The History of NCSE

Celebrating 30 Years in Service to Science and the Environment


1990: Committee for the National Institute for the Environment (CNIE) is formed. CNIE was formed as a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization with a mission for the U.S. Congress to establish the National Institute of the Environment (NIE). The proposed NIE was envisioned as a standalone federal funding agency, roughly based on the structure of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

1992: EnvironMentors is incorporated as a program area of NCSE. EnvironMentors is a science education and national college access program with a mission to mentor and motivate high school students from communities underrepresented in the sciences as they plan and conduct environmental research and acquire skills that will allow them to build careers and become more active stewards of their communities and the environment. Since 1992, the program has paired over 2,000 high school students with mentors through its network of chapters throughout the country.

EnvironMentors students that participated in the 2019 National Fair
EnvironMentors students that traveled to D.C. and participated in the 2019 National Fair.

1993: The bipartisan bill to create the NIE is introduced in the House, but did not pass. 

1997: Committee for the National Institute for the Environment (CNIE) is renamed the National Council for Science and the Environment to better reflect this mission and adopted a new strategic plan to implement those NIE-related activities.

2000: The inaugural NCSE Annual Conference, named the “National Conference on Science, Policy, and the Environment,” initiated the John H. Chafee Memorial Lecture in honor of the late senator from Rhode Island. The lecture honored Drs. Sherwood Rowland and Mario Molina who shared the 1995 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their discovery of stratospheric ozone depletion from chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).

2001: Maurice F. Strong receives the first NCSE Lifetime Achievement Award.

2007: Inaugural Executive Director Larry Brilliant presents the Chafee Lecture at this year’s Annual Conference.

2009: E.O. WIlson, Harvard professor and world renowned biodiversity champion, receives our Lifetime Achievement Award.

Rita Colwell and E.O. Wilson
From left to right: longstanding NCSE Board Director Rita Colwell with the NCSE Lifetime Achievement Award recipients George Rabb and E.O. Wilson at the 9th National Conference.

2010: NCSE releases its first research report titled, “Interdisciplinary Environmental Education on the Nation’s Campuses: Elements of Field Identity and Curriculum Design.”

2010: Longstanding NCSE Senior Scientist David Blockstein releases the book “The Climate Solutions Consensus” as an outcome of NCSE’s 8th National Conference that focused on the theme Climate Change: Science and Solutions. 

2011: Sylvia Earle receives the NCSE Lifetime Achievement Award at the NCSE 11th National Conference on Science, Policy, and the Environment.

2017: NCSE redesigns its logo. ​The current logo seeks to better reflect our 30 years of work and the critical new initiatives we will be embarking on in the future. The blue orb in the logo symbolizes our common planet, the subject of the NCSE mission. The nodes and connections within represent NCSE’s diverse membership and community, and the collaborative nature of our work and leadership.

2018: NCSE expands the reach of its initiatives through a global partnership with Long Island University (LIU) to advance the shared priority of work on science policy internationally.

2018: NCSE begins a new partnership with Project Drawdown, a global nonprofit organization working to identify strategies that can reverse global warming whose work is based on the book Drawdown which catalogs 100 comprehensive solutions utilizing existing technologies and knowledge. The joint initiative translates and develops the 100 solutions outlined in Drawdown into curriculum templates that can be used across disciplines on college and university campuses to make the solutions outlined in Drawdown more accessible to faculty and administrators in higher education.

2019: NCSE launches resilience initiative to work with universities, local governments, and other organizational partners to develop resources and strategies to better prepare for and recover from disruptive events.

2020: 30th anniversary of the National Council for Science and the Environment and the 20th anniversary of the Annual Conference.