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Lunch Lecture @FRIAS Reflections with Helle Porsdam

Prof. Dr. Helle Porsdam
Law and Humanities
Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies of Law, 
University of Copenhagen

Helle Porsdam - The right to science: Knowledge production for the general common good
When Jun 10, 2020
from 03:00 PM to 04:00 PM
Where Zoom-Meeting
Contact Name
Attendees Universitätsoffen / open to university members
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The right to science: Knowledge production for the general common good

One of the clear messages to emerge around the world during the COVID-19 crisis is just how important it is to understand the ways that science can assist society; but just as crucially, how society can engage with and shape science. In this talk, my point of departure is Article 27 UDHR, but even more so Article 15 ICESCR whose Article 15(1) refers to the “benefits of science.” This term encompasses four different things: 1) the material results of scientific research (medicines, vaccination, and technological instruments); 2) the scientific knowledge and information that derives from scientific activity; 3) the role of science in forming critical and responsible citizens who are able to participate fully in a democratic society; and 4) evidence-based decision-making processes in a democratic society. The Coronavirus pandemic has provided a clear illustration of how the benefits of science do not merely relate to getting a vaccination or having access to the best treatment available. They also concern people’s access to the knowledge they need in order to participate in a responsible manner in democratic dialogue.             

The talk is part of the Lunch Lecture Series 2020 “Science and Society in a Postfactual Era”

The values of science are under attack. The world is increasingly turning to science and technology for solutions to persistent socio-economic and developmental problems. Yet, at the same time, many people – from concerned citizens to powerful stakeholders – do not trust science. Public trust is suffering as falsehood is presented as ‘alternative facts’, ‘post-truth’ and ‘fake news’, and the ‘dual use’ and unintended consequences of emerging technologies as artificial intelligence or genetic engineering is perceived as an increasing risk.  The resulting devaluation of science-based reasoning is a problem for the scientific community, but also for democratic societies that rely on rational discourse and evidence-based decision-making. At the same time, social movements, such as Fridays for Future, emphasize the importance of scientific facts and hope to induce social and political change with evidence-based policies.

From a normative perspective, attention and adherence to the ethical and legal standards of science are crucial for creating trust in science among policy-makers and the general public. Furthermore, obstacles to the diffusion of scientific knowledge and its applications such as scientific illiteracy and lack of access to new technologies jeopardize the potential of science to help successfully address the grand challenges of our times. In this Lunch Lecture Series we will (1) map how science-based reasoning and decision-making is threatened and (2) how emerging digital technologies fuel postfactual and irrational discourses in society as well as (3) explore concepts and ideas, such as the ‘right to science’ that could strengthen science as a central tenet for democracy, human flourishing and sustainable development.