Committee of Concerned Scientists records, 1970-2006 bulk 1974-2005
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The Committee of Concerned Scientists (CCS) is a human rights organization composed of scientists, engineers, and scholars
who promote academic and personal freedom for their colleagues worldwide. The Committee supports the rights of scientists
to collaborate on research and share data, travel to conferences and meetings, and emigrate if they choose. More broadly,
CCS advocates human treatment of all individuals and government compliance with human rights agreements. The group began in
1972 as an ad hoc committee of scientists based in New York City and Washington DC. It originally concentrated on helping
Soviet colleagues, especially refusenik scientists. The term refusenik refers to citizens of the USSR who applied to leave
the country and were denied exit visas. Most refusenik scientists were refused on the grounds of possessing "state secrets"
that they might share with foreigners. They often lost their jobs at universities and research facilities and were barred
from attending scientific conferences. Some were stripped of academic titles, forced to work in labor camps, or charged with
parasitism when they could not find work. Persecution was especially harsh for Jewish scientists, who often faced anti-Semitism
in addition to the refusenik stigma. The Committee argued that any secrets these scientists might possess were too insignificant
and outdated to be of any threat to security and sent dozens of letters asking the country to change its emigration procedures.
On a more immediate level, CCS members translated and published papers for refusenik scientists, subsidized subscriptions
to scholarly publications, and visited the USSR under the guise of tourists to deliver books and offer moral support. In 1988,
CCS sponsored the Frontiers of Science Conference in Moscow. Held in the private apartments of refuseniks, the conference
allowed scientists to present their research at a time when they were barred from most international meetings. Although Eastern
Europe was a major focus at first, CCS quickly expanded its reach and has monitored human rights violations in over seventy-five
countries, protesting travel restrictions on Israeli scientists, the imprisonment of professors in China, and violence against
students in Ethiopia, among many others. The Committee often takes action by writing letters of protest directly to government
officials and by sending alerts and contact information to other scientists, encouraging them to do the same. The group also
contacts members of the United States Congress and the Executive Branch who can address human rights issues during diplomatic
meetings. In the 1970s, CCS sent representatives to meetings of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE;
also known as the Helsinki Commission), which monitors compliance with the Helsinki Final Act. The Committee reported to CSCE
with information about the hardships faced by scientists, particularly refuseniks. The group may follow a case for years,
repeatedly reminding officials of the violations in their country in the belief that international pressure will lead to change.
There have been many successes, particularly in freeing scientists from prisons and acquiring exit visas. The Committee also
raises awareness among the scientific community by attending conferences, circulating petitions, and writing press releases.
It helps persecuted scientists on an individual level when possible through calls, visits, and financial help. The Committee
manages two grant programs; the Marc Kac Memorial Fund, which defrays the costs of membership in the American Physical Society
for scientists in Belarus, Poland, Slovakia, and Ukraine, and the Program for Refugee Scientists, which assists recent immigrants
to the U.S. by providing financial support and aid in job searches.
Scope and Contents
The Records of the Committee of Concerned Scientists consist of a wide variety of materials that the group retained to track
its own action and progress. Materials document CSS involvement in many countries, but place a significant emphasis on aid
to scientists in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Much of the collection also relates to the work of Dorothy Hirsch, who
was an active member of CCS from 1977 to 2003 and an executive vice president. Materials include correspondence, administrative
records, petition forms, annual and financial reports, fundraising records, press releases, photographs, and audiocassettes.