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Research and Self-Determination Index (RSDI)

Addressing United Nations

The Concept

The Research and Self Determination Index (RSDI) is a tool to measure the freedom of scientists and citizens (particularly patients) to make decisions that affect their activities and lives. The RSDI results in an international ranking and evaluates the cross-national variation of how domestic legislations recognise and support the rights of self-determination of scientists and citizens. The RSDI represents how different legal and political environments affect the promotion of the rights of scientists and of citizens. A key assumption is that state legislations and regulations are essential for effective promotion and respect for fundamental rights. 

The Project

The RSDI follows the framework outlined in the United Nations. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in the 2012 document Human Rights Indicators: A Guide to Measurement and Implementation. Adapting this framework, the RSDI aggregates structural indicators (measuring the degree to which fundamental rights are formally protected by the law), process indicators (measuring governments’ commitment to fundamental rights through implementation of policy measures and programs of action) and outcome indicators (measuring the results of governments’ efforts in furthering the enjoyment of fundamental rights). The data can come from primary sources (statutes and other regulatory documents), secondary sources (scientific papers and policy reports), and from statistics published by international bodies (UNESCO, World Bank, OECD, and WHO).

The RSDI includes fundamental rights connected with the following areas of policy: Assisted reproduction technologies; research with embryos; end-of-life decisions; abortion; GMO crops; and, STEM policies.

The RSDI was first published in 2013 and is updated periodically. The last comprehensive update took place in 2018.


The RSDI is a unique tool combining original research with already published data. The goal is to contribute to an evidence-based dialogue among policymakers, scientists, patients, and society on how to better realize fundamental human rights. The RSDI is also intended to serve as a reference for State parties in filing their periodical reports to treaty bodies detailing what measures they have taken to discharge to give effect to that treaty.

Check out the full Research and Self-Determination Index.


Do you want to contribute to the Research and Self-Determination Index?

You can contribute to the Research and Self-Determination Index adding and updating data on a country or an area of policy, suggesting indicators for a new area of policy or making a donation to support the RSDI.