The Lewis M. Branscomb Science and Democracy Forums

The Branscomb Forums address major constraints on the roles of science, evidence-based decision-making and constructive debate in American public discourse and public policy. These forums are convened in partnership with universities, science museums, and other institutions embodying the themes of science and democracy. 

Each forum is enhanced by informational products and engagement opportunities, such as webcast videos, short reports, and resources for involved citizens.

Photo: Yvette Arellano/TEJAS

Environmental Justice, Science, and Democracy Forum

St. Paul, MN, September 22-24, 2016

Indigenous communities, communities of color, and low-income communities across the US have been unfairly burdened by polluting industrial facilities and natural resource exploitation. The environmental justice (EJ) movement is fighting to right these wrongs. Science can play a powerful role in the EJ movement—but too often, it has instead been used by powerful interests to dismiss EJ concerns. This forum explored the challenges faced by EJ activists in working with scientists and scientific institutions. Learn more >

Community Connections: Bringing Together Scientists and Local Voices

Houston, September 26, 2015

This forum explored ways to overcome barriers to collaboration between scientists and local communities. Participants learned about new ways for scientists, leaders, and citizens to work together, and left with strategies and tangible advice to develop (or improve) community/scientist connections. Learn more >

Science, Democracy, and a Healthy Food Policy: How Citizens, Scientists, and Public Health Advocates Can Partner to Forge a Better Future

Minneapolis, May 6, 2014

This forum brought together experts, advocates, and engaged citizens to explore how science can help advance healthier food environments for communities throughout the nation. Learn more >

Sandy, One Year Later: Looking to the Future

Long Branch, NJ, October 29, 2013

One year after Superstorm Sandy made landfall, this full-day forum discussed how the application of scientific information can make communities more resilient and help the region plan for the future. Learn more >

Science, Democracy, and Community Decisions on Fracking

Los Angeles, July 24-25, 2013

The forum convened leading thinkers from academia, industry, government, non-governmental organizations, and citizen groups to delve into some of the most complex challenges around fracking, including the current state of the science, the policy and regulatory landscape, and public access to information. Learn more >

Improving Citizen Access to Government Information

Washington, DC, September 25, 2012

Lack of access to governmental information has had significant negative consequences for both the environment and human health. The first Lewis M. Branscomb Science and Democracy Forum set out to identify and advocate for ways to improve access to governmental scientific information. Learn more >

Branscomb Forum Goals

The Science and Democracy Forums share a common set of goals:

  • to help ensure that citizens and elected officials can more effectively identify, value, and rely upon legitimate sources of scientific information essential to ensuring the nation’s health, well-being and security.
  • to expand knowledge about the core forum topics and to model the evidence-based dialogue across disciplines and ideologies that is so lacking in current American public discourse and public policy.
  • to build new and diverse networks of people and institutions, to meaningfully engage key segments of the American public, and motivate and catalyze new work and new partnerships. to lay the groundwork for demonstrable improvements in the use of science in our nation’s governance.

Lewis M. Branscomb

The Forums are named in honor of Lewis M. Branscomb, Aetna Professor of Public Policy and Corporate Management (emeritus) in Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. Until July 1996, he directed the school's Science, Technology, and Public Policy Program in the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.

He currently holds two appointments at the University of California at San Diego, Adjunct Professor in the School for International Relations and Pacific Studies (IRPS) and Research Associate in the Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO).

His current research focuses on domestic and international research and innovation policy, information infrastructure, policies to make the world safer and more secure from disasters, and on the management of science and technology in the furtherance of democratic governance, economic equity and safety and security.

Branscomb was appointed by President Johnson to the President's Science Advisory Committee (1964-1968) and by President Reagan to the National Productivity Advisory Committee. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine, and the National Academy of Public Administration. He served on the Technology Assessment Advisory Committee to the Technology Assessment Board of the United States Congress, and in 1991 was appointed to the Massachusetts Governor's Council on Economic Growth and Technology.

In December, 1998, he was awarded the Okawa Prize "for outstanding contributions to the progress of informatics, scientific and technological policy and corporate management."

Prof. Branscomb has written extensively on information technology, comparative science and technology policy, and management of technology.

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