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CHRGJ Faculty Director Margaret Satterthwaite Addresses the Contribution of Evidence-Based Research to Human Rights Work


Faculty Director and Co-chair of the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice (CHRGJ) at NYU School of Law, Margaret Satterthwaite, spoke at the AAAS Science and Human Rights Coalition meeting on  April 4. Satterthwaite spoke about evidence-based human rights movements on a panel that also featured Ann Marie Clark of Purdue University, Paul Gorski of George Mason University and Louisa Greve of the National Endowment for Democracy.

The AAAS meeting, entitled “A Scientific Approach to Human Rights,” assessed the influence of evidence-based research on human rights fact-finding in recent years.

Satterthwaite, who joined the discussion via Skype, compared research reports by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch from 2000 and 2010, and argued that the 2010 reports relied more explicitly on field research and included more types of primary and secondary data and more diverse and interdisciplinary methods of data collection. She illustrated this by referring to the growing number of reports that used primary interviews or that included a formal methodology section. This, she argued, was indicative of an evolution whereby human rights fact-finding became more evidence-based.

Satterthwaite argued that human rights research and advocacy is “ready to embrace some new methods and some new forms of secondary data,” but also raised the question about how far this interdisciplinarity can go, and asked, “Does it mean that we need to have new training for human rights advocates? It certainly would mean that additional collaboration – and a lot more space for collaborative research – is needed.”

The AAAS Science and Human Rights Coalition was founded in January 2009 to bring together scientific and engineering membership organizations that recognize a role for scientists and engineers in human rights. The Coalition includes 23 organizations as members, along with one affiliated organization.

To read the full summary of the meeting, click here.

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