The Cambridge-Harvard Right to Science Study Group

We all have a human right to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress (the Right to Science [RtS]). The right has its origins in Article 27 of the United Nation’s 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted in the wake of World War II. In 1966, the UN turned these commitments into binding obligations under international law. The implication is that, just as governments are expected to respect the rights to, say, freedom of speech and due process, so they must also adopt measures to respect and ensure the RtS. The existence of this right is important for researchers and society. It adds a legal and moral dimension to a range of fundamental issues, including scientific freedom, funding, and policy, as well as access to data, materials, and knowledge. Yet, despite its potential for furthering science and human rights causes, the RtS has not received the attention it deserves.

This research group will work towards:

1) a deeper understanding of the right to science, both legally and conceptually
2) activating the right to science in practice
3) making the right to science a better known human right.

Activities planned at this early stage include monthly zoom meetings and book launches for our Cambridge University edited volume, The Right to Science: Then and Now which will be published in late November or early December.

Helle Porsdam (helle.porsdam@jur.ku.dk)

Helle Porsdam is Professor of Law and Humanities at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies of Law (CIS), Faculty of Law, University of Copenhagen. She teaches American Culture and History in the SAXO Department, Faculty of the Humanities, University of Copenhagen, and Law and Humanities, the Culture and History of Human Rights and Cultural Rights at the Faculty of Law. She also holds a UNESCO Chair in Cultural Rights. Helle did her PhD in American Studies at Yale University, has been a Liberal Arts Fellow twice at the Harvard Law School, as well as a fellow at Wolfson College, University of Cambridge, and the University of Munich.


Sebastian Porsdam Mann
(sebastian.porsdammann@law.ox.ac.uk)

Sebastian Porsdam Mann is a researcher and DPhil student at the Faculty of Law at Oxford. Following undergraduate (philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience) and graduate (PhD, neuroethics) studies at Cambridge, he held postdoctoral fellowships at Harvard Medical School's Center for Bioethics and, supported by a Carlsberg Foundation grant, the Uehiro Center for Ethics at Oxford as well as Copenhagen University. In addition to the human right to science, Sebastian's research interest span across blockchain and data ethics, cognitive enhancement, the ethics of modifying lifeforms, and ethical aspects of clinical proteomics.

Christine Mitchell (Christine_Mitchell@hms.harvard.edu)

Christine Mitchell RN, MS, MTS, HCE-C is Executive Director of the Centre for Bioethics and Lecturer, Dept. of Global Health and Social Medicine, Harvard Medical School.

Christine Mitchell founded the clinical ethics program at Boston Children’s Hospital, directing the ethics consultation service and leading the Ethics Advisory Committee for over 30 years. At Harvard Medical School, where she is Executive Director of the Centre for Bioethics, which she helped to launch in 2014, Mitchell developed the Capstone program for Master of Bioethics students, Consortia on Clinical Ethics and Research Ethics, and the Leadership Group of ethics committees at 16 Harvard-affiliated teaching hospitals. She worked with Sebastian Porsdam Mann (the first Post Doc at the new Centre for Bioethics) to develop a Right to Science Study Group at HMS with international colleagues. Her research focuses on ethics consultation, and public engagement in ethical aspects of institutional policies. She has lectured on topics in clinical ethics all over the United States, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Indonesia, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and the UK.

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Image: The United Nations' Right to Science, by Otávio Roth.