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Human rights in science

The Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences and their Delegate for Human Rights are engaged at the interface between human rights and science. They are committed to uphold the rights and the freedom of researchers, while also addressing aspects of their responsibility.

The Delegate for Human Rights since 2017 is Martina Caroni, Chair for International, Constitutional and Comparative Law at the University of Lucerne.

Protecting human rights of researchers

The Academies take measures in favour of researchers who are arbitrarily imprisoned as a result of their scientific activities through unfair trials, or whose internationally recognised human rights are violated. Appropriate activities are undertaken in cooperation with national and international actors such as the International Human Rights Network of Academies and Scholarly Societies.


In this context, the Academies support the Swiss Section of Scholars at Risk. Scholars at Risk is a global network with over 500 universities that organises guest places for persecuted researchers so that they continue their scientific work under safe conditions. There are more than 20 members in the Swiss section of Scholars at Risk and they are organised in a national section, currently chaired by the Academies.

Safeguarding academic freedom

Academic freedom stands for free scientific activity and unhindered exchange of scientific ideas. These are two fundamental basic principles for science and its development. Despite being guaranteed in many national and international legal documents, academic freedom has been increasingly encroached upon in the recent past at various levels. Seriously concerned about this trend, the Academies organised an international conference in 2017 to address the consequences at the individual and institutional levels and possible countermeasures (programme).


Right to scientific knowledge

Researchers have the right to human rights – but people also have a right to scientific knowledge and its applications. In 2015, the Academies held an international conference on this «human right to science» by using the example of seed research and policy (programme).



Further information:


Responsibility in international research

Internationally active researchers can encounter difficult ethical or legal questions – for example, when working in countries with corrupt political structures, when collaborating on projects financed from dubious resources, or when working with researchers in countries subject to international sanctions. A workshop held by the Academies in 2016 highlighted the responsibility of researchers in such or similar contexts by means of concrete case studies (programme).


Dr. Roger Pfister

Head International Cooperation
Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences
House of Academies
Laupenstrasse 7
P.O. Box
3001 Bern


International Human Rights Network
Scholars at Risk
Scholars at Risk
Network Switzerland Section