A New Era

KEVIN FINNERAN

This edition of Issues in Science and Technology marks the beginning of a new era. Arizona State University is joining with the National Academies and the University of Texas at Dallas as a co-publisher. ASU’s participation will be led by its Consortium for Science, Policy, and Outcomes (CSPO), and CSPO co-director Daniel Sarewitz will assume the title of Editor. We are thrilled by the opportunity to work with ASU, CSPO, and Dan.

During the past ten years under the leadership of President Michael Crow, ASU has been among the fastest growing and most innovative universities in the country. We are all familiar with the rhetorical device in which a speaker announces that a particular program or institution has three admirable goals but then explains that the goals are inherently contradictory so that it is necessary to choose only two. President Crow must have been checking his email at that point in the speech because ASU has managed to achieve the seemingly incompatible goals of enhancing excellence among faculty and students, broadening participation and achievement of underrepresented groups, and reducing the per student cost of education. At the same time, he has instituted a hurly burly restructuring of academic programs to create truly interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary approaches to vexing scientific and societal problems.

CSPO, which was founded at Columbia University in 1998, moved to ASU in 2003 and has grown to become one of the largest and most diverse science and technology programs in the country. Like many other ASU programs, it is the antithesis of an academic silo. Its core faculty is drawn from many disciplines, and it not only works actively with many ASU departments and institutes across the sciences and engineering, humanities, design, and law, but has active collaborations with domestic and foreign universities, with science museums, and with nongovernmental organizations.

Dan Sarewitz was the founding director of CSPO and continues as one of its intellectual leaders. Dan’s most recent book is The Techno-Human Condition (MIT Press, 2011; co-authored with Braden Allenby). Since 2009 he has also been a regular columnist for Nature magazine. Other published work includes Frontiers of Illusion: Science, Technology, and the Politics of Progress, (Temple University Press, 1996), Living with the Genie: Essays on Technology and the Quest for Human Mastery (Island Press, 2003; co-edited with Alan Lightman and Christina Desser) and Prediction: Science, Decision-Making, and the Future of Nature (Island Press, 2000; co-edited with Roger Pielke, Jr., and Radford Byerly, Jr.). Dan brings to Issues a probing and skeptical mind, a sophisticated knowledge of science and technology policy, a determination to rigorously assess the impact of science and technology, and a relentless commitment to challenging the science, engineering, and medical communities to take seriously their social and political responsibilities.

The infusion of fresh ideas and new energy will be a boon for Issues. Planning has already begun on an improved website that will be updated regularly with news items and links to relevant additional information, a calendar that will list important upcoming events, an expanded job board, links to other networks of which ASU and CSPO are a part, such as the Future Tense collaboration with the New American Foundation and Slate magazine. Discussion has also begun about a redesign of the magazine. ASU shares our commitment to presenting art that uses, explores, and challenges science and technology, and we will be looking for ways to make the art and text more engaging and more effective.

What excites us most, however, is the intellectual boost that Dan and his ASU colleagues will bring to the magazine. Issues has published many articles by ASU faculty over the years, and we will continue to do so. Even more important will be their network relationships that span the nation and the globe and that will help us find new authors that will bring rigor and creativity to addressing a wide range of science and technology policy concerns.

ASU helped us in the past in an experiment that paired young scientists with professional writers to produce articles that applied a narrative structure to policy topics. We look forward to expanding that experiment in the future. Lee Gutkind is directing a second round of the training program called To Think, To Write, To Publish, and we are planning to publish some of the articles that emerge from that program. ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination aims to stimulate collaboration among scientists, engineers, artists, and creative writers. One current project links scientists and engineers with science fiction writers to encourage the production of science fiction that is founded on real scientific and technological trajectories. We plan to publish some of the work that emerges from that effort.

Issues is very fortunate to have such a rich institutional foundation. The National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine incorporate a long tradition of excellence and service to the nation. They have earned their reputation as the scientific establishment and respected advisors to government. The University of Texas at Dallas and Arizona State University bring the fresh ideas and new approaches of what Michael Crow calls the New American University. These institutions are not completely outside the establishment; they have their Nobel laureates and Academy members. But they are not content to be mere imitations of the nation’s traditional elite universities. They are developing a new institutional model less dependent on traditional disciplinary structures and more open to educating a broader and more diverse student population. They are at the cutting edge of a new direction in higher education, and we look to them for new approaches to science, technology, and health policy. This mix of excellence and experimentation is an ideal recipe for a stimulating and influential policy magazine.