Stanford’s Scott Sagan honored

Photo of Scott Sagan in the Stanford Quad
Scott Sagan (Photo Credit: Linda A. Cicero/Stanford News)

Stanford political science Professor SCOTT SAGAN, a senior fellow at the Center for International Security and Cooperation and the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, has been honored with a prestigious award from the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) for his pioneering work addressing the risks of nuclear weapons and the causes of nuclear proliferation.

The William and Katherine Estes Award recognizes research in any field of cognitive or behavioral science that advances the understanding of issues relating to the risk of nuclear war. Sagan and other NAS award winners will be honored in a ceremony in April during the academy’s 152nd annual meeting.

“Sagan’s work has become an integral part of the nuclear debate in the United States and overseas,” the NAS said in a statement. “He has shown, for example, that a government’s decision to pursue nuclear weapons can be prompted not only by national security concerns but also because of domestic political interests, parochial bureaucratic infighting, or concerns about international prestige.”

The academy noted that Sagan has developed theories about why different types of political regimes behave differently once they acquire “the bomb.”

“Sagan and his colleagues have also investigated U.S. public attitudes about nuclear weapons and found that few Americans actually believe that there is a taboo against their use in conflicts,” the NAS said. “The possession of nuclear weapons also raises the risk of nuclear weapons accidents, and Sagan has shown that even though there has never been an accidental nuclear war, there have been many more close-calls and near-accidents than was previously known.”

SIEGFRIED HECKER, one of the world’s leading experts on plutonium science and a senior fellow at FSI, said that he has learned greatly from Sagan over the years as colleagues and former co-directors of CISAC. The two represent the center’s foundational spirit of combing the social and hard sciences to build a safer world.

“The beauty of Scott’s work is that he has combined rigorous political science thinking with a practical knowledge of the limits of humans and organizations to deal with the complexities and dangers of nuclear weapons,” Hecker said. “Scott’s work has convinced me that there is real science in the political science of nuclear weapons. It is appropriate that this honor comes from the National Academy of Sciences.

Read the full announcement on the CISAC website.