Prof. Dr. Ilan Chabay

Head of Incubator and Fellowship-Program
+49 331 28822-348


IASS Projects

  • Incubator, Fellowship, and KLASICA programs

Research Interests

  • My primary research interest is summarized by the mission of KLASICA: to identify and understand the conditions under which collective behavior change (CBC) toward just and equitable sustainable futures occurs or fails to occur in different scales and contexts and to use that understanding to advance solutions for and catalyze actions on pathways to sustainable futures. Two essential lenses of interest are the use of models as analytical tools for coping with complex systems and core narratives - condensed affective expressions – as reflections on society as it is or was and visions of ways toward desirable futures.
  • A second research interest in designing and creating experiences – e.g., augmented reality games – to engage people from diverse sectors of societies and cultures in activities that stimulate their interest in and understanding of how science uses models of complex socio-ecological systems. The purpose is not only to stimulate and nurture the understanding by stakeholders, but also to use empirical studies of their actions and dialogue in the games to understand their views, rationales, and heuristics.

Curriculum Vitae

  • Ilan Chabay is Head of Strategic Research Initiatives and International Fellowships at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies in Potsdam, Germany, where he has been since 2012. He is Chair of the KLASICA international knowledge, learning, and societal change research alliance ( based at IASS. He serves on the scientific advisory boards of several international programs on affordable energy for humanity, environmental systems research, social dimensions of creativity and innovation, and integrated risk governance. He collaborates with colleagues in Italy, Austria, and Denmark on multi-modal games for understanding social amplification of creativity and how it influences innovation for societal needs.
  • Ilan authored or co-authored 60 peer-reviewed articles in major journals in both social science and natural science, as well as reports, book chapters, and three patents. He was Professor in the Helmholtz Alliance Energy Trans program at Institute for Social Science (2012-2014) and Alcatel/Lucent Fellow (2014) in Communications Research, University of Stuttgart, Germany. He was elected Honorary Member of the Swiss Academy of Humanities and Social Sciences in May 2012, “in recognition of his manifold contributions to innovative forms for public understanding of science, as well as teaching and learning.” He was Erna and Victor Hasselblad Professor in the sociology and applied IT departments in Gothenburg and Chalmers Universities, Sweden (2006-2011). Ilan founded and directed the New Curiosity Shop, a workshop in Silicon Valley (1984-2001), where he led the design and production of interactive exhibitions and learning experiences for more than 230 museums, science centres, and corporations worldwide, including Disney Imagineering, and led educational projects for NASA. He was Associate Director of the Exploratorium Science Museum in San Francisco (1982-83), consulting professor of chemistry at Stanford (1984-88), and after receiving his Ph.D. in chemical physics from the Univ. of Chicago, he led research on non-linear optical spectroscopy at the National Institutes of Standards and Technology (1974-82), and has been a visiting professor in academic institutions in the US, Japan, India, and UK.

Selected Publications prior to joining the IASS

Peer-reviewed papers:

  • J. Helgeson, S. Dietz, I. Chabay, (2010) “Analyzing Preferences over Climate-Related Risks: Proposed Mental Models” in proceedings of the International Society for Ecological Economics, September, 2010.
  • C. Stöhr and I. Chabay, (2010) “Science and Participation in Governance of the Baltic Sea Fisheries,” Environmental Policy and Governance, 20(5) 350-363
  • I. Chabay (2010) “Voices at the table: participation, collaboration, and ownership in social-ecological issues” in Overcoming the Challenges of ‘Doing Participation’ in Environment and Development: Workshop Summary of Lessons Learned and Ways Forward, John Forrester and Åsa Gerger Swartling (eds), Stockholm Environmental Institute Working Papers, 2010.
  • C. Stöhr, O. Stepanova, I. Chabay, (2010): “Wissenschaft und Partizipation. Eine Fallstudie zum Fischereimanagement in der Ostsee.” In Halfmann, J., Morisse-Schilbach, M. (Ed.): Wissen, Wissenschaft und Global Commons. Konturen eines interdisziplinären Forschungsfeldes. Series: Internationale Beziehungen edited by DVPW Sektion Internationale Politik. Nomos, Baden-Baden.
  • I. Chabay (2010) “Learning, Knowing, and Behaving: Education and Adaptation to Global Change” in Glocal Environmental Education, Y. Himiyama, R. B. Singh, F. Kanda, J. Hindson, eds., Rawat Publications Jaipur, India 2010.
  • W. Ammann, I. Chabay, H. Gupta, G. McBean, V. Murray, “Reducing Disaster Risks through Science Issues and Actions: The Full Report of the ISDR Scientific and Technical Committee 2009” report for the UN Global Platform, Geneva, June 2009.
  • I. Chabay, “Connecting Visual Representation and Conceptual Understanding of Models of Complex Systems,” chapter in a book produced from the Dahlem Conference on Is There a Mathematics of Social Entities? December 2008, C. Jaeger and R. Klein, eds, Potsdam Climate Research Institute, Germany.
  • T. Hennes, I. Chabay, “From Looking Environment to Learning Environment: The Networked Aquarium of the 21st Century,” Marine Technology Society Journal, May, 2001.
  • I. Chabay, “Learning Science In and Beyond Museums,” Guest Editorial, Chemistry & Engineering News: 77(17), April 26, 1999 American Chemistry Society, Washington, DC.
  • I. Chabay, "Big Exhibits from Small Toys Grow (and Vice Versa)," in Sharing Science:  Issues in the Development of Interactive Science and Technology Centres, The Nuffield Foundation, London, 1989.
  • I. Chabay, "Flow Commotion and Crystal Spider: Translating Scientific Concepts into Hands-on Learning Devices," in Science Learning in the Informal Setting, Symposium Proceedings, P. G. Heltne, L. A. Marquardt, eds., Chicago Academy of Sciences, 1988.
  • I. Chabay, "Hands-on Science Exhibits for Teaching and Learning Science and Technology in Developing Countries," in Popularizing Science in Developing Countries Symposium Proceedings, AAAS national meeting, Los Angeles, May, 1985; edited by James Cornell, published through the International Science Writers Association, 1986.
  • R A Fletcher, I Chabay, D A Weitz, J C Chung, "Laser Desorption Mass Spectroscopy of Surface-Adsorbed Molecules," Chem. Phys. Lett. 104: 615 (1984).
  • I Chabay, " A Role in Chemical Education for Science Museums: Criteria for Development of Interactive Chemistry-Related Exhibits," Division of Chemical Education, American Chemical Society, March 1983.
  • I Chabay, "The Bigger They Are, the Harder They Fall: Aerosol Size Measurements by Doppler Shift Spectroscopy," in Measurement of Suspended Particles by Quasi-elastic Light Scattering, B Dahneke, editor, Wiley Interscience, NY (1983) [invited review].
  • I Chabay, "Optical Waveguides: Photon Plumbing in the Chemistry Lab: Fiber Optics, Waveguides, and Evanescent Waves as Tools for Chemical Analysis," Analytical Chemistry 54: 1071A (1982) [invited review].
  • I Chabay, "Observations on Scientific Research and the Research Environment at the Institute for Molecular Science in Okazaki, Japan," Scientific Bulletin of the Office of Naval Research, Tokyo 6: 48 (1981).
  • R Dornhaus, R E Benner, R K Chang, I Chabay, "Surface Plasmon Contribution to Surface Enhanced Raman Scattering (SERS)," Surface Science 101: 367 (1980).
  • R A Fletcher, D S Bright, I Chabay, "Low Reynolds Number Fluid Flow Induced by Settling Aerosol Particles as Measured by the Particle Doppler Shift Spectrometer," J. Phys. Chem. 84: 1611 (1980).
  • D S Bright, R A Fletcher, I Chabay, "Particle Doppler Shift Spectrometer: Accurate Size Determination of 5 - 15 Micrometer Aerosols," J. Phys. Chem. 84: 1607 (1980).
  • R A Fletcher, G W Mulholland, I Chabay, D S Bright, "Calibration of an Optical Particle Counter by Doppler Shift Spectrometry in the 4 - 8 Micrometer Range," J. Aerosol Sci. 11: 53 (1980).
  • J C Shaefer, I Chabay, "Generation of Enhanced Coherent Anti-Stokes Raman Spectroscopic (CARS) signals in Liquid-Filled Waveguides," Optics Letters 4: 227 (1979).
  • I Chabay, G J Rosasco, T Kashiwagi, "Species Specific Raman Spectroscopic Measurements of Concentrations in Unsteady Flow," J. Chem. Phys. 70: 4149 (1979).
  • D S Bright, I Chabay, "Measuring Aerosol Particles," Chemtech 9: 694 (1979) [invited review].
  • I Chabay, D S Bright, R A Fletcher, "Particle-Sizing Device for Research and Calibration," National Bureau of Standards DIMENSIONS, page 17, December, 1978.
  • I Chabay, G J Rosasco, T Kashiwagi, "FFT Analysis of Raman Intensities: A Probe of Concentration Fluctuations in Turbulent Flow," Proc. Sixth International Conf. On Raman Spectroscopy, (Bangalore, India, 1978); Schmid, et al, editors, Heyden and Son, Ltd., 2 516 (1978).
  • I Chabay, G J Rosasco, T Kashiwagi, "Non-Intrusive Technique Measures Concentration Fluctuation in Turbulent Gas Flow," National Bureau of Standards DIMENSIONS, page 22, April, 1978.
  • I Chabay, D S Bright, "Measurement of the Size Distribution of Liquid and Solid Aerosols by Doppler Shift Spectroscopy," J. Coll. Interface Sci. 63: 304 (1978).
  • I Chabay, G J Rosasco, E S Etz, "Alternative Techniques for Fiber Characterization: Particle Size Distribution Measurement by Doppler Shift Spectroscopy and Chemical Identification by Micro-Raman Spectroscopy," Proc. of FDA Symposium on Electron Microscopy of Microfibers, FDA Publication No. 77-1033, page 181 (1977).
  • I Chabay, "Measurement of Aerosol Size Distribution with a Particle Doppler Shift Spectrometer," National Bureau of Standards Special Publication 464: 175 (1977).
  • B S Hudson, W Heatherington, S Cramer, I Chabay, G K Klauminzer, "Resonance Enhanced Coherent Anti-Stokes Raman Scattering," Proc. Nat'l. Acad. Sci. 73: 3798 (1976).
  • I Chabay, G K Klauminzer, B S Hudson, "Coherent Anti-Stokes Raman Spectroscopy (CARS): Improved Experimental Design and Observation of New Higher Order Processes," Appl. Phys. Lett. 28: 27 (1976).
  • I Chabay, G Holzwarth, "Infrared Circular Dichroism and Linear Dichroism Spectrometer," Appl. Opt. 14: 454 (1975).
  • I Chabay, "Rapid Measurement of Droplet Size Distributions by Optical Heterodyne Spectroscopy," National Bureau of Standards Special Publication 412: 65 (1974).
  • J P Gollub, I Chabay, W H Flygare, "Laser Heterodyne Study of Water Droplet Growth," J. Chem. Phys. 61: 2139 (1974).
  • J P Gollub, I Chabay, W H Flygare, "Optical Heterodyne Measurement of Cloud Droplet Size Distributions," Appl. Opt. 12: 2838 (1973).
  • G Holzwarth, I Chabay, N A W Holzwarth, "Infrared Circular Dichroism and Linear Dichroism of Liquid Crystals," J. Chem. Phys. 58: 4816 (1973).
  • I Chabay, "Absorption and Scattering Circular Dichroism of Cholesteric Liquid Crystals in the Infrared," Chem. Phys. Lett. 17: 283 (1972).
  • G Holzwarth, I Chabay, "Optical Activity of Vibrational Transitions: A Coupled Oscillator Model," J. Chem. Phys. 57: 1632 (1972).
  • I Chabay, E C Hsu, G Holzwarth, "Infrared Circular Dichroism Measurement Between 2000 and 5000 cm-1: Pr+3 Tartrate Complexes," Chem. Phys. Lett. 15: 211 (1972).


  • K. Keil, I. Chabay, T. Wiertz, “Engaging Stakeholders in Interdependent Arctic and Global Change: Developing the SMART Research Project” IASS Working Paper, April 2014
  • A. Serra, J. D. Tàbara, I. Chabay, “Assessing the role of vertical and horizontal communication in disaster risk reduction learning and planning: The case of the Spanish Tous dam-break, 1982” Report for the UN ISDR for mid-term review of the Hyogo Framework for Action, December 2010.
  • I. Chabay, J. David Tabara, Chrisitian Pohl “A new vision of knowledge systems” report for forward look “Responses to Environmental and Societal Challenges for our Unstable Earth” (RESCUE) for the European Science Foundation & COST, April 2010.
  • I. Chabay, B. Siebenhüner, J. van Eijndhoven, M. Schreurs “Earth Systems Governance from the Perspective of the Knowledge, Learning, and Societal Change IHDP Initiative” IHDP UPDATE November 2009
  • I. Chabay, C. Stöhr, O. Stepanova, Report to the Baltic Sea 2020 Foundation, Sweden, May 2008: “Facilitating Governance of Baltic Seas Fisheries By Improving Communication Among Stakeholders”
  • I. Chabay “From Research to Social Change: The Case of Ecosystem Services” in IHDP UPDATE extra edition, August 2008
  • O. Stepanova, C. Stöhr, I. Chabay, Report for Vetenskapsrådet (Swedish Research Council), January, 2008: “Scientists’ Engagement in Public Communication of Science in Sweden: A preliminary study of motivations, incentives, and practices”
  • I. Chabay and M. Letell, Report written at the request of the Swedish Research Council, Vetenskapsrådet, December 2006: “National Strategies for Public Science Communication: Sweden’s approach in light of strategies adopted by other countries”
  • I Chabay, “Build A Working Model of the Internet in Your Classroom – No Computer Needed!” a hands-on, minds-on technology activity for K – 12 schools, on web site of National Academy of Engineering (USA) for National Engineering Week, 2002
  • Chabay, B. Friedman "Frozen Bubbles: A Chemistry Experiment for Elementary, Secondary, and College Students" A teacher's guide to a hands-on chemistry, physics, & biology exhibit, The New Curiosity Shop, 1987.
  • F Oppenheimer, I Chabay, R Semper, "Proposal for the Development of Regional Exhibit-Based Teacher Training Centers Located in Public Science Centers and Museums," written testimony, National Science Board Commission on Precollege Education in Mathematics, Science, and Technology, March 26, 1983
  • I Chabay, F Oppenheimer, "Testimony before [US] House Subcommittee on Elementary, Secondary, and Vocational Education," Congressional Record, September 30, 1982

Further Information

  • Member of Advisory Board, University of Kassel, Germany Center for Environmental Systems Research (2016 - )
  • Scientific Advisory Board of “Affordable Energy for Humanity” program of the Waterloo Global Science Initiative and Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (2015 - )
  • Chair, KREYON Scientific Advisory Board ( - an action research project on social dimensions of creativity and innovation (2015 - )
  • Member of Advisory Board, ZIRIUS Center for Interdisciplinary Risk and Innovation Studies, University of Stuttgart, Germany (2012 - )
  • Honorary Member, Swiss Academy of Humanities and Social Sciences (2012 - )
  • Member, Global Climate Forum ( (2012 - )
  • Scientific Steering Committee, Future Earth Integrated Risk Governance Project (2010 - )

Selected Lectures and Speeches

Selected invited and keynote lectures delivered since 2012:

  • Para Limes Symposium, Complexity Science Program, Nanyang Technologic University, Singapore invited lecture on “Behavioral Causality — Anthropocene Reality: Collective behavior change toward sustainable futures in the Anthropocene Era” March 2017
  • Research Institutes for Humanity and Nature, Kyoto, Japan,: invited keynote in final synthesis conference off ILEK project, “Sources and Uses of knowledge in co-designing Arctic sustainable futures” January 2017
  • American Geophysical Union conference, San Francisco, CA invited keynote for session on climate change in the Arctic, “Decision making for sustainable futures in a rapidly changing Arctic” December 2016
  • Center for Environmental Systems Research workshop, Kassel Germany “Using multi-mode games to explore complexity in the SDGs” October 2016
  • International Climate Alliance annual conference keynote, Krems, Austria “Learning Our Way Toward Just And Sustainable Futures” October 2016
  • Future Earth International Webinar on the Transformations Knowledge Action Network (TKAN) “Collective Behavior Change: the KLASICA action research agenda” June 2016
  • National Taiwan Normal University, Taipei “Understanding And Enabling Collective Behavior Change Toward Just and Equitable Sustainable Futures” May 2016
  • Research Institutes for Humanity and Nature, Tokyo strategic symposium: keynote “Researching Pathways To Sustainable Futures With And For Stakeholders” March 2016
  • Technische Universität, Berlin “Linking Social And Technical Innovation For Sustainable Futures” December 2015
  • IIASA Laxenburg, Austria “Making Meaning and Making Decisions For Sustainable Futures In The Eurasian Arctic” December 2015
  • University of Rome - La Sapienza “Nurturing Curiosity, Collaboration, And Creativity Across Disciplinary Silos” September 2015
  • Caux Dialogues on Land and Security, Caux, Switzerland: facilitated workshop on “Diverse Knowledge Systems For Governance of Sustainable Land Use” July 2015
  • Hochschule für Gestaltung, Schwäbisch Gmünd, Germany “Designing for Sustainability: linking curiosity, creativity, and innovation” May 2015
  • Tokyo University of Science “Science, Communication, and Sustainable Futures: we need more than the best science and technology”
  • Extreme Events and Environments From Climate to Society (E3S) workshop, Berlin, Germany “Stakeholders and Collaboration in Global Change Research” March 2015
  • Future Earth webinar presentation “ArcticSTAR: Solution Oriented Transdisciplinary Research for a Sustainable Arctic” with V. Faye McNeill (Columbia University), February 2015
  • IASS Climate Engineering summer course “Engaging Stakeholders In Decision Making At Multiple Scales And Levels in the contested discourse on geo- and climate engineering” Potsdam Germany August 2014
  • International Sociological Association Annual Conference, “Socio-Ecological Risks and Governance of Resource Extraction in the Eurasian Arctic and Global Feedback Loops” with Kathrin Keil and J. David Tàbara, Yokohama, Japan July 2014
  • Potsdam Summer School on Sustainability: “The Arctic in the Anthropocene” Potsdam, Germany June, July 2014
  • Land Ocean Interactions In The Coastal Zone (LOICZ-Future Coasts) scientific steering committee meeting, “Enabling Societal Change Through Rigorous Science + Mutual Learning: Using rigorous science with stakeholder engagement to enable transformations toward a sustainable future” Hamburg, Germany May 2014
  • Alcatel-Lucent Foundation Masters course together with Professor Ortwin Renn on linking science communication with the challenges of finding pathways toward sustainable futures for all, University of Stuttgart, Germany May 2014
  • Climate Services Center annual conference at Potsdam Institute for Climate Research (PIK) “Enabling societal change through mutual learning processes” Potsdam, Germany February 2014
  • Habib University, Climate Change Conference, “Scientific Information, Narrative Visions, And Global Challenges In Local Contexts” Karachi, Pakistan January 2014
  • TERI University “Developing linked research and educational strategies for the Anthropocene Era” New Delhi, India January 2014
  • Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities (BBAW) keynote address for high level workshop on Intercultural Comparison of the Understanding of Science and Technology in Selected Countries: “Strengthening Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math Education In Light of Global Challenges” Berlin, Germany December 2013
  • EPFL Center on Risk Analysis and Governance (CRAG) & International Risk Governance Council (IRGC) symposium, “Engaging The Public In Energy Issues: Design of a new exhibition on energy transition, smart grids, and sustainability” Lausanne, Switzerland November 2013
  • Santa Fe Institute & International Institute for Applied System Analysis (IIASA) workshop, “Narratives For Societal Transformation Toward Sustainability”, Santa Fe, New Mexico October 2013
  • University of Zürich Global Change & Biodiversity retreat, “Thinking Across Boundaries: on transdisciplinary global change research” Switzerland September 2013
  • Caux Dialogue on Land and Security, Switzerland “On Land, Information, and Sustainable Provisioning of Humanity” Caux Switzerland July 2013
  • IASS/PIK Global Sustainability Summer School, “Stakeholders, Context, and Conflict” Potsdam, Germany July 2013
  • Japan Science & Technology Agency, Tokyo, “Knowledge Systems For Sustainability: Challenges In Providing Food For Humanity” May 2013
  • Tokyo University of Science, “Models, narratives, and social innovation for a more sustainable future” May 2013
  • Mote Marine Laboratory, Sarasota, FL research conference on Integrated Environmental and Local Knowledge for Sustainable Governance of the Commons (ILEK), “Reflections on ILEK Research Projects In The Context Of The Knowledge, Learning, and Societal Change (KLSC) Alliance” May 2013
  • Association of Polar Early Career Scientists workshop at Arctic Science Summit Week, Krakow, Poland “Inter-, multi-, and trans-disciplinary research in the Anthropocene era: Addressing complex systemic challenges in which we humans are inherently significant actors in the system” April 2013
  • Global System Dynamics and Policy Conference, Brussels. Narratives session co-organizer and presenter “The Role of Models And Narratives In Global Systems Science” November 2012
  • Berlin Conference on the Human Dimensions of Global Environmental Change, Berlin member of scientific advisory committee and chair of session on Co-Production of Knowledge October 2012
  • National Taiwan Normal University, Taipei Symposium on Climate Change and Sustainability Literacy keynote lecture “Finding Our Way Toward Future Earth: Issues, Methods, and Collaborations” September 2012
  • Research Institute For Humanity and Nature, Kyoto, Japan, workshop on Integrating Local and Environmental Knowledge Project (ILEK), keynote “Making Models, Telling Stories, And Changing Behaviors In The Context Of The ILEK Project” July 2012
  • International Council for Science (ICSU) and International Social Science Council (ISSC) workshop on Transdisciplinary Intercultural Ecological Research, Friedrich Schiller University, keynote address “Providing Options, Inspiring Actions: Models and Narratives For A Sustainable Future.” June 2012
  • Center for Environmental Systems Research, University of Kassel, Germany “Providing Options, Inspiring Actions: Models and Narratives For A Sustainable Future” June 2012
  • Institute for Science, Innovation and Society, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK “Making models, telling stories, and changing behaviors toward a more sustainable future” May 2012
  • Tokyo University of Science, University lecture “Science, Innovation, and Society: Creating Pathways To A Sustainable Future.” April 2012
  • Research Institute For Humanity and Nature, Kyoto, Japan kickoff symposium for new international trandisciplinary project, keynote lecture “Knowledge, Learning, and Societal Change: Finding Paths To A Sustainable Future For All” April 2012
  • Planet Under Pressure conference, London, organizer and chair of session on “Building Capacity For Sustainability By Learning To Model Nature and Society” March 2012
  • Planet Under Pressure conference, London, organizer and co-chair with Sander van der Leeuw of session on “Collective Action For The Transition To A Sustainable Society: Building The Research And Action Agenda” March 2012
  • Baltic Sea 2020 Foundation, Stockholm, “Formation, Operation, and Outcomes of the Polish Fisheries Roundtable” February 2012
  • US National Science Foundation and the Center for the Advancement for Informal Science Education symposium on Sustainability Science Education and Informal Science Education, Ballston Virginia, “Models and Narratives in Transitioning To A Sustainable Future For All” February 2012

Honors and Awards

  • Elected Honorary Member of the Swiss Academy of Humanities and Social Sciences, May 2012, “in recognition of his manifold contributions to innovative forms of public understanding of science as well as teaching and learning.”
  • Appointed Erna and Victor Hasselblad Professor of Public Learning and Understanding of Science 2006-2011 in the Sociology Department at the University of Gothenburg and in Applied information technology at Chalmers University, Gothenburg, Sweden.
  • American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), 1999: Alan B. Leviton Award for “Outstanding achievement in the science education of children and youth.” The award cited the creativity, artistry, playfulness, and scientific integrity of Ilan’s work and his long-standing commitment to science education.
  • Three patents awarded for games and toys based on scientific phenomena.
  • National Research Council & National Bureau of Standards (now National Institutes of Standards and Technology) Postdoctoral Fellowship Gaithersburg, MD, 1974 – 1975.
  • National Institutes of Health Postdoctoral Fellowship in Biophysical Chemistry, Chemistry Department, University of Illinois, Urbana, 1972 – 1974.


Prof. Dr. Ilan Chabay