About this Research Topic
Many critics focus on the inconsistent articulation of science processes with human rights considerations.
A stronger application of the human right to science could become a game changer, leading to a systematic human rights-based approach to science. Yet, what this means and what the priorities is only in recent years starting to receive the attention it deserves.
The right to science as explored in General Comment N. 25 encompasses different complementary dimensions: from access to scientific knowledge and the applications of scientific progress to protection against harm deriving from scientific and technological advancements and protection of the autonomy and freedom of scientific researchers.
Hence, the right to science through its different components has the potential of improving the enjoyment of many other rights and providing adequate responses to key sustainability challenges of our times - from climate change and biodiversity loss to global health crises and pandemics. In that sense, the right to science is also critical in accelerating progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are underpinned by scientific knowledge derived from the natural and social sciences.
However, taking full advantage of this right will require shedding further light into aspects that remain underdeveloped and elaborating guidance to address situations of opposing claims and considerations. The global COVID-19 pandemic, for example, has revealed persisting challenges in vaccine distribution but also in the application of intellectual property regimes exacerbating inequalities across and within countries. The deficit in scientific culture coupled with the digitally-enabled proliferation of false information have eroded trust in science. Scientists themselves are under attack as is their practice.
This Research Topic builds on the momentum created by recent normative developments such as the UNESCO 2017 Recommendation on Science and Scientific Researchers. It also draws on an increasing interest and literature over recent years regarding the right to science and on outcomes of recent experts’ conversations such as the Geneva Human Rights Dialogue on the Right to Science (2022, see bibliography).
Hosted by Frontiers in Sociology (Frontiers was part of the expert dialogue above), the article collection will offer an interdisciplinary analysis of core issues and challenges for the realization of the right to science and to offer a space for a constructive dialogue with scholars, policy makers and civil society actors. Authors are requested to respond to recent normative developments and Geneva policy discussions and offer papers, including brief opinion pieces (of around 2000 words) addressing a specific issue, challenge or trend affecting the right to science, explaining what is at stake and putting forward actionable recommendations.
The aim is to nurture debate, deepen knowledge and bridge the gap between international norms on the right to science and practice. Its publication during the year commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights aims at doing justice to an extremely important but still underdeveloped right to science. The contributing authors include leading scholars at the forefront of addressing the right to science.
Among the questions to be explored are:
a. What does it mean to acknowledge science as a common good for priority setting and scientific freedom?
b. What are the limits of scientific freedom and where does scientific responsibility lie?
c. How can the right to science help anticipate and prevent harm?
d. How can the right to science mitigate or facilitate adaptation to triple planetary crisis (climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution)?
e. What is the relevance of the right to science in the digital world?
f. What can make the right to science justiciable?
g. What would make the science-society and science policy interfaces effective from a rights-based perspective?
h. What does a culturally appropriate practice of science mean?
i. How can the right to science help advance the debate on the application of intellectual property regimes?
j. How can the right to science enable more equitable access to scientific benefits and their applications across countries ?
k. What care the practical implications for the right to science to the realization of Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals?
1) General Comment N. 25, by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, on science and economic, social and cultural rights
2) UNESCO Recommendation on Science and Scientific Researchers (2017)
3) UNESCO Brief on the right to science and COVID-19
4) Larsen, Peter and Marjorie Pamintuan (2022), “The Human Right to Science: From Fragmentation to Comprehensive Implementation?”, Research Paper No. 163, South Centre and Swiss Commission for UNESCO
5) Swiss Commission for UNESCO (2022), “The Right to Science: Understanding Trends in and Enhancing the Effectiveness of Human Rights Mechanisms and Partnership Approaches”, UNESCO and Human Rights: Geneva Dialogues for Enhancing Cooperation and Effectiveness, Swiss National Commission for UNESCO, the University of Geneva, UNESCO, OHCHR and the REGARD network.
Keywords: right to science, human rights, UNESCO, Sustainable Development Goals, Geneva Human Rights Dialogue on the Right to Science
Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.