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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 2020: Faces of Science Diplomacy


Jesse AusubelMande Holford

Jesse Ausubel, Director of Program for the Human Environment, & Mandë Holford, Associate 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. With particular attention to global health and environment, the seven-week course of seminars samples 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 with whom cooperation may be especially difficult.

Science and technology are central for many national and international negotiations and policies, and SD activities include international collaboration to mitigate transnational threats such as infectious diseases or biological weapons. Scientists have played important roles, for example, in efforts to combat spread of the Ebola and Zika viruses, mitigate climate change, and conserve cultural heritage.

Open channels of communication among working scientists and physicians, and among science advisers to governments, especially across the borders of nations in conflict, offer valuable means for informal diplomacy, as has been the case in various periods between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, People’s Republic of China, and Cuba as well as between pairings such as Israel and Egypt or India and Pakistan. Moreover, the Internet and other technological innovations have sharply increased capacity and appetite for global scientific collaborations, often based on open access and transparency, and these in turn affect the practice of both diplomacy and science. SD can matter for how we address issues as wide ranging as the weaponization of genetic editing (CRISPR technology), security of cyber spaces, and equitable diffusion of personalized medicine.

Challenges for SD include: developing a classification of activities and common language about best practices, identifying tangible initiatives to address changing needs and goals, and convincing governmental agencies that SD should be an explicit part of long-term roadmaps for action and funding. Interest in SD in many ministries of foreign affairs as well as the scientific community itself makes this an opportune time for scientists early in their careers to learn and evaluate its possibilities.

This course is a sequel to the ones previously offered, and participants from prior years are welcome to attend again. This year’s offerings places science in global interests of health and environment back to the founding of the USA and into the coming Presidential election. Several sessions will use clickers, or classroom response systems, to collect and analyze views of the course participants. About ten of the most engaged course participants (limited to those with RU affiliation) will be invited to join a field trip to Washington, DC to meet with prominent SD practitioners and tour relevant institutions.

The course is part of the University’s Hurford Initiative on Science & Diplomacy, sponsored by the Hurford Foundation. The 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.

Time: 3-5pm Thursday
Location: CRC206

Course Outline

Week 1
Feb. 13, 2020
Alastair Watt Macintyre Hay

Topic: Introduction to Science Diplomacy; Learning about Science Diplomacy Through Role-playing

Guest SpeakerAlastair Watt Macintyre Hay, OBE is Professor of Environmental Toxicology at the University of Leeds; he works primarily in the fields of chemical warfare and biological warfare (CBW).
Session Leader: Mandë Holford
Science & Diplomacy Special 10th Anniversary Issue
Science Diplomacy and Future Worlds by E. William Colglazier
Websites to Browse:
Week 2
Feb. 20, 2020
Christopher McKnight Nichols

Topic: The Role of Science in Shaping US Foreign Relations from 1776 to 2020

Speaker: Christopher McKnight Nichols, Associate Professor of History and Director, Center for the Humanities, Oregon State University
Session Leader: Mandë Holford
Promise and Peril: America at the Dawn of a Global Age (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2011, paperback in 2015)
Websites to Browse:
TED Talk: "The Untold Story of American Isolationism"
"Rethinking Grand Strategy"
"Ideologies and U.S. Foreign Policy"
Week 3
Feb. 27, 2020
Stefano Lami Moscheni

Topic: Big Science and Science Diplomacy in Europe and America

Guest Speakers:
Stefano Lami Moscheni, Science Counselor, Embassy of Italy, Washington, DC; faculty member in physics, The Rockefeller University, 1997-2004
Session Leader: Jesse Ausubel
Observation of the top quark S Abachi ...Physical Review Letters 74 (14), 2632  1995
The totem experiment at the CERN large hadron collider G Anelli…Journal of Instrumentation 3 (08), S08007 2008
Global Research InfraStructures: A Decade of Science Diplomacy by Amy Flatten
Past, Present, and Future of Science Diplomacy in Europe by Jan Marco Muller & Maurizio Bona
Websites to Browse:
Using Science For/In Diplomacy For Addressing Global Challenges
Inventing a shared Science Diplomacy for Europe
Week 4
Mar. 5, 2020
Jesse Ausubel
Mande Holford

Topic: Impact of Data Science in Diplomacy

Speakers: Jesse Ausubel and Mandë Holford
Data Diplomacy
Websites to Browse:

Week 5
Mar. 12, 2020
Thomas J. Bollyky

Topic: Why the World is Getting Healthier in Worrisome Ways

Guest Speaker: Thomas J. Bollyky, Director of the Global Health Program and Senior Fellow for Global Health, Economics, and Development, Council on Foreign Relations
Session Leaders:  Jesse Ausubel
The Emerging Global Health Crisis: Noncommunicable Diseases in Low- and Middle-Income Countries
Plagues and the Paradox of Progress: Why the World is Getting Healthier in Worrisome Ways.
Websites to Browse:
Council on Foreign Relations
Week 6
Mar. 19, 2020
Bridget Baumgartner
Erich Jarvis

Topic: Transforming Global Conservation through Biotechnology and Genomics

Guest Speaker: Bridget Baumgartner, Program Manager, Catalyst Science Fund, Revive and Restore; and
Erich Jarvis, professor and head of the Laboratory of Neurogenetics of Language, The Rockefeller University
Session Leaders: Mandë Holford and Jesse Ausubel
Ocean Genomics Horizon Scan Executive Summary
Comparative genomics reveals insights into avian genome evolution and adaption
Websites to Browse:
Revive & Restore
Week 7
Mar. 26, 2020
Julie Arslanoglu
Week 8
Apr. 2-3, 2020

Field trip to Washington, D.C.

Planned Visits:
The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy
NSF Office of International Science and Engineering
Dinner at Cosmos Club with Science Attaches of Latin American nations & leading practitioners of SD
Center for the Study of Presidency and Congress
Chaperones: Jesse Ausubel and Mandë Holford


Course Schedule

Dates: Thursdays, Feb. 13-March 26, 2020
Time: 3-5pm
Location: CRC206

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.


Previous Sessions

2019201820172016, 2015, 2014

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


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