Shawn Otto

Author, science advocate and filmmaker Shawn Lawrence Otto delivers entertaining and dynamic speeches to audiences worldwide

Bringing data  to life with stunning photography, graphics and video, his interactive presentations are insightful and inspirational experiences custom-tailored to your needs.

Sample Topics (sample video below)

Can Democracy Survive the Age of Science?

"Whenever the people are well-informed," Thomas Jefferson wrote, "they can be trusted with their own government." But what happens now, two centuries later, when the world has become much more complex and science influences every aspect of life? Many of our most pressing problems come out of the scientific advances of the past. Policymakers have seen them coming for decades but have been unable or unwilling to do anything about them. Problems like climate change are examples of how human behavior enabled by the power of science and engineering has outstripped policymaking. Will democracy remain an effective form of government? Do we need science-civics classes? Are the people still well-enough informed? This program explores the relationships between science and democracy, regulation and freedom that lie at the center of the greatest dilemmas facing humanity - and suggests some practical solutions.

The Anti-Science Crisis

Is the current denial of science by politicians driving you crazy? Are you concerned about economic competitiveness? Or science education? Or the environment? Or climate change? Or the deteriorating relationship between science and religion, or the slipping press coverage of science issues that affect all our lives? Shawn tells the story of Science Debate 2008 - an effort to get the candidates for US president to debate America's growing unsolved science policy challenges, that became the largest political initiative in the history of science. He relates how Barack Obama, John McCain and Hillary Clinton did their best to avoid the topic on the campaign trail, and how he finally got Obama and McCain to agree. This inspirational, humorous, alarming and outrageous story sets the context for a sweeping look at America's complex love-hate relationship with science, and where we need to go as companies, churches, civic organizations and a nation to save the environment, prosper economically, and meet our future challenges proactively.

Sample Talk: Nobel Conference Keynote

The Science and Politics of Climate Change

Are your audiences confused by the various claims about climate change? Want them to learn what's true and what's not? Or how a few million dollars well spent stopped the Cap and Trade bill and changed the course of US history? Or how to identify dysinformation and propaganda? Have some favorite talking points you want debunked? This is your talk. Shawn explains what we do and don't know, and tells stories about the major dysinformation campaigns, and about famous climate scientists he knows and the challenges they - and all of us - face in grappling with this enormous issue.

Limitless: Redefining Economic Growth for a New Century

Shawn talks about the relationship between science and engineering, democracy, freedom, and the rise of US economic competitiveness. His talk provides some startling insights into the relationship between regulation, freedom and economics that can redefine how we look at growth and how we project power abroad.

Faith, meet Science

Shawn engages religious audiences with a fascinating exploration of the intertwined relationship of science and Western religion, from the age of Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation through the emergence of modern science from religion, into the current day. As science refines our knowledge, it forces us to refine our values, creating a dynamic tension with religion that can yield new insights into meaning and living.

Still Crazy After All These Years

Climate change is now said by some to be a "hoax" perpetrated by scientists with economic motives. The same exact thing was once said about the theory of relativity. “This world is a strange madhouse,” Einstein wrote a friend in 1920. “Currently every coachman and every waiter is debating whether relativity theory is correct. Belief in this matter depends on political party affiliation.” Shawn tells great stories from the history of science to show how science, creativity and innovation have always been political, and why they are so important to our lives, and so political today - and what this means for the new innovation any organization produces.

The Top 15 Science Questions Facing the World

Shawn tells the story of how the 39,000 scientists and engineers that signed on to the Science Debate effort joined with the National Academies, the AAAS, the Council on Competitiveness, and several other organizations to develop the Top 14 Science Questions Facing America, what those questions are, and why there is one more question that wasn't included but is the most important of all.

How to Talk to Normal People

Shawn teaches scientists and engineers strategies for engaging the lay public about complex science topics and overcoming antiscience in the community. He will provide training to scientists, nonprofits, NGOs, government agencies, universities and companies in handling the media, crafting messages, and communicating science-based topics to the general public. Hands-on workshop covers media training in front of a live camera, how to handle a call from a reporter, what a message box is and how to use it, and dozens of other tools to become a skilled communicator in today's interactive and entertainment-driven news media environment.


Did you know that most journalists believe that "there is no such thing as objectivity?" And yet we live in a time when the objective information generated by science is have a larger and larger input into nearly every policy decision our governments make. Shawn tells what he learned on the presidential campaign trail about the postmodern news media and their approach to story, and how that differs from the approaches of scientists and lawmakers, producing humorous but also very serious consequences that are placing American democracy at risk. Perfect for general audiences and - especially - for journalists.

Let's Have a Science Debate!

Shawn gives workshops to science advocates, scientists, news media and civic-minded individuals and organizations to teach them about the critical need for non-partisan political debates that focus on today's major science challenges, and how to hold a successful science debates at the senatorial, congressional, gubernatorial, and parliamentary level.

Sustainability and Science

Shawn talks about the political and economic dynamics of sustainability science.

Story in Film, Politics, Business and Life

Shawn talks about his work as a filmmaker and writer and the secrets to writing a great movie. His inspirational presentation explores how to use narrative to make powerful presentations, how the narrative form grew out of our brain structure and how you can use it as a personal guide to living a more dynamic, exciting, achieving and fulfilling life.

Masters Classes in screenwriting

Shawn provides masters classes and in depth workshops for university film, english and theater programs. Topics include secrets of successful adaptation, structure, character, action, how to enter the film business, and much much more.


To inquire about booking Shawn for your event, please use the form here