Dr. Walter Reich, Ph.D., receives prestigious AAAS 2003 Scientific Freedom and Responsibility Award

December 18, 2003

For his advocacy against crimes against humanity and for his work promoting the responsible conduct of science, Walter Reich, champion of human rights and the Yitzhak Rabin Memorial Professor of International Affairs, Ethics and Human Behavior at George Washington University, has been named to receive the highly coveted American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) 2003 Scientific Freedom and Responsibility Award.

The award is presented annually to honor scientists and engineers whose exemplary actions have served to foster scientific freedom and responsibility.

In the 1970s, Reich revealed how the Soviet government was using psychiatric abuse to curb dissent and stifle dissenters in the Soviet Union. He worked continuously to educate policymakers and members of the scientific and psychiatric communities regarding this mis-use of the tools of psychiatry.

Reich learned that for years Soviet psychiatrists had diagnosed political dissidents as mentally ill, a tactic that allowed the government to avoid embarrassing public trials and to discredit dissent as the product of sick minds. Once committed to psychiatric hospitals, usually special institutions for the criminally insane, the dissidents were given injections that caused convulsions or torpor, or wrapped in wet canvas that shrank tightly upon drying. Reich's revelations shocked the international community.

To further the cause of scientific freedom and responsibility, Reich has also examined diagnostic practices in the United States, to ensure that similar abuses would not occur.

In addition to his position at the George Washington University, Reich is also a senior scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars; a lecturer in psychiatry at Yale University; and Contributing Editor of the Wilson Quarterly. Previously, he served as director of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum from 1995--1998, where he founded the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies and oversaw the creation of the Museum's Committee on Conscience, which alerts the world to emerging genocides.

Reich earned his bachelor's degree in 1965 from Columbia College, and his M.D. in 1970 from the New York University School of Medicine. In 1973, following his psychiatric residency at the Yale University School of Medicine, Reich joined the National Institutes of Mental Health in Washington, DC. While at the Woodrow Wilson Center, he studied the political abuse of psychiatry in the Soviet Union; the psychology of terrorism; and the scientific, ethical and public policy dimensions of health.

The Award recognizes scientists and engineers who have acted to protect the public's health, safety, or welfare; or focused public attention on important potential impacts of science and technology on society by their responsible participation in public policy debates; or established important new precedents in carrying out the social responsibilities or in defending the professional freedom of scientists and engineers.

This annual award was established in 1980 and consists of a prize of $5,000, a commemorative plaque, complimentary registration, and reimbursement for travel and hotel expenses to attend the AAAS Annual Meeting. "By presenting the Scientific Freedom and Responsibility Award each year, AAAS seeks to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers as they begin their careers," explained Alan I. Leshner, chief executive officer for AAAS and executive publisher of its journal, Science.
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The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is the world's largest general scientific society, and publisher of the journal, Science (www.sciencemag.org). AAAS was founded in 1848, and serves some 265 affiliated societies and academies of science, serving 10 million individuals. Science has the largest paid circulation of any peer-reviewed general science journal in the world, with an estimated total readership of one million. The non-profit AAAS (www.aaas.org) is open to all and fulfills its mission to "advance science and serve society" through initiatives in science policy; international programs; science education; and more. For the latest research news, log onto EurekAlert!, www.eurekalert.org, the premier science-news Web site, a service of AAAS.

American Association for the Advancement of Science

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