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Working Group Report: Ethics and Human Rights

The Ethics and Human Rights working group is devoted to promoting the incorporation of human rights into scientific and engineering codes of ethics by fostering an appreciation among scientists, engineers and professional associations of the relevance of human rights to ethical standards, the conduct of science, the application of technology and human subject protections.


Robert Albro, American Anthropological Association
Douglas Richardson, Association of American Geographers

Progress Since Last Meeting

The working group has made definite progress in the ongoing development of its primary project: a report addressing the content and meaning of “scientific responsibility,” as this applies to the right to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and its applications, as recognized in Article 15 of the ICESCR.

This progress has been on two primary fronts:

  1. Working together with the AAAS Scientific Responsibility, Human Rights, and Law Program, we have developed a draft pilot survey tool, to be administered to a diverse group of scientists and engineers, and designed to provide some initial information about how scientists and engineers understand the extent of their social responsibilities. This pilot survey tool has been vetted by a group of external experts, and we are almost ready to initiate the survey.
  2. Working closely with working group member Maya Sabatello, we have identified a set of eight exploratory case study topics across different disciplines and engaged with a variety of fields, which will be incorporated into the body of the eventual report. We have also assigned responsibility for writing up these cases, including the cooperation of six working group members and two non-working group members.

Goals for Next Six Months: Key Next Steps and Decisions Made

As discussed in our working group meeting, the primary goal of the working group is to complete its current report project. Our time line for completion of the report tentatively has been identified as July 1, 2013. In order to meet this deadline, we will need to complete the following steps in this order:

  1. Collection and analysis of all pilot survey data
  2. Completion of all eight (and any additional) case studies
  3. Coordination with the Service to the STEM Community working group to be able to use relevant data collected through their focus groups for incorporation into the final report
  4. Writing the draft report
  5. Incorporating feedback of external peer reviewers and producing final report

Our tentative schedule for completion of these tasks looks like this:

  1. Draft case completed by March 1
  2. Feedback on draft cases, March-April
  3. Pilot survey data collected by April 1
  4. Final cases completed by April 15
  5. Report outline completed by April 15
  6. Integration of cases into report, May 1
  7. Report draft completed by June 1
  8. Final report completed by July 1

At present we are working with case writers to make sure the initial drafts of cases are completed in a timely fashion.

Ideas Generated

Several suggestions were advanced during our working group meeting about possible additional cases.

Request(s) for Intern Assistance

We will need internship help with the following:

  1. Administration and collection of pilot survey data, once the survey tool is ready
  2. Organization of information coming from focus groups conducted by the Service to the STEM Community working group.

Next Meeting Date

We do not have any formal meeting of the working group scheduled at this time. Rather, we are in regular communication with working group members now actively engaged in the present report project. We are offering regular updates of progress through our working group email list-serve.