- National Scientific Council on the Developing Child
- National Forum on Early Childhood Policy and Programs
- Global Children's Initiative
- Frontiers of Innovation
- Science of Health and Development Initiative
- Students, Education and Leadership Development
About the Council
The National Scientific Council on the Developing Child is a multidisciplinary, multi-university collaboration designed to bring the science of early childhood and early brain development to bear on public decision-making. Established in 2003, the Council is committed to an evidence-based approach to building broad-based public will that transcends political partisanship and recognizes the complementary responsibilities of family, community, workplace, and government to promote the well-being of all young children.
The ultimate mission of the Council is to close the gap between what we know and what we do to promote successful learning, adaptive behavior, and sound physical and mental health for all young children. Central to this concept is the ongoing generation, analysis, and integration of knowledge and the critical task of educating policymakers, civic leaders, and the general public about the rapidly growing science of early childhood development and its underlying neurobiology.
Goals & Strategies
Bringing credible and accurate knowledge to bear on public decision-making that affects children’s learning, behavior, and health.
The Council provides a forum for vigorous debate among scientists and scholars about what the biological and social sciences do and do not say about early childhood and early brain development. Its primary objective is to analyze and integrate existing knowledge from multiple sources and to communicate sophisticated material in a clear and unified fashion through working papers, scientific articles, invited presentations, and collaborative projects.
Rethinking the challenge of knowledge translation in order to strengthen its impact on the lives of children.
In partnership with the non-profit FrameWorks Institute, the Council serves as a dynamic laboratory for testing new communications strategies for closing the gap between what science tells us and what our policies and practices do to advance child well-being.
Building broad-based and informed leadership to represent the interests of young children in the public and private sectors.
The Council is committed to educating opinion leaders and decision makers about the relevance of neuroscience, developmental and behavioral research, and the economics of human capital formation for both public and private sector initiatives on behalf of young children and their families. To this end, selected organizational partnerships are an important vehicle for the Council’s work, beginning with a major collaboration with the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Promoting a new national dialogue focused on rethinking the meaning of both shared responsibility for children and strategic investment in their future.
The Council is committed to an evidence-based approach to building broad-based public will that transcends political partisanship and recognizes the complementary responsibilities of family, community, workplace, and government to promote the well-being of all young children. The ultimate goal of this effort is to change the terms of public debate from whether to invest in young children to how the return on investment can be maximized. Central to this agenda is the need to view the promotion of child well-being as both a moral responsibility and an important social and economic investment in our nation’s future.
The National Scientific Council on the Developing Child was established in 2003 to build on the experiences of two models. The first is the National Research Council (NRC) and Institute of Medicine (IOM) Committee on Integrating the Science of Early Childhood Development. The committee brought together 17 leading authorities on human development and neuroscience for an unprecedented review of the existing knowledge base on early childhood. In October 2000, their effort culminated in the publication of From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development whose broad scope attracted impressive reviews and widespread accolades.
The second group, the MacArthur Research Network on Early Experience and Brain Development, was established in 1998 and demonstrated the transformative impact of interdisciplinary thinking and collaborative research at the intersection of neurobiology and developmental psychology. An eight-year effort involving leading neuroscientists and child development experts, some of whom also served on the NRC/IOM committee, this body conducted wide-ranging research on the effects of early experience on brain development and behavior. The Network asked – and answered – the compelling question of how this expanding knowledge base can influence the decisions our society makes about supporting the health and development of young children.
After the publication of From Neurons to Neighborhoods, participants in both projects were determined that their work must open a new chapter focused on translating and communicating the science of early childhood development into informed public policy that best serves the needs of the nation’s children and families. The National Scientific Council was created in 2003 to take on that charge. In 2006, the Council moved from its base at Brandeis University's Heller School for Social Policy and Management to become part of the new Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University. Its mission is unchanged. Staunchly non-partisan, the Council’s role is to be that of a knowledge broker, using science to help policymakers and others address this critical question: What do we know about early brain development and why are the first years of life so important to lifelong health, learning and behavior?
Learn about the Council's unique, multi-disciplinary, multi-university group of scientists and scholars.
The Council has created a series of publications to marry the science of early childhood and brain development with state-of-the-art communications research designed to effectively translate that knowledge for non-scientific audiences. More >>
Major support for the Council has been provided by: the Birth to Five Policy Alliance, the Buffett Early Childhood Fund, Casey Family Programs, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Norlien Foundation, and the Pierre and Pamela Omidyar Fund, an advised fund of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation.