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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 2021: 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 series of eight seminars (following an introductory session) 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 with whom cooperation may be especially difficult.

We need hardly say during the time of COVID that science and technology are central for global well-being and the relations among nations, and for international negotiations and policies. COVID demonstrates many faces of Science Diplomacy, for example, operation of international networks to provide reliable, timely data; risk evaluation and advising governments about transnational threats; and international collaboration to mitigate such threats. COVID has familiarized many people with the promise and perils of international organizations involved in Science Diplomacy such as the World Health Organization. It has alerted humanity to the potential power of infectious diseases as biological weapons.

Comparable narratives could be offered for other major issues with strong scientific dimensions such as climate change, loss of biodiversity, and conservation of cultural heritage.

While COVID has shown the importance of open channels of communication worldwide among working scientists and physicians, and among science advisers to governments, it has also shown the vulnerabilities associated with ignorance, overconfidence, disinformation, and misinformation. It has shown the complexity of the real world, including the plural rationalities that exist and persist in human societies. 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 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, including who will do science, migration, health, and environment. As 2021 marks the start of the International Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, we will explore the oceans. 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 explore some critiques of SD that are emerging, 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 clickers, or classroom response systems, to collect and analyze views of the course participants.

At present, all seminars are planned for Zoom. Should conditions permit, some later seminars may occur as blends of in-person and remote.

Time: 3-5pm Thursday

Past Curricula

20202019201820172016, 2015, 2014

Course Outline

Week 1
Mar. 25, 2021
Jesse Ausubel
Mande Holford

Topic: An Introduction to Science Diplomacy

Speakers: Jesse Ausubel, Director of Program for the Human Environment, and Mandë Holford, Associate Professor of Chemistry, Hunter College and American Museum of Natural History.
Session Leader: Mandë Holford
Three dimensions of policy:
  1. informing foreign policy objectives with scientific advice (science in diplomacy);
  2. facilitating international science cooperation (diplomacy for science);
  3. using science cooperation to improve international relations between countries (science for diplomacy).
Twelve Months of COVID-19: Shaping the Next Era of Science Diplomacy by Marga Gual Soler, Mandë Holford, and Tolullah Oni
New Frontiers in Science Diplomacy: Navigating the Changing Balance of Power. A Royal Society Policy Document 2010, ISBN: 978-0-85403-811-4
Special Issue Science & Diplomacy: Twelve months of COVID19
Science & Diplomacy Special 10th Anniversary Issue
Websites to Browse:

On our general theme of Who Will Do Science, see the editorial in Science by Shirley Tilghman. Bruce Alberts, Harold Varmus and others:

Week 2
Apr. 1, 2021
Julie Baer
Alan Goodman

Topic: Who Will Do Science? Who is moving – and not moving – from where and to where, and why? And helping persecuted researchers all over the world - the Scholar Rescue Fund

Guest Speakers: Julie Baer and Alan Goodman, International Institute for Education

Julie Baer is a Research Specialist at IIE where she manages the data collection and analysis for Open Doors. Her areas of expertise include trends in international academic mobility in U.S. higher education across sectors and using geospatial analysis to highlight trends in educational access. She was a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant to Malaysia in 2012.

Dr. Allan E. Goodman is the President of the Institute of International Education, which marked its Centennial in 2019.  A member of the Council on Foreign Relations, a founding member of the World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE), Dr. Goodman serves on selection committees for the Rhodes and Schwartzman Scholar. Dr. Goodman has a Ph.D. in Government from Harvard and is the recipient of honorary degrees from Canadian, European, Japanese, UK, and US universities.  Before joining IIE, Dr. Goodman was Executive Dean of the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. He has served at the Department of State and the Central Intelligence Agency.

Session Leader: Jesse Ausubel
Readings and Websites:
“…It was the spring of hope…”: Positive Prospects for International Education after Covid-19  Open Doors, the comprehensive information resource on international students and scholars studying or teaching at higher education institutions in the United States, and U.S. students studying abroad for academic credit at their home colleges or universities.  Note this survey of international exchange activity in the United States and Americans going abroad, and explore the new Open Doors website.  Note:
International Student Census
International Scholars Survey
Week 3
Apr. 8, 2021
Jesse Ausubel

Topic: Diplomacy for Science – mounting cooperative international programs in ocean science

Session Leader: Jesse Ausubel
Past and current international programs for ocean science: the Census of Marine Life; International Quiet Ocean Experiment; and genomic (eDNA) surveys of fish and marine life abundance
Readings and Websites:

Census of Marine Life
Concluding report, Highlights of a Decade of Discovery
Retrospective on CoML, pdf of the slides here.
International Quiet Ocean Experiment (Program website) (some recent news)
Great Global Fish Count (concept paper)

Conceptualizing science diplomacy in the practitioner-driven literature: a critical review. Pierre-Bruno Ruffini  Humanities and Social Sciences Communications volume 7, Article number: 124 (2020) Cite this article Published: 14 October 2020

The Sensationalist Discourse of Science Diplomacy: A Critical Reflection.In: The Hague Journal of Diplomacy  Author: Tim Flink 1

Belfer Center Congratulates Members Joining New Administration

Please browse:

Week 4
Apr. 15, 2021
Claudio Bifano
Marino J. González

Topic: Doing science in hostile conditions: the case of Latin America

Guest SpeakersClaudio Bifano, Professor of Chemistry, Universidad Central de Venezuela; President, Academy of Sciences of Latin America; Dr. Marino J. González, MD, PhD, Universidad Simon Bolivar, Venezuela

Claudio Bifano, President of the Latin American Academy of Sciences.  Claudio Bifano is a retired professor of Chemistry at the Universidad Central de Venezuela. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from the Universidad Central de Venezuela (UCV), Facultad de Ciencias and a Ph.D degree in Chemistry from the University of California, San Diego, USA, in 1975.  From 1996 to 1998 he was the General Director of Research and Vice‐president of the Venezuelan Council of Scientific Research, CONICIT, and between 1970 and 1976 he was the General Secretary of the AsoVAC, Venezuelan Association for the Advancement of Science. Other academic representations include being the Dean of graduate studies of the Facultad de Ciencias, Director of graduate studies of the Universidad Central de Venezuela and Director of the Venezuelan´s National Graduate Advisory Council (1998‐2010),  and President of the Venezuelan Academy of Sciences for the terms 2005‐2009 and 2011‐2015.

Marino Gonzalez, Professor, Simon Bolivar University (USB), Venezuela; Correspondent Member of the National Academy of Medicine of Venezuela; Member of the Latin American Academy of Sciences (ACAL); Researcher at the Health Economics Research Group, University of La Rioja, Spain;  Coordinator of the Unit of Public Policy (USB). Areas of research: rotavirus vaccines; health system reforms in Venezuela; child health conditions.

Session Leader: Jesse Ausubel

Science Diplomacy as an Umbrella Term for Science Advisory in Public and Foreign Relations in Small Developing Countries: The Case of Panama by Rolando A. Gittens , Sandra Lopez-Verges , Thais Collado, Jennifer Pimentel, Anabella Vazquez, Marta Pulido-Salgado and Ivonne Torres-Atencio

Frontiers in Research Metrics and Analytics : Science Diplomacy and Sustainable Development: Perspectives from Latin America

Websites to Browse: Inter-American Network of Academies of Science IANAS is a regional network of Academies of Sciences created to support cooperation towards the strengthening of science and technology as a tool for advancing research and development, prosperity and equity in the Americas.  Latin American Academy of Sciences | ACAL  The Latin American Academy of Sciences promotes and contributes to the development of mathematical, physical and chemical sciences for the benefit of ...; Review on Panama developing a Science Diplomacy national strategy.

The COVID-19 pandemic in Latin America: impact and perspectives, supplement of the journal of the National Academy of Medicine of Venezuela on the covid-19 pandemic; articles on the pandemic in Spanish.

Week 5
Apr. 22, 2021
Frances Colon

Topic: A view from Washington DC: The US National Academies Roundtable on Science Diplomacy

Guest Speaker: Frances Colon (President, Jasperi Consulting). Co-chair, NASEM Roundtable on Global Science Diplomacy

“NASEM Roundtable on Global Science Diplomacy intends to serve as an opportunity to advance knowledge at the intersection of science and policy by discussing how science diplomacy can help successfully navigate national and global challenges, address gaps in U.S. involvement in science diplomacy, including activities and initiatives of the U.S. government and non-governmental institutions, and investigate policy approaches.”

Dr. Frances Colón is the CEO of Jasperi Consulting, a boutique firm that provides science, environment and technology policy advice to higher education institutions as well as state and national-level policy-makers. She is a 2018 New Voices Fellow of the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine, and City of Miami Mayor Francis Suarez's appointee to the City of Miami Sea Level Rise Committee. From 2012- 2017, Colón was the Deputy Science and Technology Adviser to the U.S. Secretary of State. As a science diplomat in Washington D.C., Dr. Colón led the re-engagement of scientific collaboration with Cuba and coordinated climate change policy for the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas announced by President Obama. Dr. Colón is the founder of Cenadores Puerto Rico, a non-profit platform that facilitates collaboration between the Puerto Rican diaspora and civil society on the Island. In 2016, Dr. Colón was named one of the 20 most influential Latinos in technology by CNET and was a 2015-2016 Google Science Fair judge. Dr. Colón earned her Ph.D. in Neuroscience in 2004 from Brandeis University and her B.S. in Biology in 1997 from the University of Puerto Rico.  Her doctoral dissertation was on “Different roles for bone morphogenetic protein 2 in the differentiation and maturation of enteric and sympathetic neurons.”

Session Leaders:  Mandë Holford
Websites to Browse:
Science Diplomacy and Future Worlds by E. William Colglazier
Science and Technology Diplomacy with Cuba
Revitalizing the State Department and American Diplomacy

Week 6
Apr. 29, 2021
Elva Escobar Briones
Michelle Wyman

Topic: The Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development and the Case of Plastics

Guest Speaker: Prof. Elva Escobar Briones, Institute of Marine Sciences and Limnology, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México; Michelle Wyman, Executive director, Global Council for Science and the Environment, Washington DC
Session Leaders: Jesse Ausubel and Mandë Holford


The United Nations has proclaimed a Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030) to support efforts to reverse the cycle of decline in ocean health and gather ocean stakeholders worldwide behind a common framework that will ensure ocean science can fully support countries in creating improved conditions for sustainable development of the Ocean.  A leading expert on the biology and geochemistry of the deep seabed, Dr. Escobar is a member of the international Executive Planning Group for the United Nations Ocean Decade.

The mission of the Global Council for Science and the Environment (GCSE), formerly the National Council for Science and the Environment (NCSE), is to improve the scientific basis of environmental decision-making.  Together with the Embassy of France in Washington, D.C., the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the GDR (Groupement de Recherche) Polymers and Oceans of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), GCSE is working to launch a French-American Research Cohort on Plastic Pollution. Due to their physical and chemical characteristics, microplastics (tiny particles under 5 mm in length) and nanoplastics (plastic fragments in the <100 nm size range) constitute a particular challenge as they are present across air, soil and sediment, freshwaters, seas and oceans, plants and animals, and in the global food system thereby also affecting human health.  The Cohort aims to identify and fill remaining knowledge gaps, and to produce actionable scientific knowledge to provide decision-makers with information that can inform, and potentially mitigate, the challenges of micro- and nanoplastics.
Readings and Websites:
Risks of floating microplastic in the global ocean, G. Everaert et al.
Ocean Science Diplomacy can Be a Game Changer to Promote the Access to Marine Technology in Latin America and the Caribbean by Polejack and Luciana Fernandes Coelho
Week 7
May 6, 2021
Cameron Bess
Daniel Gilmer

Topic: Who will make vaccines, who will get vaccines?

Guest Speakers: Dr. Cameron Bess, Project Officer, Antibacterials Branch, Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, Dept. of Health and Human Services; Dr. Daniel Gilmer, Director, R&D Operations, Pfizer Corporation  (both Rockefeller U. PhDs)
Session Leader: Mandë Holford
Readings and Websites:
Vaccine Passports: What to Know Some governments and businesses are starting to use digital and paper passes that certify a person has been immunized against COVID-19, spurring debate over the ethics of vaccine passports. In Brief by Claire Felter April 7, 2021
Academic Webinar: Equitable Vaccine Distribution and Pandemic Preparedness Sonya Stokes, assistant clinical professor of emergency medicine at Mount Sinai’s Icahn School of Medicine and fellow at Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Health Security, leads a conversation on… Webinar by Sonya Stokes March 24, 2021
A Year Out: Addressing International Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic In his testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs, Thomas J. Bollyky provides an overview of current engagement of the United States and its allies in addressing … Testimony by Thomas J. Bollyky March 18, 2021
A Guide to Global COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts
Studying our COVID-19 Vaccine in Children We have started a global study to evaluate use of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in preventing COVID-19 in healthy children 11 years to 6 mos. old.
Week 8
May 13, 2021
Laura Manley
Mahlet Mesfin

Topic: Science Diplomacy – Is it all too rational? Is policy really data driven? What about politics?

Guest Speakers: Laura Manley, Director, Technology and Public Purpose Project, Harvard Kennedy School Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs; Dr. Mahlet Mesfin, Senior Advisor, Policy Planning Office, Department of State, former Dep. Director, AAAS Center for Science Diplomacy
Session Leader: Jesse Ausubel and Mandë Holford
Readings and Websites:
It takes a world to end a pandemic  Mahlet Mesfin  Foreign Affairs, March 21, 2020!tech-factsheets
Congress’s Role in Governing Emerging Technologies
Conceptualizing science diplomacy in the practitioner-driven literature: a critical review Pierre-Bruno Ruffini  Humanities and Social Sciences Communications volume 7, Article number: 124 (2020)
The Sensationalist Discourse of Science Diplomacy: A Critical Reflection In: The Hague Journal of Diplomacy  Author: Tim Flink 05 Aug 2020
Genes, Germs and Medicine: The Life of Joshua Lederberg  by Jan Sapp
Week 9
May 20, 2021
Jesse Ausubel
Mande Holford

Topic: Who will do science? Putting together a good global picture, what needs to be done

Speakers: Jesse Ausubel, Director of Program for the Human Environment, and Mandë Holford, Associate Professor of Chemistry, Hunter College and American Museum of Natural History.
Session Leader: Mandë Holford
How #BlackInTheIvory put a spotlight on racism in academia Nature, June 11, 2020
Corina Newsome and the Black Birders Movement New Yorker, June 29, 2020
Academic leaders must support inclusive scientific communities during COVID-19 Maas, B., Grogan, K.E., Chirango, Y. et al. Nat Ecol Evol 4, 997–998 (2020).
Decolonizing Science Diplomacy: A Case Study of the Dominican Republic’s COVID-19 Response by Aída Mencía-Ripley, Robert Paulino-Ramírez, Juan Ariel Jiménez, and Odile Camilo*
Websites to Browse:

Course Schedule

Dates: Thursdays, Mar. 25-May 20, 2021
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


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