Scientific freedom and responsibility have to be enabled and practised. They benefit both scientists and policymakers; they also benefit all of us. Yet, these benefits will not be achieved if the status of scientific freedom and responsibility as a human right, as well as their linkages with other human rights, are not well understood or are plainly neglected.
At present, we have a human rights knowledge-gap that needs to be closed if science is to be objective, evidence-based, free from undue interference and accessible. Closing this gap will enable scientific researchers to claim and exercise their rights and responsibilities relating to the conduct of science, and will enable policymakers to meet their human rights obligations and create a healthy environment for rights-driven science, which is a cornerstone for achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
More specifically, by anchoring science in human rights we contribute to a range of critical questions. These include: setting and financing the science agenda; using science to strengthen human rights; and delineating the scope of protection of scientists, science-participants more generally and the beneficiaries of scientific progress. These questions predated the COVID-19 pandemic; at the same time, the ongoing crisis has made their significance much clearer - through, for example, threats to and attacks on scientists and public health officials as well as the range of other obstacles to their work, including limitations on free expression and a surge in conspiracy theories and misinformation.
In order to help close the knowledge gap amongst scientific researchers, policymakers and others, UNESCO and the Global Campus are offering a Massive Online Open Course. This MOOC is the first dedicated educational engagement on the human rights-based approach (HRBA) to scientific freedom and responsibility, which is also accessible, at scale and cross-disciplinary in its engagement with human rights.
Module 1 explains connections and frameworks and tackles two important questions:
Why connect science and human rights?
What is a human rights-based approach (HRBA) to scientific freedom and responsibility?
Module 2 is devoted to the HRBA in practice and responds to 3 key questions:
What is science for human rights?
What is an enabling environment for scientific freedom and responsibility?
How can you use a HRBA to science to help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)?