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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 2023: Faces of Science Diplomacy


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. COVID-19 has shown the importance of open channels of communication worldwide among working scientists and physicians, and among science advisers to governments. While familiarizing many people with the promise and perils of international organizations involved in Science Diplomacy such as the World Health Organization, the COVID-19 pandemic has also shown the vulnerabilities associated with poor monitoring, ignorance, overconfidence, disinformation, and misinformation. 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."  The hard and soft powers on display in Russia’s war in the Ukraine graphically demonstrate how science and technology continue to determine the shapes of conflict.

Meanwhile, the Internet and other technological innovations have sharply increased capacity and appetite for global scientific collaborations, often based on open access and transparency, but they may also increase volatility of knowledge and behaviors with surprising outcomes, in turn affecting the practice of both diplomacy and science.

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 Ukraine War and outer space and Havana Syndrome to snake bites and preservation of art.  We will examine challenges for SD, including tangible initiatives to address changing needs and goals, and excessive reliance on models of rational behavior. We will also explore some critiques of SD, in particular that it reinforces particular structures of power.

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.

The blend of in-person and remote participation will depend on conditions during February and March. We hope to have several guests in-person.  The field trip to Washington DC will similarly depend on conditions as the dates of the trip near.

Time: 3-5pm Thursdays, CRC 206

Past Curricula

2022, 202120202019201820172016, 2015, 2014

Course Outline

Week 1
Feb. 9, 2023
Cameron Hume
Alexander Kabanov

Topic: The Ukraine War and Russian-American relations: from diasporas to prisoner exchanges

Session Leader: Jesse Ausubel
Guests: The Hon. Cameron Hume, former Ambassador to Algeria, South Africa, and Indonesia (in person), and Prof. Alexander Kabanov, Director, Center for Nanotechnology in Drug Delivery and Moderator, RASA: Russian-speaking Academic Science Association (by Zoom)
Readings & Websites to Browse:
Week 2
Feb. 16, 2023
Leslie Boyer
Jose Maria Gutierrez

Topic: More than preventable 60,000 deaths per year: the Global Snake Bite Initiative

Session Leader: Mandë Holford
Guests: Prof. Leslie V. Boyer (Medical Director, Viper Institute, University of Arizona, United States) (in person) and Prof. José María Gutiérrez (Dept, of Microbiology, Universidad de Costa Rica, Costa Rica) (by Zoom)
Readings & Websites to Browse:
Week 3
Feb. 23, 2022
Julie Arslanoglu

Topic: Science and preservation of cultural heritage I: Visit to the research labs of the Metropolitan Museum

Session Leader: Jesse Ausubel
Host: Dr. Julie Arslanoglu, Research Scientist, Department of Conservation and Scientific Research, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Readings & Websites to Browse:
Week 4
Mar. 2, 2023
Tim Stearns

Topic: Science Diplomacy and The Rockefeller University

Session Leader: Mandë Holford
GuestDr. Tim Stearns, Dean of Graduate and Postgraduate Studies and Vice President for Educational Affairs
Readings & Websites to Browse:
Mar. 9, 2023

Break - unless an extra seminar is scheduled

Week 5
Mar. 16, 2023
Jay Apt

Topic: Science in outer space amidst great power competition and a changing climate

Session Leader: Jesse Ausubel
Guest: Astronaut Dr. Jay Apt (in person), Professor Emeritus, Tepper School of Business and Department of Engineering & Public Policy, Carnegie-Mellon University
Readings & Websites to Browse:
Week 6
Mar. 23, 2023
Giusi Condorelli

Topic: International medical diplomacy in the wake of COVID19

Session Leaders: Mandë Holford
Guest: Dr. Giusi Condorelli, MD (in-person), Science Attaché of the Embassy of Italy to the United States, Washington, DC
Readings & Websites to Browse:

Week 7
Mar. 30, 2023
Jonathan Bell

Topic: Science and preservation of cultural heritage II: the case of Ukraine

Session Leader: Jesse Ausubel
GuestDr. Jonathan S. Bell, Vice President of Programs, World Monuments Fund
Readings & Websites to Browse:
Field Trip to Washington, DC
Apr. 13-14, 2023
Visits (to be confirmed) with:

Course Schedule

Dates: Thursdays, Feb. 9-Mar. 30, 2023
Time: 3-5pm

Student Science Diplomacy Project

Project: Science Soap Box

Science Soapbox is 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. The Challenge of Building Science Diplomacy Capabilities for Early Career Academic Investigators, by  Holford, M, Nichols, R, AAAS Science and Diplomacy, January 29, 2018.
  2. A tale of two states, Holford, M, Nichols, R, Science, 2015. 349:6247
  3. 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)
  4. Global Research Infrastructures: A Decade of Science Diplomacy, By Amy K. Flatten, AAAS Science and Diplomacy, September 27, 2018
  5. New Frontiers in Science Diplomacy: Navigating the Changing Balance of Power.A Royal Society Policy Document 2010, ISBN: 978-0-85403-811-4
  6. 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.
  7. Science and Technology in US International Affairs, Carnegie Commission on Science, Technology, and Government, reprinted 1993.
  8. Diplomacy for the 21st Century: Embedding a Culture of Science and Technology Throughout the Department of State, by U.S. National Research Council 2015
  9. A Decade of Science Diplomacy: Special Issue of Science & Diplomacy Magazine, Issue 55, 2022

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