Cancelled Science as a cultural human right (IARU course)

Course content

Check out the course  introduction video 

Check out the promotion video from Cape Town University

The important role played by science and technology and the potential for dual use makes it imperative to assess scientific research and its products not only on their scientific, but also on their human rights merits. As a cultural human right, the right to science provides a tool for opening up science to lines of inquiry emphasizing ethics and prioritizing human rights and human-centered considerations above commercial interests.


The right to science is a little-known but potentially very powerful human right. One of four core cultural human rights – the other three being the rights to education, to participate in cultural life, and authors’ rights – it is outlined in Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights from 1948 and repeated in Article 15  of the 1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Recognizing everyone’s “right to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and its applications,” the latter also requires State parties to develop and disseminate science, to respect the freedom of scientific research, and to recognize the benefits of international contacts and co-operation in the scientific field.


UNESCO has produced soft law within several distinct areas of cultural rights. With regard to the right to science, the 2017 UNESCO Recommendation on Science and Scientific Researchers and the 2020 General Comment No. 25 on Science by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights are especially relevant.  


This course will take a multidisciplinary approach to the right to science and to cultural rights in general, exposing students to fields outside their respective core disciplines of study. Among the topics focused on are scientific freedom and dissemination, the importance of international scientific collaboration, and the relationship between intellectual property and authors’ rights. The idea is to look at science and its role in politics and society at a 'post-truth' or 'alternative facts' moment in time when science is often reduced to a matter of opinions, and when scientific funding no longer comes from public, but from private funding bodies.

Learning outcome

Students should develop general skills in:

  • Applying relevant theories, methods and tools (legal as well as non-legal) to current problems in the study of the right to science and cultural rights in general;
  • Identifying, analyzing and understanding the potential of and the challenges that threaten the right to science;
  • Negotiating between the universal and the relative, as well as between the individual and the collective;
  • Contributing to the new and developing field of the right to science;
  • Using law in an interdisciplinary and international context.

The course is relevant for all law students – but especially for students who are interested in working in the scientific context or sector (with museums and other cultural/natural heritage institutions, with publishing, and/or with the media).

A social programme compliments the formal programme and all students are strongly encouraged to participate in all elements.

Helle Porsdam, Science as a Cultural Human Right (Cambridge University Press, 2022), 200 pp. – available via REX.


In addition, we will read these soft-law instruments:


Aprox. 100 pages.


It is illegal to share digital textbooks with each other without permission from the copyright holder

Students who have obtained a bachelor degree within Law, Anthropology, Ethnology, History, Literature, and Political Science with an interest in cultural rights, especially the right to science, are encouraged to apply.

The courses ‘Science as a cultural human right' and 'Cultural rights: A promising global discourse?’ are mutually exclusive. It is therefore only possible to follow and be examined in one of these two courses.

Not relevant
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Oral examination
Type of assessment details
Oral exam without preparation, 20 minutes
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
External censorship
Exam period




Short courses / Summer school

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Preparation
  • 178,25
  • Seminar
  • 28
  • English
  • 206,25


Course number
7,5 ECTS
Programme level
Full Degree Master
Full Degree Master choice

1 semester

See timetable for teaching hours
25 participants
Contracting department
  • Law
Contracting faculty
  • Faculty of Law
Course Coordinator
  • Helle Porsdam   (13-4d6a71716a3355747778696672456f7a7733707a336970)
Saved on the 13-06-2024

Are you BA- or KA-student?

Are you bachelor- or kandidat-student, then find the course in the course catalog for students:

Courseinformation of students