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A Service of the Science and Environmental Health Networkand the Environmental Research Foundation

The Precaution Academy is an intensive weekend of training to prepare you to apply precautionary thinking to a wide range of issues in your community and workplaces such as public health, poverty, injustice, education, housing, urban sprawl, and toxic chemicals.

Sessions treat specific problems that participants identify. Speakers from the Science and Environmental Health Network (SEHN), leading proponents of the precautionary principle, and the Environmental Research Foundation (ERF), publisher of the Rachel’s s on democracy and precaution, present precautionary theory and methods and lead discussion on applications.

SEHN and ERF work with a local host on exact format, agenda, and audiences. The host is also responsible for arranging facilities and logistics. General guidelines:


  • The most effective Academies are geared to a geographic area such as a municipality, state, or ecological region.
  • It is up to the host to generate publicity and assemble the participants. Rachel’ss will also publicize the Academy if the host agrees.
  • A minimum of 15 participants is desirable. Groups of over 30 may be accommodated with adjustments in the Academy format.
  • We encourage a mix of government and nongovernment participants, including multiple members of groups and agencies.
  • Public health agencies, religious groups, community groups, universities, legislatures, city councils, and many other groups have participated in Precaution Academies and workshops.
  • In certain circumstances an Academy may be conducted entirely within an agency or organization, but cross-fertilization is usually better.
  • Individuals from outside the main geographic area may also participate with the host’s agreement.


  • Participants receive the SEHN book, Precautionary Tools for Reshaping Environmental Policy and other reading materials in advance.
  • The Academy usually begins Friday evening and extends to Sunday noon.
  • Hosts provide 1-3 facilitators to
    • brief presenters on local issues and discuss formats and topics before the Academy,
    • help lead discussions, and
    • assure smooth flow of the sessions.
  • A sample agenda is available on request.
  • It is often possible and desirable to arrange additional sessions with the speakers before or after the Academy—for example, a public forum, editorial board meetings, special briefings for government agencies. Extra costs for presenters are likely to be minimal (see below.) Hosts and presenters must discuss these arrangements well in advance.


  • Hosts should designate one person to discuss costs, fees, and logistics with SEHN and ERF.
  • Hosts arrange the venue, lodging for participants, and meals during the Academy. We strongly encourage attention to health and sustainability in the venue and meals.
  • Participants register in advance with SEHN and pay fees at that time (see below).
  • SEHN sends reading materials to participants three weeks in advance of the Academy.
  • Hosts arrange for Power Point projection and other materials requested by presenters. These are usually minimal, like flip charts, markers.

Costs Costs may be covered in several ways:

  • Participant fees.
  • Grants or other fundraising by hosts.
  • Grants obtained by SEHN and ERF.
  • In certain cases we are able to negotiate cost reductions or provide scholarships.

To schedule a Precaution Academy in your community, contact

Carolyn Raffensperger is executive director of the Science and Environmental Health Network (SEHN) in Ames, Iowa. Nancy Myers is communications director of SEHN Ted Schettler is SEHN's science director Katie Silberman is SEHN's associate director Peter Montague is director of Environmental Research Foundation in New Brunswick, N.J., and an editor of Rachel's Precaution Reporter and of Rachel's Democracy & Health News.

"The faculty of the Precaution Academy in New Jersey (l to r): Ted Schettler (SEHN), Tim Montague (ERF), Carolyn Raffensperger (SEHN), Joe Guth (SEHN), Nancy Myers (SEHN), Peter Montague (ERF), Maria Pellerano (ERF), Katie Silberman (SEHN), Sherri Seidmon (SEHN)."

"Participants in the first Precaution Academy in New Brunswick, New Jersey, April 2, 2006."