Highlighting the Connection Between Human Rights and Science for the Physics Community

Since its creation in 1980, the APS Committee on International Freedom of Scientists (CIFS) has advocated for and defended the rights of scientists around the globe. In this column, CIFS describes some of the issues that the Committee is monitoring, as well as the Society’s other human rights activities.

CIFS Outreach Event at the 2017 APS March Meeting

CIFS organized an event for students and early career scientists at the 2017 APS March Meeting in New Orleans to provide an opportunity for them to learn about APS activities in defense of the rights of scientists. Speakers included APS President Laura Greene, CIFS Chair Don Howard, and CIFS member Lucas Hackl, who also serves as the APS graduate student representative on the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science and Human Rights Coalition. The event attracted approximately 75 young scientists and students for discussions about the rights of scientists and how they and APS can help defend those rights.

Nominations for the APS Andrei Sakharov Prize

The Andrei Sakharov Prize recognizes outstanding leadership and/or achievements of scientists in upholding human rights. The Prize consists of $10,000 and a travel allowance to attend the APS meeting at which the Prize is presented. The Prize is named in recognition of the courageous work of Andrei Sakharov on behalf of human rights.

APS is currently accepting nominations for the Sakharov Prize. The deadline is Friday, June 30, 2017. Please consider nominating your colleagues for this honor. Nominations can be submitted online

AAAS Science and Human Rights Coalition

APS is a member of the AAAS Science and Human Rights Coalition, a network of scientific societies that facilitates communication and cooperation on human rights within the scientific community as well as between the human rights and scientific communities. Coalition members recognize the connection between science and human rights and the important role that scientists play in the Coalition’s work.  

The Coalition will hold its next meeting at AAAS headquarters in Washington, D.C. this summer, on July 27-28. The meeting will focus on the human right to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and its applications, as recognized in Article 15 of the United Nations’ International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.  

Radio Interview with CIFS Chair

CIFS Chair Don Howard and APS member Eugene Chudnovsky were recently interviewed for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s radio program Science Friction. The episode “When being a scientist is politically dangerous” describes the cases of scientists who have been persecuted for trying to keep the pursuit of science alive. APS members can listen to the program at: ab.co/2sjmPBe

Travel Restrictions: Scientists and Students from Gaza

CIFS has advocated for the ability of scientists and students from Gaza to be able to travel freely to attend scientific conferences or to pursue advanced study abroad. In response to reports that a student and invited speakers from Gaza were not granted permission to travel to conferences at the Arab American University of Jenin last year, Laura Greene wrote to the Israeli prime minister in April. She asked that the government permit students and faculty in Gaza the opportunity to travel as necessary as part of their scientific work, consistent with security needs.

Imprisonment of Baha’i Educators in Iran

In Iran, people who practice the Baha'i religion are forbidden by the government from pursuing higher education. As a result, the Iranian Baha'i community has created its own, informal higher education system known as the Baha'i Institute for Higher Education (BIHE). In 2011, several BIHE educators were arrested and detained. CIFS has since advocated for the release of these individuals. In April, APS President Laura Greene wrote to the Iranian government to urge it to unconditionally release the imprisoned BIHE educators.

Help Protect the Rights of Scientists

APS members are encouraged to inform CIFS of cases in which scientists’ rights have been violated or appear to have been violated. Such incidents can be reported to CIFS via the APS Office of International Affairs at international@aps.org

Nominate Someone to Serve on CIFS

Every year, APS solicits nominations for the Society’s advisory committees. APS members are encouraged to identify members who are committed to helping defend the rights of scientists and to nominate them for CIFS. Self-nominations and nominations of young scientists are welcome. Nominations can be submitted online

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Editor: David Voss
Staff Science Writer: Rachel Gaal
Contributing Correspondent: Alaina G. Levine
Publication Designer and Production: Nancy Bennett-Karasik