Projets de recherche 

Sur les projets de recherche actuellement en cours de la Prof. Samantha Besson, voir les pages relatives à ses publications et conférences.

  • 2022-2025 : Encouragement de projets de recherche FNS

    Projet d'une durée de quatre ans (Institutionalizing the Human Right to Science), Université de Fribourg (Suisse)

    Institutionalizing the Human Right to Science
    SNF Project Funding
    January 2022 to December 2025
    Applicant: Prof. Samantha Besson

    The human right to science has long been guaranteed by international law, yet it remains largely unexplored by human rights practitioners and scholars. In short, it pertains to the interests of every researcher, but also of everyone, to participate in the scientific enterprise (i) and to access to the benefits of scientific progress (ii), as well as to be protected against the adverse effects of science (iii).

    Following the recent multiplication of recommendations and comments on the right to science by various international organizations, the right has been re-discovered and scholarly interest has been rising ever since. In order not to approach the right as the cure to all ills of scientific innovation and emerging technologies, however, it is important that international human rights lawyers develop fundamental research on some of the important gaps remaining in the conceptual and normative framework of the human right to science. The present project proposes to address the most important of those: the gap pertaining to the institutional dimension of the right to science, i.e. the so-called “supply-” or “duty-side” of the right.

    There is very little clarity, indeed, about the identity of the right’s duty-bearers, but also, more generally, of its responsibility-bearers, whether they are national, infranational or international institutions and whether they are public or private, on the one hand. Nor do we know much about how to coordinate those different institutional duty-bearers and responsibility-bearers on a universal scale in order to ensure the required co-specification and co-allocation of their respective duties and responsibilities, on the other. Unlike what is the case for other human rights, indeed, the duties and responsibilities that arise under the human right to science are not only owed by every State or international organization to people under its (territorial or extraterritorial) jurisdiction, but ought also be regarded, this project argues, as collective human rights duties, i.e. duties and responsibilities those institutions bear together. The justification for their collective dimension resides in the universal scope of the public good of science, but also, by extension, in that of the standard threats to the interests in that good. This much sought-after, but rarely defined “international cooperation” pertaining to the human right to science is not only a condition of the feasibility of the protection of those interests against global threats, but also of the overall fairness of the burden on each of the duty-bearing States or international organizations of jurisdiction.

    The project proposes to explore the ways to institutionalize those duties and responsibilities of international cooperation relative to the human right to science, including through the creation of new international institutions if required. The project also aims to address three more specific institutional gaps: first, the domestic and international institutional implications of citizen science and of everyone’s right to equal participation in the practice and organization of science; second, the domestic and international institutional dimensions of the duties of anticipation of the benefits, but also of the (risks of) adverse effects of science, including duties of diligent precaution and prevention arising under the human right to science; and, finally, the institutional dimensions of the inclusion in the scope of the right of non-Western forms of knowledge.

    In light of the contemporary surge of practice and scholarship on the human right to science and of the general and specific institutional gaps identified therein, the project’s outcomes should be of utmost scientific relevance. Moreover, qua project in fundamental legal research whose method includes, as in this case, both accounting for and guiding the practice of law, this project’s scientific relevance is indissociable from its practical impact on the laws that institute, promote and curb science. That impact will be enhanced by the association of human rights practitioners and “science diplomacy” actors in the project’s conferences and publications. More generally, and beyond the law, it is difficult to think of a topic that could be of a higher political, but also social and economic relevance today than the question of the domestic and international institutionalization of equal access to scientific innovation and of the anticipation of its risks and benefits for humanity.



    • Prof. Samantha Besson, applicant (from 1st January, 2022)
    • Dr Katja Achermann, postdoctoral researcher (from 1st January, 2023)
    • Marie Poncet, doctoral student (from 15th June, 2023)
    • Louise Philippossian, doctoral student (from 1st July, 2022 to 31st January, 2023)
    • Dr Camila Perruso, postdoctoral researcher (from 1st January to 31st August, 2022)



    • S. Besson & K. Achermann, International Cooperation under the Human Right to Science, Conference, University of Fribourg, 5-7 September 2024.
    • S. Besson, B. Knoppers, J.-D. Vassalli, G. Escher, GESDA/Brocher Workshop on the Human Right to Science with a focus on Health, Brocher Foundation, Geneva, 29 November-1 December 2022.


    • S. Besson, 'The Human Right to Participate in Science and the Legal and Institutional Structure of Science', University of Uppsala, 19 December 2023.
    • K. Achermann, 'Institutionalising the Participatory Dimension of the Human Right to Science', Conference, University of Caen Normandie, 23 November 2023.
    • S. Besson, 'La science, un droit de l'Homme?', Conference, Académie suisse des sciences humaines et sociales, Berne, 22 september 2023.
    • S. Besson, 'The Human Right to Science: Whose Right and Whose Duties?', Conference, Tokyo University College, 25 May 2023.
    • K. Achermann, 'Human Rights and Climate Change: The Role of Science and Scientists', Colloquium, ETH Zürich, Zürich, 24 May 2023.
    • S. Besson, 'La science, un droit de l'Homme?', Conference, University of Lausanne, 9 May 2023.
    • S. Besson, 'The "Human Right to Science" qua Right to Participate in Science', Participation in Scientific Progress and the Human Right to Science Workshop, University of Edinburgh, 1st May, 2023.
    • S. Besson, 'The "Human Right to Science" qua Right to Participate in Science', Colloquium, Center for Transnational Legal Studies, King's College, London, 20 April 2023.
    • S. Besson, ‘Introduction: Anticipation Duties under the Human Right to Science, Concepts and Stakes’, GESDA/Brocher Workshop on the Human Right to Science with a focus on Health, Brocher Foundation, Geneva, 29 November-1 December 2022.
    • C. Perruso, ‘Anticipation under the Human Right to Science and under Other Social and Cultural Rights’, GESDA/Brocher Workshop on the Human Right to Science with a focus on Health, Brocher Foundation, Geneva, 29 November-1 December 2022.
    • S. Besson, ‘The Human Right to Science qua Participatory Right’, Social Human Rights and the State Online Lecture Series, 19 October 2022.
    • S. Besson, ‘Anticipation Duties under the Human Right to Science’, GESDA Global Summit, Geneva, 13 October 2022.
    • C. Perruso, ‘Institutionalizing the Interactions between Indigenous Knowledge and Science within the Human Right to Science’, UNESCO & Human Rights: Geneva Dialogues for Enhancing Cooperation and Effectiveness, Geneva, 25 and 26 April 2022.


    Publications and interviews


    Background publications

  • 2014-2018 : Projet de recherche libre FNS

    Projet d'une durée de trois ans (The Sources of International Law), Université de Fribourg (Suisse) 

  • 2012-2017 : Projet de recherche libre FNS

    Projet d'une durée de trois ans (Les restrictions aux droits fondamentaux dans l'Union européenne), Université de Fribourg (Suisse)

  • 2008-2016 : Projets de recherche FNS "MF ProDoc" et "MR ProDoc"

    Projets de recherche de huit ans (Module de formation ProDoc: Foundations of International and European Law 2008-2011-2014-2015 et Modules de recherche ProDoc: Democratic Foundations of European Law 2008-2011 & Philosophical Foundations of European Human Rights and Migration Law 2010-2013 & International Rule of Law and Adjudication 2012-2016), Université de Fribourg (Suisse)

  • 2004-2008 : Projet de recherche FNS "Professeur boursier"

    Projet de recherche de quatre ans (PEOPEL - Project for a European Philosophy of European Law), Université de Fribourg (Suisse)