Call for Student Applications: Human Rights Investigations Lab for the Americas, Due May 3, 2019 by 5 p.m.

July 04, 2018

By , Director, Research Center for the Americas 


Human Rights by Nick Youngson CC BY-SA 3.0 Alpha Stock Images

UC Santa Cruz’s Research Center for the Americas (RCA) is proud to announce a new research lab: the Human Rights Investigations Lab for the Americas.  This lab will partner with legal, advocacy, and media partners in need of open source investigative work related to human rights cases. Amnesty International’s Digital Verification Corps (DVC) will train students on discovery and verification methods in September 2019 at UC Berkeley (September 5th in the afternoon, September 12th all day, and an optional one for graduate students on September 9th). The RCA covers your travel to UC Berkeley. The lab, which will be housed at the Research Center for the Americas at UC Santa Cruz, will assist our partners using open source investigation tools and methods to verify and analyze social media information.

The research team will consist of up to 7 students (5 undergraduates and up to 2 graduate students) and we will be partnering with the human rights investigations lab at UC Berkeley’s Human Rights Center. The research teams would be trained together in open source investigation tools and methods. Each lab team would use the methods learned during the DVC training and prepare analytical reports to the organizations requesting this research. The UC Santa Cruz research team will meet weekly to respond to time-sensitive requests for fact-finding and verification.

The research team will be selected through an application and interview process in Spring 2019 with a preference for bilingual speakers (Spanish/English and/or Portuguese/English). This new research team will consist of undergraduates, supported through the RCA’s Undergraduate Research Apprenticeship Program (URAP), and up to two graduate students. Undergraduate students would be required to enroll in independent study units (5-units preferred) to be part of the URAP research team. Graduate students are strongly recommended to enroll in Independent Study units as well.

This lab is supported by a grant from the Santa Cruz Institute for Social Transformation at UC Santa Cruz.


The Human Rights Investigations Lab for the Americas is designed for students who have demonstrated interest in learning about human rights, social justice, and social media. Interested applicants should:

  • Be an enrolled UC Santa Cruz undergraduate or graduate student in good academic standing.
  • Be interested in becoming part of a new generation of human rights investigators.
  • Be available for a 3-day training at UC Berkeley in September 2019 (September 5 and 12th for everyone with an optional graduate student training on September 9th). This training is at no cost to the student and will be paid for by the RCA.
  • Be available during the 2019-2020 academic year for 10-15 hours per week to do research (this includes a weekly team meeting) when part of the team.
  • Submit an online application about why you’d like to join the lab, what you hope to gain from the experience, and the name of a faculty member who can serve as a personal reference.
  • GRADUATE STUDENTS ONLY: ONE graduate student may be eligible for a one-month summer GSR and hourly paid work (up to 16 hours per month) during the academic year.

Expectations of Being on Research Team  

The RCA is assembling a research team of committed students interested in building and/or improving social media literacy skills and learning about human rights issues facing the Americas. Given the challenging material that students will be expected to view and assess, students should be able to handle reviewing and processing difficult social media material.

UC Santa Cruz students selected to be part of this lab would receive critical training on how to systemically locate and verify social media postings. In a time where social media posts can be easily doctored and subsequently go viral, an opportunity for students to gain these critical media literacy skills is essential in today’s world. UC Santa Cruz students will be making a substantial global contribution in ongoing investigations by leading human rights organizations and learn real-world skills that are increasing in importance across disciplines. Verifying social media postings can serve as added evidence to testimonies and substantiate news media reports when organizations present cases in the legal arena or as part of their campaigns.

About Application

In addition to uploading a 1-2 page CV or resume, you’ll be asked to provide the name and contact information for one faculty reference and provide responses to the following questions (1200 characters ~ 250 words):

  1. What motivated you to apply for this research assistant opportunity? Is your interest personal and/or academic? 
  2. What courses and/or life experiences do you think have prepared you for this opportunity? You don't need to have prior research experience to apply. 
  3. What skills would you like to gain from this research experience?
  4. (For GRADS only) - Please describe your research interests/project and how involvement with this lab would benefit your graduate training.

Applications are due Friday, May 3, 2019 by 5:00 p.m. pacific time. Interviews will take place in late May and selections will be made in June.