Building Robust & Inclusive Democracy

Civic Science Initiative

The Civic Science Initiative at Tisch College seeks to repair the disconnection between the institution of science and the publics it means to serve. Rooted in the theoretical traditions of political philosophy; science, technology, and society (STS); and critical theory, Civic Science at Tufts investigates this rift between science and the public, and then aims to find practical ways to intervene. These interventions happen at multiple scales: in the classroom, through interdisciplinary partnerships across the university, through public-facing writing and communication, and through networks of community engagement including a partnership with the Charles F. Kettering Foundation.

Our Civic Science initiative aims to reframe the ways that key participants - scientists, the public, the media, institutions of higher education, and other stakeholders - can impact the national dialogue at the intersections of civics and science by:

  • Reconfiguring the national conversation on divisive and complex issues that are both scientific and political in nature, thereby connecting scientific institutions, research, and publications to people’s values, beliefs, and choices.
  • Defining and advancing the public good in science, thereby finding ways for scientific institutions to better serve communities and human needs.
  • Developing curricula that simultaneously attend to scientific and civic issues and that teach students to understand and communicate both kinds of narratives together to a variety of audiences.
  • Developing approaches to democratic governance that are attuned to the role of the scientific enterprise in society.
  • Asking what it would mean to earn the trust of communities that have been historically marginalized by the institution of science, and what science would look like if this was a priority.

The Civic Science Initiative at Tisch College is led by Dr. Peter Levine and Dr. Samantha Fried. Our collaborator at the Kettering Foundation in Dayton, OH, is Dr. Nicholas Felts. Tufts professor Jonathan Garlick, whose main appointment is in the Dental School, has been an important collaborator.

Learn More About Civic Science

Peter Levine

Peter Levine is the Academic Dean and Lincoln Filene Professor of Citizenship & Public Affairs in Tufts University’s Jonathan Tisch College of Civic Life. He has tenure in Tufts’ Political Science Department and secondary appointments in the Tufts Philosophy Department and the Tufts Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute. He directs the Civic Studies Major at Tufts. Levine holds a PhD in philosophy and is interested in conceptual and normative issues involving science in a democracy. He has conducted extensive empirical research on civic engagement and advocated for changes in civic education in the USA and other countries. He is the author of We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For: The Promise of Civic Renewal in America (Oxford University Press, 2013)five other scholarly books on philosophy and politics, and a novel.

Samantha Fried

Samantha Fried is the program manager of the Science, Technology, and Society (STS) program at Tufts. Samantha holds a PhD in STS from Virginia Tech. While in graduate school, she was student body president, and belonged to an interdisciplinary program in Remote Sensing (the measurement of distant materials, typically using satellites or drones). Educated in two different worlds that share little in terms of jargon, theories, or methodologies, she learned to think about the connections between these spaces in terms of shared values. Her dissertation and continuing work examine the development of Earth remote sensing technologies, and how this context has shaped our notions of collective action on environmental data. Her research seeks to reconfigure critical theory, action-based coalition-building, and Earth remote sensing technologies around a commitment to civic science.

Christian Ross

Christian H. Ross is a Postdoctoral Fellow in Civic Science in the Tisch College of Civic Life studying the roles of scientific expertise, responsibility, and public engagement in understanding the rightful place of science in democracy. His research shows how democratically motivated commitments to greater public engagement with science can reinforce the decision-making authority of scientific experts in undemocratic ways. He argues instead that public engagement must be part of a more comprehensive framework of responsible and publicly accountable science. Before coming to Tufts, he was a Science, Technology & Society Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School and trained as a scientist as a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow. He earned his doctorate in 2021 from Arizona State University in biology, synthesizing interdisciplinary expertise science and technology studies (STS), science policy, and history of science. He also holds a B.S. in medicinal biochemistry and M.S. in biology from Arizona State University.

Tufts Courses Related to Civic Science

These are taught frequently but not necessarily offered in any given semester:

  • CVS 0015-01/PHIL 0045-01 “War and Terrorism” (Lionel McPherson)
  • CVS 0016/PHIL 0025-01 “Food Ethics” (Sigrun Svavarsdottir)
  • CVS 0020/PHIL 0020/PS 0020 “Introduction to Civic Studies” (Erin Kelly, Peter Levine, Brian Schaffner, and/or Ioannis D. Evrigenis)
  • CVS 0032/CHSD 0034-01/ENV34 “Children, Nature and the Development of Earth Stewards” (George Scarlett)
  • CVS 0110/ENG 176/PJS 176, “Earth Matters” (Elizabeth Ammons) 
  • CVS 0111/ENG 0160-01 “Environmental Justice & World Literature (Modhumita Roy alternating with Elizabeth Ammons)
  • CVS 0113/UEP 285-01 “Food Justice: Critical Approaches in Policy and Planning” (Julian Agyeman)
  • CVS 0123/Math 164 “The Mathematics of Poverty and Inequality” (Bruce Boghosian)
  • CVS 0145/ENV 120 “Introduction to Environmental Fieldwork” (John de la Parra, others)
  • CVS 0151-02/SOC 149-05 “(Mis)information and Democracy” (Sarah Sobieraj)
  • CVS 0151-05/CSHD 113/FMS 55 “Media Literacy” Julie Dobrow
  • CVS 0174/UEP 278 “Environmental Justice, Security, and Sustainability” (Penn Loh)
  • CVS 0181/ENV 150 “Environment, Communications, and Culture” (Ninian Stein)
  • CVS 0210/UEP 0286 “Environmental Ethics” (Sheldon Krimsky)
  • CVS 0251-02/UEP 294-02 “Communications and Media for Policy and Planning” (Penn Loh)
  • OTS 202 “Bioethics in Practice” (Keren Ladin)
  • CVS 0245-01/CTS 0549-01 “Health Care Activism, Community Health, and Patient-Centered Research” (Thomas Concannon, Carolyn Rubin and Peter Levine) 


The Civic Science Initiative, a part of Tisch College, works with partners to advance its mission, including: