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The Hurford Science Diplomacy Initiative

Sponsored by the Hurford Foundation, the Hurford Science Diplomacy Initiative aims to help early career scientists understand the global context for their work and thus enable them to work more effectively at international levels.


Course Title

Science Diplomacy: Combining Science and Foreign Policy to Address Global Challenges

Theme for 2024

Practicing Science Amidst Both International Competition and Cooperation


Jesse AusubelMande Holford

Jesse Ausubel, Director of Program for the Human Environment, & Mandë Holford, Professor of Chemistry, Hunter College, & American Museum of Natural History


The shorthand term Science Diplomacy (SD) spans wide-ranging activities connecting science and technology with international affairs. This series of seven seminars will sample the current landscape of SD issues, programs, and organizations. The goals of the course are to help early career life scientists: (a) think more systematically about the global potential of their work, including ethical, political, and economic implications; and (b) become acquainted with the people, networks, and resources available for scientific cooperation, including for those nations and communities with whom cooperation may be especially difficult.

The complexity of the real world, including the plural rationalities that exist and persist in human societies, is central to issues ranging from the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, and biodiversity loss, to wars and threats to preservation of cultural heritage. These issues also exemplify the centrality of science and technology in international negotiations and policies that benefit the global well-being and relations among nations. The hard explosive and soft cyber powers on display in the Ukraine War graphically demonstrate how science and technology continue to determine the shapes of conflict. The intergovernmental negotiations over climate change and biodiversity are a real-world case study of the potential and problems of groups of scientific experts "speaking truth to power."

In the course, we will offer some frameworks for thinking about Science Diplomacy and share some of its history, including how it relates to The Rockefeller University. We will explore how SD can matter for a range of issues, from the aftermath of war to international trade and resilient cities and coasts, and range from Angola to China. We will examine challenges for SD, including excessive reliance on models of rational behavior and critiques, in particular that it reinforces particular structures of power. We will consider the functioning of international science itself, including its efforts to operate in a more open mode.

This course is a sequel to the ones previously offered, and participants from prior years are welcome to attend again. Several sessions will use polling to learn and analyze views of the course participants. In-person participation is strongly preferred but remote access will be available for most sessions. Several guests will come in-person. Traditionally, we follow some sessions with guest speakers with further conversation at the Faculty and Student Club or dinner at a nearby restaurant The field trip to Washington DC is limited to ten of the most active course participants with primary Rockefeller University affiliation.

Time: 3-5pm Thursdays, NR 110

Past Curricula

2023, 2022, 202120202019201820172016, 2015, 2014

Course Outline

Week 1
Feb. 8, 2024
Mande Halford
Jesse Ausubel

Topic: The Basics of Science Diplomacy and Challenges of Science in a Time of Widespread International Conflict

Session LeadersMandë Holford, Professor of Chemistry, Hunter College, City University of New York, Research Associate-American Museum of Natural History, and Jesse Ausubel, Director of the Program for the Human Environment, The Rockefeller University

Week 3
Feb. 22, 2024
David Meen

Topic: S&T In the Aftermath of War: De-Mining Angola

Session Leader: Jesse Ausubel
Guest Speaker: David Meen, HALO Trust
Readings: Websites:
Week 5
Mar. 7, 2024
Minh-Thu Pham

Topic: UN decision Making in times of cooperation and competition

Session Leader: Mandë Holford
Guest: Minh-Thu Pham, Co-founder & CEO @ Project Starling, Nonresident Scholar, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Lecturer, Princeton University, School of Public and International Affairs, Former Executive Director for Global Policy, United Nations Foundation
Readings: Websites:

Week 6
Mar. 14, 2024
John Barrientos

Topic: Global Health Security

Session Leaders: Mandë Holford and Jesse Ausubel
Guest Speakers: Captain John Barrientos, Military Fellow, U.S. Navy, Council on Foreign Relations, and Vera Ranola, Managing Director of Membership, Council on Foreign Relations
Field Trip to the Council on Foreign Relations, 58 E. 68th St
Readings: Websites:
Field Trip to Washington, DC
Apr. 4-5, 2024
Visits with:

Learning Outcomes Sought

Improved understanding of how biomedical and other scientific knowledge can play roles in

  • informing foreign policy objectives with scientific advice (science in diplomacy);
  • facilitating international science cooperation (diplomacy for science);
  • using science cooperation to improve international relations between countries (science for diplomacy).

Course Schedule

Dates: Thursdays, Feb. 8-Mar. 21, 2024
Time: 3-5pm

Student Science Diplomacy Project

Science Soapbox was a student-run podcast at the intersection of science, policy, and advocacy initiated by SD alums Maryam Zaringhalam, Avital Percher, and Devon Collins. The podcast acts as a public-facing platform to highlight insights from emerging and prominent thinkers influencing science and its impact on society through policymaking, community engagement, and diplomacy.

Additional Reading List

The items listed are essential background reading. Two or three additional articles will be distributed each week pertaining to the weekly topics.

  1. A tale of two states, Holford, M, Nichols, R, Science, 2015. 349:6247
  2. The Science of Science Policy: A Handbook (Innovation and Technology in the World E), by Julia Lane, Kaye Fealing, John Marburger III and Stephanie Shipp (Mar 18, 2011)
  3. Global Research Infrastructures: A Decade of Science Diplomacy, By Amy K. Flatten, AAAS Science and Diplomacy, September 27, 2018
  4. New Frontiers in Science Diplomacy: Navigating the Changing Balance of Power.A Royal Society Policy Document 2010, ISBN: 978-0-85403-811-4
  5. Promoting Scientific Cooperation in Times of Diplomatic Challenges Sustained Partnership between the Cuban Academy of Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. By Jorge Pastrana S, Gual Soler M, Wang TC. MEDICC Lessons in International Cooperation, April 2018.
  6. Science and Technology in US International Affairs, Carnegie Commission on Science, Technology, and Government, reprinted 1993.
  7. Diplomacy for the 21st Century: Embedding a Culture of Science and Technology Throughout the Department of State, by U.S. National Research Council 2015

 The Rockefeller community is a diverse, intellectual scientific village where students and faculty work together to make transformative discoveries in bioscience.Th