Local community members talk around table about driver-less cars

ASU’s CSPO again ranked one of the world’s top think tanks for science and tech policy


Eliza Robinson

Arizona State University’s Consortium for Science, Policy & Outcomes (CSPO), a research unit of the Institute for the Future of Innovation in Society, has once again been named one of the top 10 think tanks for science and technology policy in the latest edition of the University of Pennsylvania’s “Global Go To Think Tank Index.”

This is the second consecutive year that CPSO has been ranked in ninth place and the fourth consecutive year it has appeared in the top 10. The Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program (TTCSP) of the Lauder Institute at the University of Pennsylvania, with the voting help of a panel of more than 1,900 peer institutions and experts from the media, academia, public and private-donor institutions and governments, publishes the annual index ranking the world’s leading think tanks in a variety of categories.

“It is always a great honor to be recognized in these rankings, which come from our peers across the globe,” says Dave Guston, co-director of CSPO and director of ASU’s School for the Future of Innovation in Society (SFIS). “It indicates the reach and impact of the work that we do.”

“Our goal is to help bring scientific and technological advance into better alignment with societal needs and aspirations,” says Daniel Sarewitz, CSPO co-founder and co-director. Founded in 1999, CSPO also sits at the core of the research and policy engagement activities of SFIS, which was created in 2015. CSPO is dedicated to understanding the linkages between science and technology and its effects on society and to developing knowledge and tools that can more effectively connect progress in science and technology to progress toward desired societal outcomes.

Notable recent projects that have solidified the consortium’s thought-leadership status include:

  • Citizen Perspectives on Driverless Vehicles — Technological innovation is a powerful force for social change—perhaps the most powerful such force in today’s world—yet it is rarely subject to focused, anticipatory democratic deliberation. In recent decades, however, tools for steering technological change in democratically responsive ways have been developed, tested and to a limited degree deployed. CPSO is working with the Kettering Foundation to bring citizens’ perspectives to bear on the emergence of a potentially world-transforming technology: self-driving vehicles.
  • Exploring Democratic Governance of Solar Geoengineering Research — Using similar, innovative methods of public engagement, CSPO researchers are investigating the governance of solar geoengineering research — a futuristic strategy to directly intervene in global climate by limiting the effect that the sun’s energy has in heating the planet. Prompted by concerns about climate-change risks, some scientists and commentators argue that research on this approach should now be pursued as one element of climate policy. Others are concerned that even researching these ideas might lead to the inadvisable development and deployment of fundamentally uncertain and irreversible technologies.  Both sides agree that this is not an issue to be decided by scientists alone. Funded by the Sloan Foundation, the CSPO research team will gain important insights into how geoengineering research governance can be responsive to public perspectives and will connect these insights directly to early governance efforts at the national and global level.
  • Think, Write Publish: Science and Religion — Despite their rich, interwoven history, our polarized societies seem to encourage the proposition that these two ways of knowing the world cannot productively co-exist, that they encounter each other through conflict and contradiction. This project advances the proposition that science and religion can reinforce each other to allow a more nuanced, profound and rewarding experience of our world and our place in it. Using creative nonfiction writing to explore and advance this proposition, CSPO — with funding from the Templeton Foundation — is building a new community of storytellers who will write, publish and disseminate engaging and inspiring nonfiction narratives of harmonies, reconciliation and even productive interaction between science and religion.

The consortium draws on the intellectual resources of Arizona State University and other institutions for the scholarly foundation to assess and foster outcome-based policies across a broad portfolio of publicly funded scientific research. The consortium’s core commitment is to generating useable knowledge for real-world decision making.

Read the 2017 Global Go To Think Tank Index.