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SPSSI at the Intersection of Human Rights and Public Policy 

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SPSSI has a long legacy of attending to research and policy questions related to human rights. Outside of our own scholarship, SPSSI also recognizes the right of psychology researchers and other scholars to conduct their work without fear of harassment or intimidation to the human right to available, accessible, affordable scientific knowledge of quality and the benefits of scientific progress, with a particular focus on vulnerable populations.

SPSSI and the AAAS Science and Human Rights Coalition

SPSSI is a member of the (American Association for the Advancement of Science) AAAS Science and Human Rights Coalition, a network of scientific, engineering, and health membership organizations that recognize the role of science and scientists in the promotion and protection of human rights. The Coalition is devoted to:

(1) bridge-building and coordinating, both within the scientific community—among scientific associations and across disciplines—and between the scientific and human rights communities; and

(2) education and capacity-building within scientific associations and within the human rights community.

SPSSI’s membership in the Coalition creates multiple opportunities for leadership, engagement, and participation in efforts at the intersections of science, technology, and human rights.

Meetings: The Coalition meets in Washington, DC in January and July. These meetings provide an opportunity to learn about and engage in robust discussions about contemporary themes at the intersection of human rights, science, and technology (e.g., climate change, access to clean water, big data), and to further Coalition goals through project meetings, workshops, and leadership discussions. Meeting information, including video archives, is available here.

Projects: the Coalition is focused on getting work done, from building the capacity of human rights organizations to use scientific methods in their research, to developing teaching materials on human rights for STEM curricula, to bringing institutional change within member organizations. Current opportunities for involvement are presented on the Coalition website.

SPSSI Activities with the Coalition

As part of the Coalition, SPSSI co-organized a focus group on the meaning of the "right to science" for the acoustics community as part of a broader study on the meaning of this right for the scientific and engineering communities in the United States. The results of that work were presented to the United Nations and are available in this report: Report: Defining the Right to Enjoy the Benefits of Scientific Progress and Its Applications (2013).


SPSSI Policy Director Sarah Mancoll serves as a representative of SPSSI to the Coalition. SPSSI has one additional seat on the Coalition Council that is currently vacant. If you are interested in this vacant position, please contact Sarah Mancoll

SPSSI members and other scientists are also welcome to join the Coalition as affiliated individuals. To do so, please contact the Coalition Secretariat.

SPSSI Activities Outside of the Coalition

In addition to its work with the Coalition, SPSSI engages in a wealth of policy- and practice-related activities on topics that concern human rights. Examples include:

A SPSSI co-sponsored congressional briefing on "Preventing Human Trafficking: Research on How to Stop Trafficking Before It Starts" (2017)

An open letter responding to the U.S. President's Executive Order on Refugees, Visitors from Select Countries (2017)

A SPSSI co-sponsored webinar on immigration issues facing children and families (2017)

An open letter regarding the state legislature's closure of the University of Tennessee Office for Diversity and Inclusion (2016)

An open letter regarding the need for more research on gun violence (2016)

A SPSSI UN Committee co-sponsored briefing on using psychology to address the global migration crisis (2016) 

Find additional information on SPSSI's Policy Resources and Policy Events webpages

Recommended Readings on Human Rights

Doise, W., Spini, D. and Clémence, A. (1999). Human rights studied as social representations in a cross-national context. European Journal of Social Psychology, 29(1), pp.1-29.

Farmer, P. (1999). Pathologies of power: rethinking health and human rights. American Journal of Public Health, 89(10), pp.1486-1496.

Finkel, N. and Moghaddam, F. (2005). The Psychology of Rights and Duties: Empirical Contributions and Normative Commentaries. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.

Goodman, R., Jinks, D. and Woods, A. (2014). Understanding Social Action, Promoting Human Rights. Cary: Oxford University Press.

Haslam, N. (2006). Dehumanization: An Integrative Review. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 10(3), pp.252-264.

McFarlane, C. and Kaplan, I. (2012). Evidence-based psychological interventions for adult survivors of torture and trauma: A 30-year review. Transcultural Psychiatry, 49(3-4), pp.539-567.

Slovic, P., Västfjäll, D. and Gregory, R. (2012). Informing Decisions to Prevent Genocide. SAIS Review, 32(1), pp.33-47.

Slovic, P., Zionts, D., Woods, A., Goodman, R. and Jinks, D. (2013). Psychic Numbing and Mass Atrocity. In: E. Shafir, ed., The Behavioral Foundations of Public Policy. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, pp.126-142.

Staub, E. (2006). Reconciliation after Genocide, Mass Killing, or Intractable Conflict: Understanding the Roots of Violence, Psychological Recovery, and Steps toward a General Theory. Political Psychology, 27(6), pp.867-894.

Staub, E. (2013). Overcoming evil: Genocide, violent conflict, and terrorism. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

Viki, G., Osgood, D. and Phillips, S. (2013). Dehumanization and self-reported proclivity to torture prisoners of war. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 49(3), pp.325-328.