Student Pugwash USA

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Student Pugwash USA
Founded 1979
Founders Jeffrey Leifer
Type Public charity in the United States of America
Focus Ethics; STEM; Social responsibility
Origins Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs
Area served
United States of America
Product Workshops, Conferences, Student Chapters, Multimedia, Fellowships
Method Student involvement
Key people
Jeffrey Leifer, Founder; Alan McGowan, Emeritus Board Chair; Sharlissa Moore, Board Chair; Kyle Gracey, President
Slogan "Learn to think in a new way."

Student Pugwash USA engages students to promote the socially responsible use of science and technology in the 21st century. The organization uses a chapter-based model on U.S. college campuses, in addition to other student-focused events run by the national Board of Directors. The student members discuss the ethical, social and global implications of advances in these fields and explore the pursuit of socially responsible careers involving science and technology. SPUSA is the U.S. affiliate of International Student/Young Pugwash and the US student affiliate of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, recipients of the 1995 Nobel Peace Prize.

As an educational nonprofit organization, SPUSA does not adopt advocacy positions on policy or political issues or candidates. The organization posits that, in order to create effective social change, students must first understand the issues at stake, then contemplate their ethical and moral responsibility to themselves and to society as a whole. Its stated purpose is not to advance a particular ethical viewpoint regarding scientific and technological issues, but rather to encourage students to consider ethics when thinking about the role of science and technology in society.


SPUSA was founded in 1979 by UC San Diego student Jeffrey Leifer, with the fundamental belief that young people play a vital role in determining the socially responsible application of science and technology. In 1955 Albert Einstein, Bertrand Russell, and other eminent scientists issued a manifesto urging scientists to "think in a new way" about their moral responsibilities in the nuclear age. In 1957, the first Pugwash Conference was held in Pugwash, Nova Scotia, bringing together some of the greatest scientific minds to address nuclear weapons issues and the social responsibility of scientists. SPUSA strives to convene the next generation of scientists around today's parallel issues.

SPUSA is the US student affiliate of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, recipients of the 1995 Nobel Peace Prize, and the U.S.A. affiliate of the International Student/Young Pugwash.

A long-standing icon of the organization has been Albert Einstein, for his commitment to advancing both science and its peaceful use. Another icon is Professor Joseph Rotblat, who was the co-founder of Pugwash and the only scientist to leave the Manhattan Project, refusing to work further on the atomic bomb after the Nazis were defeated. In response to Rotblat's call for an ethical Hippocratic Oath for scientists, Student Pugwash created a student pledge, calling young scientists to make a personal commitment to use science and technology in a socially responsible way. In 1999, Student Pugwash initiated the Joseph Rotblat Lecture on Science and Social Responsibility in honor of Rotblat's pioneering life dedicated to the responsible use of science.

Following a decrease in revenue related to the late 2000s recession, the organization returned to its student-run founding with former student board members Sharlissa Moore and Kyle Gracey leading the rebuilding.

Mission and activities[edit]

The mission of Student Pugwash USA is "to promote social responsibility in science and technology." It seeks to achieve this by:

  • "examining the societal impacts of science and technology;
  • creating open and objective forums for debate;
  • fostering the exchange of ideas among diverse communities;
  • exploring solutions to current dilemmas in science and technology; and
  • cultivating the analytical skills needed to address future challenges."

Activities have included regional, national and international conferences, speaker events at campuses through a national chapter network, and compilation of issue briefs on scientific and technical issues of social importance. Student Pugwash also maintains a student email list, a web log covering the ethical intersection of science and technology policy, and a database of socially responsible employers.

A science and technology election guide for the 2004 U.S. presidential election was profiled in the journal Science. This project was continued with the launch of From Electrons to Elections, a science and technology policy guide to the 2008 and 2012 elections. From Electrons to Elections is a non-partisan resource designed to educate young voters on science, technology, and health issues and provide them with the platforms of the leading political candidates on these subjects.


To encourage commitment to socially responsible applications of science and technology, Student Pugwash USA offers the following pledge for individuals to sign:

"I promise to work for a better world, where science and technology are used in socially responsible ways. I will not use my education for any purpose intended to harm human beings or the environment. Throughout my career, I will consider the ethical implications of my work before I take action. While the demands placed upon me may be great, I sign this declaration because I recognize that individual responsibility is the first step on the path to peace."


Board of Directors[edit]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]