Community members talk around a table

ASU’s CSPO named one of world’s top 10 think tanks for science and tech policy for 6th straight year

By

Eliza Robinson

Arizona State University’s Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes (CSPO), a research unit of the Institute for the Future of Innovation in Society, has for a sixth consecutive year been named one of the top 10 think tanks for science and technology policy in the University of Pennsylvania’s 2019 “Global Go-To Think Tank Index.”

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, governments and public and private donor institutions, publishes the annual index ranking the world’s leading think tanks in a variety of categories.

“It’s always wonderful to be recognized by our peers and the public we try to serve in these rankings. This year’s ranking is even more special because it seems more inclusive on a global scale,” said David Guston, director of the School for the Future of Innovation in Society and CSPO co-director. “Our faculty, staff and students can take great pride in the effort they’ve made for this recognition.”

“The recognition validates CSPO’s long-term efforts to bridge the divide between experts and the lay public and between careful analysis and thoughtful action,” said Mahmud Farooqueclinical associate professor and CSPO associate director. “Our publication and engagement portfolio traverses wide-ranging science and technology issues, from gene editing and artificial intelligence to the future of science and civic participation.”

Founded in 1999, CSPO 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. This is the fourth consecutive year that CPSO has been ranked in ninth place, and the sixth consecutive year it has appeared in the top 10.

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

• Navigating Our Shared Autonomous Futures is a large-scale, multi-city, global public consultation project on the development and adoption of autonomous mobility supported by an international coalition of partners and funders. In 2019, CSPO hosted four public forums in Boston, Washington, Phoenix and Buffalo, New York, and presented the initial findings at workshops and conferences in Washington, Singapore, Phoenix and Brussels. The project team is now working on in-depth analysis and the publication of a variety of briefings and reports targeted to local, national and international stakeholders.

• Democratic Governance of Solar Geoengineering Research was a project funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. CSPO hosted two daylong public deliberations on potential implications of this controversial and speculative technology. In 2019, results from these deliberations were shared with scientists, funders and policymakers through a series of events. These included a National Academy Committee briefing in June, a final-results report launch event in November and a presentation at the fall meeting of the American Geological Union. Although the perspectives and attitudes expressed by citizen participants were nuanced, the central message for decision-makers was relatively simple: “Keep things small; govern transparently, flexibly and inclusively; learn from past mistakes and be prepared to reverse course. Proceed — but with caution.”

• New Tools for Science Policy is a breakfast seminar series hosted by CSPO that catalyzes discussions and collaborations between science policy researchers and decision-makers. Recent topics include: advances in coastal conservation methods, using game theory in foresight development, rethinking death and data ownership in the cloud, informal STEM education and embedding social justice into technical research and design.

• Issues in Science and Technology, a magazine published in collaboration with the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, 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, and much more. In 2019, CSPO assumed sole editorial responsibilities for the magazine, with Dan Sarewitz serving as editor-in-chief for the coming year. 

“As the only publication devoted to exploring advances in science, technology and medicine as they relate to public policy, copies of Issues are as likely to be found on the desk of Harvard scholar Sheila Jasanoff (a contributor) as in the executive office of the president," said Jason Lloyd, managing editor. “Kelvin Droegemeier, the presidential science adviser, recently requested additional copies of the journal to be sent to the White House.”

Upcoming projects in 2020 include:

• We the Internet is exploring citizen perspectives on a technology that has transformed how people communicate, shop, learn and work. CSPO is part of a global coalition that will engage hundreds of nonexpert citizens in June, creating an unprecedented opportunity for the public to contribute to the evolution of this vital technology.

• Public Engagement on Human Gene Editing Technologies is a set of three interlocking projects aimed to answer the calls for a broad public dialogue about these technologies and their applications from ethicists, social and biomedical scientists, think tanks, scientific/professional societies, as well as the National Academies. The first project will develop an issue advisory for public deliberation using an open-frame approach in partnership with the Kettering Foundation. The second project, being funded through a three-year grant from the National Institutes of Health, will develop application scenarios and public forums in partnership with the Baylor College of Medicine and the Museum of Science, Boston. The third and final project will develop a Global Citizen Assembly on Gene Editing in partnership with the Centre for Deliberative Democracy at the University of Canberra and Gene Pool Productions in Australia.

• Public Interest Technology Community Innovation Fellowship will train the next generation of science-engagement professionals to collaborate with civic, government and university partners to engage the public on science and technology issues that matter to their local communities. Developed in partnership with the Association of Science and Technology Centers, with funding support from New America’s Public Interest Technology University Network, the project will select five two-person teams consisting of staff from an eligible science and technology center and their community partner. In this hands-on immersive learning and development program, fellows will learn, design and convene a daylong public forum and disseminate the results to stakeholders in government, nonprofit, academia and industry in their communities.

• Strategic Intelligence Map on Civic Participation is a global decision-making tool developed by the World Economic Forum and curated by Missions Publiques, France. Strategic Intelligence Maps help decision-makers understand and explore complex, interconnected global issues. CSPO will be joining Missions Publiques to identify the key concepts related to 21st century civic participation, to incorporate and to update the design and content of the map.

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. 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 2019 Global Go To Think Tank Index.