Rare Book & Manuscript Library

Committee of Concerned Scientists records, 1970-2006, bulk 1974-2005

Summary Information


This collection documents the efforts of the Committee of Concerned Scientists in promoting academic and personal freedom for scientists, scholars, engineers, and students.

At a Glance

Call No.: HR#0004
Bib ID 6462262 View CLIO record
Creator(s) Committee of Concerned Scientists
Title Committee of Concerned Scientists records, 1970-2006, bulk 1974-2005
Physical Description 45.36 linear feet (108 document boxes)
Language(s) English .

This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least three business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.

This collection has no restrictions.



This collection is arranged in six series.



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.

  • Series I. Administrative Records, 1973-2006

  • Series II: Refusenik Closed Case Files, 1974-2005

    The Committee's efforts to help refusenik scientists are documented primarily through correspondence; CCS members updated each other on developments in each case, sent letters of protest to Soviet government officials, and corresponded with the refuseniks themselves through letters that sometimes had to be smuggled out of the USSR. These cases were closed when the refusenik's plight found resolution--usually, they were able to emigrate.

  • Series III: Country Files, 1974-2005

    This series documents the Committee's reaction to human rights violations in eighty countries. Content varies by country; most files include letters addressed to government officials protesting a specific incident or the abuse of an individual scientist. Response letters from governments, correspondence between human rights groups, and case updates may also be present. Many files also contain a small number of clippings describing the incident, but most clippings were removed as they are readily available through the New York Times Article Archive and similar indexes. Some files are more extensive; for example, the USSR files also contain reports and trip summaries from CCS members who visited refuseniks in their homes.

  • Series IV: Organizations and Conferences, 1973-2005

    This series documents the Committee's interaction with the scientific community and with other human rights organizations. It contains correspondence with members of other groups, petitions that CCS circulated at conferences, articles submitted to scientific journals, and information about collaborative projects, such as the American Physical Society's Membership Matching Program. Files on the CCS-sponsored Frontiers of Science Conference can be found here, as can information on the Committee's work with the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe.

  • Series V: Subject Files, 1970-2002

    The subject files hold general information and correspondence regarding psychological abuse, secrecy in the USSR, postal interference, and other topics that CCS encountered.

  • Series VI: Media, 1975-2004

    This small series contains photographs of events in the USSR, including the Frontiers of Science Conference in 1988. It also holds portraits of some of the scientists CCS helped and photographs of CCS activists, such as Dorothy Hirsch. This series also contains correspondence files on 3-inch floppy disks and two audiocassette tapes: Dorothy Hirsch's report on a visit to the USSR and a CCS press conference.

Using the Collection

Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Restrictions on Access

This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least three business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.

This collection has no restrictions.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. The RBML maintains ownership of the physical material only. Copyright remains with the creator and his/her heirs. The responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.

Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Committee of Concerned Scientists records; Box and Folder; Center for Human Rights Documentation and Research, Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.


Accruals are expected.

About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Processing Information

Papers processed Carolyn Smith 12/2007.

Finding Aid written by Carolyn Smith 2007.

Revision Description

June 2020 PDF replaced with full finding aid, YH

Subject Headings

The subject headings listed below are found in this collection. Links below allow searches at Columbia University through the Archival Collections Portal and through CLIO, the catalog for Columbia University Libraries, as well as ArchiveGRID, a catalog that allows users to search the holdings of multiple research libraries and archives.

All links open new windows.


Heading "CUL Archives:"
"CUL Collections:"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
Committee of Concerned Scientists Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Engineers -- Civil rights Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Europe, Eastern Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Freedom of association Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Human rights Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Human rights -- China Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Human rights -- Soviet Union Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Human rights advocacy Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Medical practitioners -- Civil rights Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Political prisoners Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Refuseniks Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Scientists Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Scientists -- Civil rights Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Soviet Union Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Teaching, Freedom of Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID

History / Biographical Note

Biographical / Historical

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.