The Ongoing Transformation

For the Issues podcast, we talk with fascinating people to get a behind-the-scenes look at how their research and ideas are transforming our world. Listen and subscribe to The Ongoing Transformation wherever you get your podcasts—or simply click on the links below.

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Episode 45

Building Community in the Bayou 

Monique Verdin joins host JD Talasek to discuss using art and science to understand a Gulf that is being reshaped by climate, industry, and more. A citizen of the United Houma Nation, Verdin’s art practice and community activism give voice to indigenous and marginalized communities in the South while building bridges with science communities. Read More

Episode 44

Alta Charo Considers Ethics for Stem Cells and CRISPR

In the latest episode of Science Policy IRL, bioethicist Alta Charo talks about how science policy can and does impact people’s lives—and describes what it’s like to be one of the only non-scientists at the science policy table, how helping a close friend who died of ALS continues to inspire her work, and why science policy can help us become techno-optimists. Read More

Episode 43

Zach Pirtle Explores Ethics for Mars Landings

Zach Pirtle shares how he almost accidentally found his way from studying philosophy and engineering at Arizona State University to a perfect career working on space ethics at NASA’s Office of Technology Policy and Strategy—and how agencies engage hands-on in science policy as they figure out how to implement legislation.Read More

Episode 42

Turning a Policy Idea into a Pilot Project

By day, Erica Fuchs is a professor of engineering at Carnegie Mellon University. However, for the past year she’s also been running a pilot project—the National Network for Critical Technology Assessment—to give the federal government the ability to anticipate problems in supply chains and respond to them. And it all started with an essay she wrote for Issues in 2021.Read More

Episode 41

Apurva Dave Builds Connections Between National Security and Climate

Apurva Dave Builds Connections Between National Security and Climate

Early in his career, Apurva Dave was an oceanographer; now he works at the cutting edge of climate policy at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. In the second installment of our new series, Science Policy IRL, Apurva talks about his work convening cross-disciplinary dialogues on “emerging, abrupt, and understudied” climate and security risks.Read More

Episode 40

Stuart Buck on improving science

A Venture Capitalist for Better Science

Stuart Buck has referred to himself as a venture capitalist for making science more efficient, reliable, and accountable. He focuses on making sure that reforms are actually improvements, not performative busywork. In our latest podcast episode, he discusses how metascience—the study of science—has fueled reform, and how to make sure reforms produce the desired effects.Read More

Episode 39: Science Policy IRL

Quinn Spadola

Quinn Spadola Develops Nanotech With Soft Power

To launch our new Science Policy IRL series, Quinn Spadola, the deputy director of the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office, talks about how she brings all of her life experiences to bear on the task of shaping a technology so that it benefits society. Read More

Episode 38

Vaughan Turekian talks about science in Ukraine

Sustaining Science for the Future of Ukraine

Since the early days of the war in Ukraine, Vaughan Turekian has been leading efforts to support Ukrainian scientists and their research, enlisting the help of international science academies and philanthropic partners. He joins host Molly Galvin to discuss efforts to support Ukrainian scientists and why such efforts are important for the future of Ukraine.Read More

Episode 37

Marci Baranski

The Complicated Legacy of the Green Revolution

An American agronomist named Norman Borlaug developed and popularized the central innovation of the Green Revolution: the concept of “wide adaptation,” or the idea that plants could be bred to produce a high yield in a variety of environments. Interdisciplinary scientist and historian Marci Baranski talks about how a more nuanced understanding of Borlaug’s work and the Green Revolution can improve agricultural and economic development policies today.Read More

Episode 36

Brian Nosek on open science

Open Science: Moving From Possible to Expected to Required

University of Virginia psychology professor Brian Nosek cofounded an unusual nonprofit, the Center for Open Science. It’s been a cheerleader, enabler, and nagger to convince scientists that making their methods, data, and papers available to others makes for better science. Nosek refers to the “pyramid of culture change” as his strategy to push for reforms: first make a better practice possible, then easy, expected, rewarding, and finally, required.Read More

Episode 35

Rebecca Rutstein and the Ocean Memory Project, “Blue Dreams” (2023), digital video still.

Blue Dreams: Connecting People With Ocean Research

Despite its importance, the ocean is largely unexplored and often misunderstood. Artist Rebecca Rutstein is interested in how art can help people connect with ocean research. In this episode, Rustein and oceanographer Mandy Joye talk with host Alana Quinn about the rich potential of partnerships between artists and scientists to create visceral connections to the deep sea.Read More

Episode 34

Secretary Ernest Moniz on the Diplomatic Role of “Cumulative” Science

Ernest Moniz, secretary of energy during the Obama administration, has been a practitioner of science diplomacy at the highest levels. In this episode, Moniz talks about the role of science in international negotiations and emphasizes the importance of collaboration to scientific discovery. Science, he says, is cumulative, extending far beyond the experience of a single person. If collaborations are prevented, we will never know what knowledge we failed to create.Read More

Episode 33

Prasad Shirvalkar brain scan chronic pain

Combating the “Multi-Dimensional Beast” of Chronic Pain

Chronic pain affects more Americans than diabetes, depression, and hypertension. Yet the disease is poorly understood, often undiagnosed or misdiagnosed, and effective treatments are in short supply. A recent study provides new insights into how the disease affects the nervous system. In this episode, the lead author of that study, Prasad Shirvalkar talks about his research and how it could transform physicians’ understanding and treatment of what he calls a “multi-dimensional beast.”Read More

Episode 32

Prasad Shirvalkar

Artificial Intelligence and the Moral Imagination

Artificial intelligence’s remarkable advances have become a topic of feverish discussion, part of a long tradition of cautionary tales about human creations escaping their bounds to wreak havoc. But several recent novels pose a more subtle, and in some ways more interesting, question: What does our interaction with artificial intelligence reveal about us and our society? In this episode, historian Deborah Poskanzer speaks with Jason Lloyd about three books that she recently reviewed for Issues. Read More

Episode 31

Race, Genetics, and a “Most Dangerous Myth”

The concept of distinct races came from European naturalists in the 1700s. It’s now recognized as a social construct, rather than a biological classification. But genetics researchers still sometimes use race or ethnicity to stand in for ancestry. Ann Morning, a professor of sociology at New York University, recently spoke with Monya Baker about why race is a poor—but persistent—shorthand in genetics studies, and what to do about it.Read More

Episode 30

The Microscope and the Metaphor

What does intuitive, emotional poetry have in common with rational, empirical science? On this episode, host J. D. Talasek talks to poet Jane Hirshfield and neuroscientist Virginia Sturm to understand how they came to work together, and the connections they’ve found between poetry, neural science, and society. They discuss what Hirschfield calls the “mutual delight” they’ve found between poets and scientists as they consider how the microscope and the metaphor can be used to explore the world. Read More

Episode 29

To Solve the AI Problem, Rely on Policy, Not Technology

Artificial intelligence is everywhere, growing increasingly accessible and pervasive. Conversations about AI often focus on technical accomplishments rather than societal impacts, but leading scholar Kate Crawford has long drawn attention to the potential harms AI poses for society: exploitation, discrimination, and more. Monya Baker recently spoke with Crawford about how to ensure AI designers incorporate societal protections into product development and deployment.Read More

Episode 28

Finding Collective Advantage in Shared Knowledge

The CHIPS and Science Act aims to secure American competitiveness and innovation by investing $280 billion in domestic semiconductor manufacturing, scientific innovation, and regional development. But if similar government investments in the past are any guide, this will affect American life in unexpected and profound ways. Michael Crow, president of Arizona State University, discusses the CHIPS and Science Act in the context of previous American investments in science and technology.Read More

Episode 27

Confronting Extreme Heat With the World’s First Chief Heat Officer

What can be done to protect vulnerable communities from extreme heat? The world’s first chief heat officer, Jane Gilbert, who leads Miami-Dade County’s efforts to deal with extreme heat, is working on the answers. She talks about the need for win-win solutions (more air conditioning alone can’t solve the problem), the difficulties of planting trees on busy streets, and engaging with citizens on solutions for keeping communities safe in a warmer future.Read More

Episode 26

You’ve Been Misinformed About Sharks

Misinformation has long been an issue for scientists who study sharks. The Discovery Channel’s Shark Week has anchored the idea of predatory, dangerous sharks in the public consciousness for 35 years, often wrapping its entertainments in the legitimizing cloak of science. Marine biologist David Shiffman talks about how this information harms shark conservation efforts. Read More

Episode 25

What’s Driving the Electric Car Revival?

Major American automakers infamously scrapped their electric vehicle programs in the early 2000s. This left an opening for new players, informed by and emerging from the information technology revolution. Matthew Eisler explains how the consumer electronics industry—with help from public policy—accomplished an end run around the automaking establishment to reinvent the electric vehicle.Read More

Episode 24

Collaborations on Ice

Over the course of a four-year project, a group of artists and scientists integrated field data, remote satellite imagery, scientific analysis, and art to create visual representations of disappearing Arctic ice. Being deeply embedded in each other’s processes helped the group foster new ideas and unexpected outcomes. Cy Keener and Ignatius Rigor discuss how to build successful collaborations across different disciplines and how creative practices can contribute to scientific research and communication.Read More

Episode 23

Shirley M. Malcom

Shirley Malcom – Where Science and Society Meet

Shirley M. Malcom is a trailblazer in the area of broadening participation in science. On this episode, she talks about the importance of the behavioral sciences, social sciences, and education in evidence-based public policy. She brings her considerable expertise in public science literacy, issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion, and STEM education to bear on the challenges facing American society.Read More

Episode 22

Peaches, Pimentos, and Myths of Innovation

Starting with a biotechnological invention—a shippable peach named the Elberta—a network of southern “fruit men” built railroads, designed shipping methods, educated farmers, and eventually transformed the landscape and economy of the region. They also used powerful storytelling and ideology to accomplish this revolution. Lisa Margonelli talks with Cynthia Greenlee about the role of technological innovation, storytelling, and myth in regional transformation. Read More

Episode 21

To Solve Societal Problems, Unite the Humanities With Science

Science and engineering have long been siloed from the humanities, arts, and social sciences, but uniting these disciplines could help leaders better understand and address problems like educational disparities, socioeconomic inequity, and decreasing national wellbeing. Josh Trapani speaks to Kaye Husbands Fealing about her efforts to integrate humanities and social sciences with science and engineering.Read More

Episode 20

How to Fix the Bus

Buses are an inexpensive and easy-to-deploy form of mass transit that could help reduce traffic congestion and curb air pollution. But in the United States, no one wants to ride them. How could the bus be transformed into a mode of transit that people actually want to use? Brian Sherlock, a former Seattle bus driver and safety specialist at Amalgamated Transit Union International, the largest public transit union in North America, explains what’s wrong with American buses, and how a redesign could make for a better urban future. Read More

Episode 19

How Can Clinical Trials Better Reflect Society’s Diversity?

Clinical trials are crucial to the development of new drugs, medical treatments, and therapeutics, but wide swaths of the American population are not adequately represented in trials and do not benefit equitably from this research. Sara Frueh is joined by Gloria Coronado and Jason Resendez to discuss the causes and consequences of this underrepresentation, and steps researchers and policymakers should take to remedy it.Read More

Episode 18

The Forgotten Origins of the Social Internet

The standard history of the internet’s origins leaves out the many computer enthusiasts and hobbyists of the 1980s who created thriving online communities well before most people ever heard about the “information superhighway.” Jason Lloyd talks with professor Kevin Driscoll about how the forgotten history of bulletin board systems can help us better understand today’s social media-dominated internet.Read More

Episode 17

David Allan Burns and Austin Young, "The Endless Orchard" (detail), 2017

Fruitful Communities

How can art and advances in agricultural science create new food resources, connect communities, and create more resilient food systems? J. D. Talasek is joined by artists David Allen Burns and Austin Young of Fallen Fruit and professor Molly Jahn to explore how creativity and systems thinking can change the food system.Read More

Bonus Episode!

A Historic Opportunity for US Innovation

This summer, Congress is trying to reconcile the differences between two massive bills focused on strengthening US competitiveness and spurring innovation. We speak with Mitch Ambrose about the historic conference aimed at negotiating the House and Senate bills.Read More

Episode 15

Biotech Goes to Summer Camp

Who gets to be a scientist? At a free summer camp in Northern California, the answer is everyone. This week we talk with Callie R. Chappell, Rolando Perez, and Corinne Okada Takara about how BioJam engages high school students and their communities to create art through bioengineering.Read More

Episode 14

Rethinking Hard Problems in Brain Science

When it comes to exploring the mindboggling complexity of living systems—ranging from the origins of human consciousness to treatments for neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s—Susan Fitzpatrick has long been a critic of reductionist thinking. We talk with her about new ways to understand the human brain, the difficulty of developing an effective Alzheimer’s treatment, and how scientific research can more successfully confront complex problems.Read More

Episode 13

Demystifying the Federal Budget

How do budgets evolve into policies? As Congress starts to appropriate money for President Biden’s 2023 budget requests, we talk with Matt Hourihan, director of the R&D Budget and Policy Program for the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Hourihan tells of his own introduction to the byzantine mysteries of the budget, how the process works (and sometimes doesn’t work!), and what the numbers reveal about today’s science policy priorities.Read More

Episode 12

Chasing Connections in Climate Action

We talk to photographer James Balog and climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe about how their work creates connections across different ways of knowing, such as art, science, or religion. How can religious and artistic practices—along with a better understanding of influences such as personal geographies and socioeconomic backgrounds—inform meaningful ways to confront climate change?Read More

Episode 11

Can Bureaucracy Build a Climate Revolution?

India’s carbon-heavy government ministries have shown a surprising ability to engineer deep change. Kartikeya Singh, senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, talks with us about what role these ministries—which employ upwards of 20 million people—could play in creating an energy sector that is ecologically and economically sustainable.Read More

Episode 10

Creating a “High-Minded Enterprise”: Vannevar Bush and Postwar Science Policy

A science adviser to Presidents Roosevelt and Truman during and after World War II, Vannevar Bush mobilized the US research community in support of the war effort and was a major figure in the creation of the National Science Foundation. We talk with writer and educator G. Pascal Zachary, Bush’s biographer and editor of a new collection of his writings, about this remarkable polymath and his surprising legacy for the information age.Read More

Episode 9

Maximizing the Good of Innovation

The United States is justifiably proud of the accomplishments of its taxpayer-funded biomedical innovation system. But these innovations don’t benefit all Americans equally. In this episode we speak with Shobita Parthasarathy, a professor at the University of Michigan and director of the Science, Technology, and Public Policy Program. She explains how to think differently about the country’s innovation system to allow all Americans to thrive.Read More

Episode 8

Fighting COVID With Art

Because art is a powerful tool for connecting with communities, building stronger relationships between artists and public health programs may be a way to increase people’s confidence about vaccines. On this episode, cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz and Jill Sonke, director of the Center for Art in Medicine at the University of Florida, join us to explore what role artists and culture bearers can play in discussions of vaccine confidence.Read More

Episode 7

Shaky Science in the Courtroom

Eyewitness testimony and forensic science are often used in criminal cases, but these types of evidence can be deeply flawed. In this episode we speak with Jed Rakoff, senior US district judge for the Southern District of New York. Judge Rakoff discusses the weaknesses in eyewitness identification and forensic science and offers thoughts on how to get stronger science into the courtroom.Read More

Episode 6

The Marvelous and the Mundane

The James Webb Space Telescope is expected to reveal secrets of every phase of cosmic history, going all the way back to the Big Bang. In this episode we talk with Washington, DC-based artist Timothy Makepeace about his work, which celebrates the awe-inspiring technology of the space telescope while drawing attention to the fact that it is a human endeavor.Read More

Episode 5

Dinosaurs!

Social scientist and University of Virginia professor Caitlin Donahue Wylie takes us inside the paleontology lab to uncover a complex world of status hierarchies, glue controversies, phones that don’t work—and, potentially, a way to open up the scientific enterprise to far more people.Read More

Episode 4

Art of a COVID Year

San Francisco artist James Gouldthorpe created a visual journal starting at the very onset of the pandemic to record its personal, societal, and historical impacts. We spoke with Gouldthorpe and Dominic Montagu, a professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of California, San Francisco.Read More

Episode 3

Eternal Memory of the Facebook Mind

How do social media platforms and streaming services affect the way we remember—and even what we think memory is? We talked to David Beer, professor of sociology at the University of York, about how algorithms and classifications play an increasingly important role in what we remember about the past.Read More

Episode 2

Doing Science With Everyone at the Table

Could we create more knowledge by changing the way we do scientific research?  We spoke with NASA’s Psyche mission’s principal investigator and ASU Interplanetary Initiative vice president Lindy Elkins-Tanton about the limitations of “hero science,” and how she is using an inclusive model where collaborative teams pursue “profound and important questions.”Read More

Episode 1

Science Policymakers’ Required Reading

Every Monday afternoon, the Washington, DC, science policy community clicks open an email newsletter from the American Institute of Physics’ science policy news service, FYI, to learn what they’ve missed. We spoke with Mitch Ambrose and Will Thomas about this amazing must-read: how it comes together in real time and what it reveals about the ever-changing world of science policy itself.Read More

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