Prof. Dr. Ilan Chabay

Senior Fellow
+49 331 28822-348



  • Sustainable Interactions with the Atmosphere (SIWA)

Curriculum Vitae

  • 2012 - present: Senior Fellow at IASS Potsdam
  • 2012 - 2014: Professor in Helmholtz Alliance Energy-Trans, Dept. of Social Science & Technology Assessment, University of Stuttgart
  • 2014: Alcatel/Lucent Fellow in Communications Research, International Center for Technology and Culture (IZKT), University of Stuttgart
  • 2006-2011: Erna & Victor Hasselblad Professor of Public Learning and Understanding of Science in the Dept. of Applied Technology, Chalmers Univ. of Technology and Dept. of Sociology, Univ. of Gothenburg
  • 2003-2006: NASA Office of Space Science, Washington, DC and JPL, Pasadena, CA: Member of Leadership and Planning Group for Education and Director of Design Team for NASA’s Science Educational Framework
  • 1983-2006 Founder and President of the New Curiosity Shop® (a design and production workshop, not a store!), Mountain View and Redwood City, CA, USA: Design, development, and production of interactive exhibitions and learning experiences for more than 200 museums, science centers, government agencies, and corporations in 16 countries, including Disney Epcot, Chinese Association for Science & Technology, Smithsonian Institution, and NASA; developing science communication and innovative learning programs, games, and inquiry/experiential learning workshops for teachers; expanding public dialogues on science-society issues in diverse communities.
  • 1984-1988: Stanford University, CA: Consulting Professor of Chemistry
  • 1982-1983: The Exploratorium science museum, San Francisco, CA: Associate Director
  • 1976-1982: National Institutes of Standards and Technology: Senior Research Scientist and Project Leader: developed innovative measurement capabilities in chemical physics, non-linear laser Raman spectroscopy, and scanning micro-Raman spectroscopy.
  • 1974-1976: National Research Council & National Bureau of Standards (now called National Institutes of Standards and Technology, NIST) Postdoctoral Fellowship
  • 1972-1974: National Institutes of Health Postdoctoral fellowship in Biophysical Chemistry: developed inelastic light scattering and Doppler shift measurements of single particles.
  • 1972: awarded a Ph.D. in chemical physics, University of Chicago on design, construction, theory, and measurements of the world’s first circular dichroism instrument operating in the infrared region of the spectrum

Research Interests

My work is centered on understanding the interplay between knowledge production and systems, learning processes, and individual and collective actions at multiple temporal and spatial scales and governance levels. This is also the mandate of the International Alliance on Knowledge, Learning, and Societal Change (, which I chair. KLSC encompasses the examination of both individual and collective behavior change and as emergent and facilitated change. My particular focus in this framework is on understanding decision making and behavioral change through the lenses of modeling and narratives as analytical and affective components respectively of decision making on complex systems issues and using the understanding in facilitating or catalyzing societal transitions to sustainable practices.

At IASS Dr. Kathrin Keil and I lead a multi-disciplinary team on the SMART project (Sustainable Modes of Arctic Resource-driven Transformations). Our aim is to create stakeholder-relevant scenarios with plausible sets of options and consequences for use by stakeholders at multiple institutional levels and geographic scales leading to more effective governance and improved Arctic and global sustainable policies and practices. The project examines ecological, social, legal, and economic transformations in the Arctic regions, which are enabled by climate change and driven by demand for resource extraction and utilization primarily from non-Arctic areas. Our primary focus is on fossil fuel extraction in the European and western Russian Arctic and on identifying and understanding the feedback loops between Arctic and non-Arctic regions of the world, particularly those linked to demand for energy resources from Germany and other parts of Europe, as well as from Asia. This project is being conducted as a transdisciplinary research process, i.e., an interdisciplinary, iterative mutual learning process that engages with a broad range of rights- and stakeholder groups throughout the research process.


Selected Publications prior to joining the IASS

  • J. Helgeson, S. Dietz, I. Chabay, “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, “Science and Participation in Governance of the Baltic Sea Fisheries,” Environmental Policy and Governance, 20(5) 350-363, 2010.
  • I. Chabay, “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.
  • 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 International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) for mid-term review of the Hyogo Framework for Action, 2010.

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.”
  • American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), 1999: First recipient of the 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.

Member of

  • Science Committee of the International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change ( 2008-2014
  • Chair of the research and action alliance of IHDP on “Knowledge, Learning, and Societal Change in the Transition to a Sustainable Future.” 2011-2021
  • Global Climate Forum ( 2010-
  • Board of Trustees, Aspen Science Center, Aspen, CO 2011-2014
  • Chair of the IHDP Special Task Force on Governance and Communication, 2009-2010
  • Science & Technical Committee of the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction ( 2008-2012
  • Member of European Panel on Sustainable Development (EPSD) - Early Childhood Education network, 2009-2010
  • Chair of scientific program committee for 2008 biannual international conference on Public Communication of Science and Technology, PCST-10 in Malmö, Sweden and Copenhagen, Denmark, 2008