Civic Science

The Rita Allen Foundation seeks to foster a culture of civic science, in which broad engagement with science and evidence helps to inform solutions to society’s most pressing problems. Making progress toward this goal requires building new knowledge and collaborations across many sectors. To this end, the Foundation shares a collection of research, resources and perspectives on the intersection of science and civic life.

The Civic Science Imperative

The Civic Science ImperativeIn a perspective piece in the Spring 2018 issue of the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Elizabeth Good Christopherson, Dietram Scheufele and Brooke Smith propose fostering a culture of civic science as an approach to more effectively address many of society’s challenges. The article points to ways philanthropy can catalyze progress toward this vision, drawing on lessons from science communication scholarship, philanthropy and practice. It also highlights promising examples of emerging work to advance effective science engagement across divisions, including efforts to bring together diverse coalitions, uncover shared values and build trusting relationships.


Communicating Science Effectively: A Research Agenda
This report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine synthesizes a wide range of findings from research on communicating about science and points to specific targets to continue to build knowledge about communicating science effectively. (The Rita Allen Foundation and others supported the work of the National Academies’ committee that produced the report.)

Perceptions of Science in America
A report from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences surveys current knowledge on Americans’ attitudes toward science, with the goal of building awareness among science communicators, advocates and researchers. This is the first in a series of publications from the Academy’s multiyear initiative, the Public Face of Science, which is funded in part by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the Rita Allen Foundation.

Making the Case for Science in Civic Life
A sampling of data points, observations, questions and resources compiled by the Rita Allen Foundation and designed to seed dialogue about how funders can deepen our impact together in support of science, democracy and their many intersections

More Resources for Science Communication
The Resources page of our website features several toolkits for scientists seeking to communicate with a variety of audiences.

Networks for Funders

Science Philanthropy AllianceScience Philanthropy Alliance
A community of funders who work together to inspire new, emerging and current philanthropists to dedicate a portion of their philanthropy to basic science

Health Research AllianceHealth Research Alliance
A collaborative member organization of nonprofit research funders committed to maximizing the impact of biomedical research to improve human health

Media Impact FundersMedia Impact Funders
A network of funders who seek to improve society through media and technology, serving as a learning resource for grant makers interested in using media to further their missions

Philanthropy for Active Civic EngagementPhilanthropy for Active Civic Engagement (PACE)
A network of foundations and funders committed to civic engagement and democratic practice, sharing a belief that America will be more healthy, successful, resilient and productive if democracy is strong and the office of citizen is treated as central to how it functions


A selection of blog entries, opinion pieces and stories from the Rita Allen Foundation and our partners

Informal learning

Learning Together at the Edge of the Future
JANUARY 17, 2018
A historical view of the interconnection between public knowledge, civil society and science—highlighting opportunities for funders to work together to: 1) convene stakeholders and mobilize resources across disciplines; and 2) strengthen dialogue, feedback loops and experimentation

National Capitol Columns

Truth from Noise
SEPTEMBER 26, 2017
Reflections on the Science, Journalism, and Democracy conference, which called attention to the goal that drives both scientists and journalists: separating signal from noise. “Throughout our lives, every day, our brains are rewiring themselves as they experience, adapt and learn. So too is the case of democracy.”

Person using telescope

How Philanthropy Can Fight a World of Alternative Facts
MAY 2, 2017
In The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Rita Allen Foundation President and CEO Elizabeth Good Christopherson calls for philanthropic action to support productive civic learning and dialogue grounded in science, evidence and truth. (subscription-only content)


A Few Reflections on the Challenges of Engaging Across Divisions
DECEMBER 21, 2016
Conversations with leaders in journalism, academia, philanthropy and social entrepreneurship, exploring themes of: listening and responding to communities’ priorities; experimenting with approaches to building engagement with science, media and the democratic process; and finding common ground across divisions of profession, experience, culture and geography

Public Lab "barnraising"

Finding the Questions that Matter
DECEMBER 21, 2016
The founder of the Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science (Public Lab) discusses how to define success in civic science, how to build and scale community engagement, and how to evaluate the group’s work and share its learning.