Legal Studies Professor Andrea Boggio, J.S.D., participated on a United Nations (U.N.) panel for the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) in Geneva, Switzerland, on October 9 to discuss the scientific and legal aspects of the right to science. (Watch the video.) He also worked with the Science and Human Rights Coalition of the American Association for the Advancement of Science to organize a panel on the right to science at the U.N. in New York City in May, 2018. These discussions will inform CESCR’s development of a comprehensive interpretation of the right to science, which is currently being drafted by the U.N. for approval in 2019. Boggio is the founder of the newly established Science for Democracy, a Brussels-based organization promoting the right to science, the adoption of evidence-based decisions, and the promotion of public debates to foster human development.
"Science is key to innovation and therefore an essential ingredient to the challenges we face like food, climate, diseases, and poverty...it is one of the few common languages of humanity, with music, food, and a few others. So it’s a unifying force across the globe. I appreciate tools that can bring us together."
A Bryant faculty member since 2006, Boggio is an expert in international human rights law, issues of science policy, health law, intellectual property law, and regulation of the biotech industry. He has edited a book on the ethics and regulation of genome editing that will be published in summer 2019 by Cambridge University Press. Boggio received his Bachelor of Arts in Legal Studies from Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, and earned his Master and Doctorate at Stanford Law School.
Here, Professor Boggio talks about his scholarly work and shares his beliefs about the power of education to help students understand connections, possibilities, and the importance of knowing they are part of something bigger.
How did you first get involved with the U.N. Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights?
I have been working on the issue of the right to science as a scholar and advocate since 2016. During that process, I developed a working relationship with a member of the CESCR, which led to my being invited as a discussant at the official event in Geneva.
How did your recent discussion in Geneva relate to the U.N. session in New York earlier this year?
The panel at the U.N. in New York was held to introduce the work of the CESCR to the New York diplomats and local Non-Governmental Organizations. The event served as a bridge for communicating the right to science work being done across the U.N. organization globally. I was able to invite four Bryant Global Studies students to attend these discussions.
What happens next for the U.N. and your work on the right to science?
My work and others’ contributions on the panel will inform the Committee’s understanding of the right to science and their work on developing a comprehensive interpretation. In the meantime, I will keep working on this issue, both as a scholar and advocate. I was asked to write a book chapter on how to measure the realization of the right to science, which I will coauthor with Brian Gran, a sociologist at Case Western University. My colleague at Loyola Los Angeles Law School Cesare Romano and I are working on a scholarly monograph on the right to science which we plan to publish in 2020.
Why is this work so important to you? To the world?
Science is key to innovation and therefore an essential ingredient to the challenges we face like food, climate, diseases, and poverty. It’s also a way of thinking that can be used as a good framework for life. It is about creativity, trial and error, and deciding according to evidence. Finally, it is one of the few common languages of humanity, with music, food, and a few others. So it’s a unifying force across the globe. I appreciate tools that can bring us together.
What do you find most rewarding about your work?
It’s rewarding to be part of an international network of scholars and advocates who care about these issues. It gives meaning to my work. Advancements do not come from a single person coming out with the solution to the problem. It’s a collective effort.
What is most challenging, and where are the obstacles?
One of the major difficulties is to make science compelling to people. Often science is seen as technical or difficult. That is sometimes true, but we must get engaged with science as with other aspects of social life—how the economy works, the political system, what food we find at the grocery store. Nowadays science is highly politicized, so more people need to get engaged and voice their opinions. My job is to ensure that those opinions are well informed and that people can set aside their immediate interests and see the big picture.
"I believe in education contributing to students’ sense of self. My take is that you cannot be a fully developed human being unless you understand that you are part of something bigger, and that engaging with collective actions is a meaningful way to spend our lives."
How does your work in this area relate to your teaching?
I teach international law, so I link course content to my direct experience with international institutions. In my Global Foundations of Character and Leadership course, I teach students about food systems and discuss innovation, in agriculture in this case, with GMOs and genome editing, and the role of policy in shaping our food system.
"I want for [students] to realize that they have a moral duty not to be indifferent but to get involved, and use their time and energy to improve the world."
What do you most want your students to learn?
I want students to get engaged with the major challenges that we face, and to leave Bryant with the confidence that they have acquired some of the tools needed to contribute to addressing these challenges. Ethics are an important component of our education. I am not particularly interested in telling students what is “right” or “wrong.” I want for them to realize that they have a moral duty not to be indifferent but to get involved, and use their time and energy to improve the world.
How are the liberal arts critical to higher education?
As a liberal arts faculty member, I believe in education contributing to students’ sense of self. My take is that you cannot be a fully developed human being unless you understand that you are part of something bigger, and that engaging with collective actions is a meaningful way to spend our lives.
How is what you are doing in and out of the classroom preparing students for the world they will enter when they graduate?
Two things: making connections and a sense of possibility. The first is an understanding that complexity is better tackled by connecting people, ideas and academic disciplines rather than by individuals in isolation. This leads to the second point which is the sense of the possibility of solving difficult problems that comes with collaborating with others. Students are transformed by their education, and you can see their growth in the four years at Bryant.