The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded a Rapid Response Research (RAPID) grant to Case Western Reserve University to examine instances of governments suspending human rights in the name of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

The project will aim to raise awareness of human rights violations and contribute to the integrity of international agreements and efforts to uphold them.

CWRU sociology professor Brian Gran
Brian Gran

Led by Brian Gran—a professor in the Department of Sociology at the College of Arts and Sciences—the project will assign scores based on how each emergency measure has, or has not, struck a balance between addressing the pandemic while honoring existing commitments to human rights.

“There is already evidence of some governments using the pandemic to single out certain religious and ethnic groups and take away rights, such as freedoms of speech and privacy,” said Gran. “We will identify which rights suspensions are out of proportion to the emergency and are continued unnecessarily.”

Gran’s team will assign scores to specific measures taken—such as ceasing public education or suspending rights to assemble—in relation to their effectiveness in reducing COVID-19 transmissions and deaths.

Eventually, data from the project will be publicly available and regularly updated.

“By shining a light on these practices, we hope to contribute to the protection of human rights worldwide,” said Gran, who has secondary appointments with the Case Western Reserve School of Law and the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences. 

Case Western Reserve graduate students Reema Sen and Micah Arafah, along with Abigail Cross who is a Coding Scholar, will work on the project with Gran, who is serving a yearlong National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine Jefferson Science Fellowship with the U.S. Department of State.

The NSF awards RAPID funding for research projects that respond to urgent and unexpected events.

For more information, contact Daniel Robison at

This article was originally published Dec. 1, 2020.