Our History

The Idea


The Science Ambassadors Program was a brainchild of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering, which created the program to empower local communities to incorporate expert knowledge into decision making.

The program’s initial focus was energy. True the model established by the Academies in their role as the premier source of independent, objective expert advice on science issues, the program would engage local opinion leaders in discussions about energy through:

  • a rich network of the best and brightest scientific and technical minds;

  • a focus on the most pressing challenges facing the region, the nation, and the world;

  • a rigorous, meticulous, evidence-based approach;

  • a steadfast commitment to integrity and independence.


To those, the Ambassadors program added another feature: extensive communication training for our science experts to help make complex technical issues relevant and accessible to local decision makers.

Informing Pittsburgh’s energy conversations


After a national search, the Academies selected Pittsburgh as the place to pilot the program, with the first events rolling out in the Fall of 2013. Pittsburgh stands out for its commitment to being a leader in energy issues, its world-class universities and federal research labs, as well as its strong public/private partnerships. Together these strengths position Pittsburgh to become a hub of innovation and a test-bed for tomorrow’s energy solutions.

The program supports a knowledge network of over 30 Ambassadors doing groundbreaking research at the region’s universities and national labs, as well as broad community partnerships with local government, industry, community groups, nonprofits, and foundations. Our events convene hundreds of people yearly across diverse sectors. Interactive by design, they focus on creating a shared foundation of knowledge that supports dialogue, consensus-building, and informed decision making.

After guiding the program through its pilot phase, the Academies turned over responsibility for its management and support to Pittsburgh institutions dedicated to ensuring that the program’s activities would continue to serve the needs and interests of the local community.