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

By

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 third consecutive year that CSPO has been ranked in ninth place and the fifth consecutive year it has appeared in the top 10. The Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program of the Lauder Institute at the University of Pennsylvania — with the voting help of a panel of peers and experts from 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.

“I’m proud of this acknowledgment from our peers who participate in the rankings,” said Dave Guston, co-director of CSPO and director of ASU’s School for the Future of Innovation in Society. “And (I'm) remarkably pleased for the efforts of our faculty, staff and students that go into all the fine work that those peers have recognized.”

“One thing that really distinguishes us from other think tanks is our focus on public engagement,” said Daniel Sarewitz, CSPO co-founder and co-director. “We’re deeply committed to the idea that citizens should have a role in helping to steer powerful new technologies toward a better future for all.”

Founded in 1999, CSPO also sits at the core of the research and policy engagement activities of the School for the Future of Innovation in Society, which was created in 2015. CSPO is dedicated to understanding the linkages between science and technology and their effects on society. CSPO develops knowledge and tools that can more effectively connect 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, 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 worked with the Kettering Foundation to create a guide for citizens to discuss their perspectives on a transformative technology: self-driving vehicles.
  • Democratic governance of solar geoengineering research: CSPO engaged a diverse group of citizens to inform decision-making about research into solar geoengineering. A controversial option for combating the effects of climate change, solar geoengineering could have far-reaching and unpredictable consequences for life on Earth. This project focused on citizen values and concerns as a necessary input to the decisions and governance of potential geoengineering research programs.
  • New Tools for Science Policy: The breakfast seminar series hosted by CSPO catalyzed discussions and collaborations between science policy researchers and decision-makers. Recent topics included bringing public perspectives into large-scale energy projects, citizen rights in the age of surveillance and how data users factor into the development of NASA space missions.
  • "Issues in Science and Technology": Published in collaboration with the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine and the University of Texas at Dallas, the journal features the nation’s best writing on policy related to science, technology and medicine. The quarterly publication provides insightful commentary from leaders on critical policy topics not covered elsewhere: reforming STEM higher education, space policy and regulation, technological change and the future of work.
  • The Rightful Place of Science: The book series explores complex issues related to science and technology in brief, readable volumes. Jargon-free and perfect for students, professionals or the public, this innovative series delivers thought-provoking ideas on the complex interactions among science, technology, politics and society. Recent topics include new science policy tools, knowledge system organization and disasters and climate change.  

Upcoming projects in 2019:

  • Navigating Our Shared Autonomous Futures: A large-scale, multicity, global public consultation project on the development and adoption of autonomous mobility. Building on earlier citizen engagement work in the United States and France, this project will provide informed, deliberative, diverse and useful public views and values to stakeholders in government, industry, academic and nongovernmental sectors. CSPO’s ambitious vision, in collaboration with its Paris-based partner Missions Publiques, is to host 100-person public forums in 25 cities each in North America and Europe in the summer of 2019.
  • The Future of the Internet: This global debate will explore citizen perspectives on a technology that has transformed how people communicate, shop, learn and work. It will engage hundreds of nonexpert citizens, creating an unprecedented opportunity for the public to contribute to the evolution of this vital technology.

The consortium draws on the intellectual resources of ASU and other institutions for the scholarly foundation to assess and foster outcome-based policies across a broad portfolio. CSPO’s core commitment is to generate useable knowledge for real-world decision-making in order to better align those decisions with positive social outcomes.

Read the 2018 Global Go To Think Tank Index.