Information for Volunteers

This is a great opportunity to be a part of efforts to advance human rights at home and around the world. In the process of addressing a science or technology question or need, you also will be helping expand the public’s understanding and appreciation of science and technology in the service of human rights.

Additional information regarding volunteering for the On-call Scientists project can be found below:

Eligibility

On-call Scientists seeks candidates from all scientific disciplines with a diversity of professional experiences. Volunteers will come from a range of sectors, including academia, industry, and non-profits, representing a spectrum of career stages, from recent graduates to faculty on sabbatical, to retired scientists and engineers. Regardless of background, career stage or age, to volunteer as part of On-call Scientists, you must meet the following minimum requirements:

  • Hold a graduate-level degree (Masters or above) in any physical, biological, health/medical or social science, any field of engineering, or any relevant interdisciplinary field
  • Have completed at least 2 years of work experience in your field
  • Be a good communicator, both verbally and in writing
  • Have strong endorsement of three references regarding qualifications, experience, integrity, and judgment.

On-call Scientists is intended to be a global network. Citizenship and language requirements will depend on the location and needs of the host organization. Volunteers from all countries and regions of the world are encouraged to register.

What else should you know?

  • Volunteering may involve a few hours of your time, or a year-long stay on-site, but every contribution is valuable.
  • You will be providing your time and expertise on a pro bono basis. Responsibility for any expenses associated with your volunteer position (including travel, living expenses, insurance, etc.) is negotiated entirely by you and the host organization.
  • Projects will vary in terms of location, duration, and other specifics, depending on the needs of the host organization.  In your registration form you can specify whether you would like to be considered for projects that involve travel, the time you are available, and the like.  
  • Volunteers will only be working with non-governmental human rights organizations, national human rights institutions, or in support of UN agencies. In some cases volunteers may be invited to help non-governmental organizations that while not human rights organizations are pursuing rights-based approaches in their area of work. No placements with government agencies will be made.
  • You have the option to terminate the relationship with a host organization at any time. In cases of termination, you are asked to take reasonable steps to avoid, or at least minimize, adverse effects to the host’s project.
  • In order to encourage fruitful collaboration, all parties (AAAS Scientific Responsibility, Human Rights and Law Program, volunteer, and host organization) will comply with general expectations.

Frequently Asked Questions for Potential Volunteers


Q: What do volunteers do? What would my contribution be?

A: Volunteers work in partnership with host organizations to bring the tools, techniques, training, and unique perspective of scientific disciplines to specific human rights questions and projects. What volunteers do will vary depending on the needs of the host organization and the human rights project. Volunteers may answer scientific questions about evidence or methodology; provide specialized expertise in investigations (e.g., medical forensics); design a survey or help with sampling; and more. There are any number of ways volunteers can contribute outside their field, as well: reviewing documents for scientific accuracy, researching topics in scholarly journals, or helping to identify the appropriate discipline for a host organization. For more examples, read about How On-call Scientists Can Help.

Q: What kinds of organizations serve as hosts? Will I work with a government?

A: On-call Scientists matches volunteers with reputable non-governmental human rights organizations, UN agencies, and national human rights institutions. In some cases volunteers may be invited to help non-governmental organizations that, while not human rights organizations, are pursuing rights-based approaches in their area of work (i.e., using international human rights standards as the basis of their work, and being operationally directed to promoting and protecting human rights). No placements with government agencies will be made. The focus of On-call Scientists is on strengthening the capacity of human rights organizations which, often under-resourced, are unable to access the technical expertise they require to hold governments to account for their human rights responsibilities.

Q: Why human rights organizations? What kinds of issues do they work on?

A: The Program’s mission is to bring science and technology to efforts to advance human rights. The issues that human rights organizations tackle are as varied as the human rights enumerated and protected in the International Bill of Rights and treaties that have followed. These include civil and political rights, such as freedom of expression and free and fair elections, and economic, social and cultural rights, such as the rights to food, housing, health, and a healthy environment.

Q: How can I be sure the human rights organization is reputable?

A: As part of the registration process, host organizations must submit three credible outside references. SRHRL is committed to doing what we can to ensure that both volunteers and host organizations have a positive experience.

Q: What kind of expertise do they need?

A: Human rights organizations can require input from scientific experts across a wide variety of disciplines (e.g., public health, statistics, engineering, economics).  For examples of how scientists, engineers, and health professionals have contributed to human rights work, read about How On-call Scientists Can Help.

Q: Do I need prior experience working in human rights?

A: No. One of the benefits of volunteering for a project of this nature is that, in the course of providing your expertise to a project, you will have the chance to learn more about human rights.

Q: Am I guaranteed a volunteer position if I register?

A: No. Volunteer positions are based on the requests for expertise that we receive.

Q: Will I have to travel? Where would I go and for how long?

A: Many aspects of the volunteer experience are dependent on the needs of the host organization. If the host organization is located out of state or overseas, travel may be required. Location and length of stay is contingent on the requirements of the project. As part of the registration process, you can specify if you are able to travel.

Q: If travel is involved, who pays for travel costs?

A: Payment for travel, accommodation, and living expenses is negotiated between volunteers and host organizations.

Q: Can I work remotely?

A: In many cases, yes. Some organizations will not require on-the-ground work in order to utilize the knowledge and tools that volunteers can provide. On-call Scientists may find that they are able to provide host organizations vital assistance on projects by phone or email, or via the Internet.

Q: Would I work alone or with other volunteers?

A: As a volunteer, you can look forward to working with the staff of the host organization, and might also be working with other volunteers. The nature of your work, including who you might be working with, is dependent on the nature and needs of the host organization.

Q: Will SRHRL pay for the expenses of volunteers?

A: No. SRHRL is unable to meet any expenses incurred during the volunteer experience. Responsibility for any expenses (including travel, living expenses, insurance, etc.) is negotiated entirely by the volunteer and the host organization.

Q: I am not a citizen of the United States. Can I still volunteer?

A: Yes. On-call Scientists is intended to be a global network. Citizenship requirements will depend on the location and needs of the host organization. Volunteers from all countries and regions of the world are encouraged to register.

Q: How do you select volunteers?

A: After basic eligibility is established, volunteers are primarily chosen based on their area of expertise and how well it serves the needs of the project proposed by a hosting human rights organization. For more information, please see the section on the Matching Process.

Q: How do you select host organizations?

A:  Only eligible, reputable human rights organizations are considered as possible hosts. For more information, please see the section on the Matching Process.

Webinar: Introduction to On-call Scientists for Volunteers