Friday, August 18, 2017

Welcome to the digital dialogue companion to the conference “The Rightful Place of Science?”, presented by the Consortium for Science, Policy & Outcomes at Arizona State University.

The conference promises to be unlike traditional conferences that usually rely on a “top down” model of information flow.  Amid art, music, literature, media, humor and the unexpected – this conference will focus, rather, on discussion and interaction to begin to map the place of science and technology in society and how, in turn, we can best deal with the perpetually unfolding implications of our own ingenuity.

This blog, too, promises to provide a variety of opportunities to engage with the questions being asked at the conference, and with the people asking them – and to have some fun while you’re at it.  We hope that it takes the discussion beyond the conference walls and helps to build a global community of scholars, scientists, engineers, communicators and citizens committed to ongoing discussions, research, education and action aimed at harnessing science and technology to the core values of a democratic society.

What are the questions?
Remember life before iPhones and Viagra?  It’s easy to think about science and technology as nothing more than the march of gadgets and drugs, but they can transform society to its roots – without anyone’s permission, and in ways that no one can possibly predict.

We are utterly dependent on science and technology, from high-speed communication and high-tech agriculture to health technologies and systems for delivering energy and water.  But when we think about debates over genetically modified foods, climate change, cloning and medication for school children and for aging baby boomers, it’s obvious that we are not very well prepared to govern the implications of our dependence.

Great challenges loom before us, wrought by rapid and continuing social change and catalyzed by discovery and innovation.  The transformative potential of science and technology tests our ability to understand and shape our common destiny.  In his inaugural address, President Barack Obama promised to “restore science to its rightful place” in U.S. society.  But where is that place?  How do we find it in an ever more complex, uncertain, and politically, socially and culturally diverse world?  And is the rightful place of science also the place that assures the best outcomes for all of us?

About CSPO
The Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes at Arizona State University is an interdisciplinary intellectual network aimed at enhancing the contribution of science and technology to society’s pursuit of equality, justice, freedom and overall quality of life.  CSPO creates knowledge and methods, educates students, cultivates public discourse and fosters policies to help decision makers and institutions grapple with the immense power and importance of science and technology as society charts a course for the future.

CSPO’s unique and productive synthesis of theoretical, empirical and problem-oriented research and tool development is driven by three guiding ideas: desired outcomes can drive science; the value in society of new knowledge is determined by how it is used, and by whom; and the definition of the problem helps determine the relevance of the research.

CSPO believes that politics and the ideas, institutions and the people behind them – and not science alone – determine the outcomes of science and technology in society.  In this view, science policy is vastly more complex – as well as more interesting and malleable – than merely setting a budget for scientific research and development.

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