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.

For more information about our current Civic Science Fellows as well as additional resources, please visit  


Civic Science Fellows Program

To catalyze widespread engagement with science and its societal implications, a partnership of civic institutions, media organizations, scientific associations, researchers, and foundations is coming together to create a new program, the Civic Science Fellowship.

The Fellowship embeds emerging leaders from diverse backgrounds in organizations working at the many interfaces of science and society. Fellows work on a variety of multidisciplinary projects that connect civic science research with evidence-based practice, and scientists with communities. Projects might include, for example, creating innovative media, designing approaches for community engagement, and investigating best practices for working with specific populations. Fellows also create connections and shared resources to strengthen the development of a culture of civic science across many types of networks. Read more.


The second Civic Science Fellows cohort will launch in September 2021. As positions open for applications, they are posted on the Civic Science Fellows website

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.

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



The Power of We: New Faces, New Voices, and a New Civic Science Fellowship
APRIL 29, 2019
A reflection on the power of co-production and diverse collaboration within science as well as philanthropy as the foundation for a new multidisciplinary program focused on advancing larger goals at the intersection of science and civic life—the Civic Science Fellows


Informal learningLearning 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




Civic Science Resources for COVID-19
In response to the coronavirus pandemic, a collection of resources created and recommended by members of the civic science network to support shared learning and action.

Civic Science Resources
A collection of resources curated by Civic Science Fellows, host organizations, and resource partners as a starting point for learning more about civic science in research and practice. The Rita Allen Foundation and others support the Civic Science Fellows program for diverse leaders working to co-create inclusive connections between science and civic life.

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

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.)

The Oxford Handbook of The Science of Science Communication
A collection of essays from thought leaders and scholars covering a wide range of topics for advocates of science engagement such as the role of media and elite intermediaries in communicating science as well as overcoming challenges in the field. Elizabeth Good Christopherson also discusses how philanthropic foundations can support the case for science communication and integrate these goals with current strategic initiatives.

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