scholars at Risk Network, explains three kinds of risks that scholars around the world are facing during the pandemic.

Quinn on what colleges and universities can do to assist threatened scholars during the pandemic, and how the stories of these individuals can be uplifting during difficult times:

Quinn describes how all scientists, regardless of discipline, can find themselves at risk when the evidence they are sharing contradicts the interests of the powerful. He encourages the members of the AAAS Science and Human Rights Coalition and other scientific associations to take action to protect colleagues at risk and promote academic freedom.

How scholars and researchers can assist colleagues under threat, and the importance of cultivating “a culture of values” to support academic freedom:

Access to Health Care

The pandemic is exacerbating existing inequalities in access to health care, including testing and treatment.

Access to Information/Combating Misinformation

How are disparities in access to information impacting the response to COVID-19? How can individuals and institutions combat misinformation about the virus? Is there a way to maintain science's openness without that openness being exploited?

Francella Ochillo, executive director of Next Century Cities, speaks about the gaps of opportunity in American society, generosity and inventiveness during the pandemic, and the need for long-term solutions for the millions of Americans who lack reliable internet access.

How lack of broadband access prevents many Americans from participating in a digital society, why this matters, and the need to find solutions:

Nina Jankowicz, Disinformation Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, shares her advice on how to practice “informational distancing” in today’s highly charged media environment.

On ways scientists can engage with the public to present accurate information and combat misinformation related to COVID-19:

On current challenges in tracking and combating online disinformation:

Access to Science

Information on how to ensure equitable access to science in the midst of the pandemic.

Ali Arab is Associate Professor of Statistics at Georgetown University and a representative to the AAAS Science and Human Rights Coalition for the American Statistical Association. He explains why the human right to science matters in the context of the pandemic.


Carrying out and sustaining research in crisis situations/Responsible research in crisis situations

Principles and guidelines for responsibly practicing science in a crisis situation, doing virtual research ethically, and protecting participants’ rights.

At the 2020 AAAS Science, Technology and Human Rights Virtual Conference, panelists discussed the ethics of human challenge trials during the pandemic:


Another conference panel, on the ethics and human rights implications of geospatial research during COVID-19:



Kimberly Mealy, PhD, is Senior Director of Diversity, Inclusion, and Ethics at the American Political Science Association (APSA), and is an APSA representative to AAAS Science and Human Rights Coalition. Her advice for researchers during the pandemic, including the importance of conducting well-rounded and inclusive research:

Privacy and Digital Security

What steps should scientists, engineers, and health professionals take to safeguard themselves in this new environment? How do we balance the use of big data during the pandemic with concerns about infringing on people's privacy and rights?

Jeramie Scott, Senior Counsel and Director of the Domestic Surveillance Project at the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), recommends guidelines for collecting data during the pandemic in ways that respect people’s privacy and rights:

On why the notion of a tradeoff between data collection and privacy rights during the pandemic is a “false choice":

Protections for Whistleblowers

What are their rights of public health officials and researchers who are being silenced by governments?

Dr. Ranit Mishori describes the lack of resources and other challenges medical professionals face during the COVID-19 pandemic, and explains why authorities and hospitals need to respect health professionals’ human rights.

Restrictions on Civil Rights

How are governments using the virus as a pretext to restrict civil and political rights? What restrictions are permissible under human rights law? Under what circumstances? Can science be helpful in protecting civil and political rights during public health crises?

In these videos, Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on counterterrorism and human rights, describes the challenges to democratic institutions during the pandemic and outlines actions scientists can take.

Rights of Vulnerable and Marginalized People

Information and emerging trends on disparities in the impacts of this disease, including specific populations and the unique concerns they have.


Dr. Ranit Mishori gives an overview of some of the populations particularly at risk during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Discrimination, Racism, and Xenophobia

Indigenous Peoples

Lesley Iaukea of the University of Hawai‘i Mānoa gives the keynote presentation on the first day of the 2020 AAAS Science, Technology and Human Rights Virtual Conference: "Human Rights, Ethics, and Climate Change in time of COVID-19."


Keri Iyall Smith, Associate Professor of Sociology at Suffolk University and representative to the AAAS Science and Human Rights Coalition for Sociologists without Borders, outlines the challenges indigenous peoples in the US are facing from COVID-19 and how Native American communities are responding to the pandemic.

Immigrants/Refugees/Asylum Seekers

Dr. Ranit Mishori explains the particular risks faced by asylum seekers and people in immigration detention during the pandemic:

LGBTQ+ Populations

Older People

People in Prison

Precarious Workers

The Poor

Women and Girls