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Starter Kit: Getting Started

Helping Your Scientific Society Promote Human Rights: How to Get Started

Scientific associations have a range of options for getting involved in human rights. Later in the booklet, we provide examples of a wide range of activities in which particular associations have engaged. First we provide some suggestions for first-steps:

  • Join or attend a meeting of the AAAS Science and Human Rights Coalition: Through the Coalition, scientific associations have an opportunity to learn from colleagues in other societies about what they are doing in the area of human rights. The Coalition also provides opportunities to participate in working groups that tackle issues ranging from service to the human rights community, to science ethics and human rights, to welfare of scientists. You will be able to choose the working group that best matches your association’s and members’ interests. More information on the Coalition is provided in a later section of the booklet.
  • Invite someone from the AAAS Science and Human Rights Coalition to speak at your association: Members of the Coalition will be happy to meet with your association leadership and members to present our work and plans and answer any questions. Whether your association would like to hear from a colleague in a behavioral, life, physical, or social science, or someone from the staff, board, or executive officer of an association, the Coalition will be able to identify someone for you. Contact the Coalition.
  • Hold a session on human rights at your association’s annual meeting: A great way to engage your members in thinking about human rights issues and identifying ways of contributing that are specific to your discipline is by holding a session at your annual meeting on human rights. The session could address the relevance of your scientific discipline to human rights and/or the implications of human rights for your discipline. There is no “one size fits all” approach to engagement in human rights; therefore, we encourage each community to explore what it is best suited for them to do. By presenting your members with an array of possibilities, such a session can help generate new thinking, new opportunities, and new discoveries.
  • Work with your association’s governing body to establish a committee, working group, or section on human rights: This is a high-level and long-term commitment by your association and/or discipline to contribute to human rights. By establishing a formal body (e.g., committee, working group, section), you would be seeking to ensure an ongoing commitment and investment of time and resources to advancing thinking and action on human rights. The relevant body can focus on a single issue, for example human rights standards related to your discipline’s practice, or the defense of human rights of colleagues, or it can be broader to include a range of possibilities, including a pro bono program that links practitioners of your discipline with human rights groups in need of science expertise.