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Looking Ahead: New ASU School Focuses on Implications of Innovations

2 Dec 2015 by Susie Steckner

Analyzing data from our everyday interactions. Editing human genes to alter the course of disease. Putting self-flying drones in the air during battle.

Technical and social innovations are rapidly bringing new opportunities — and challenges — to people across the globe. How will those innovations shape the future?

Arizona State University (ASU) wants to be part of that conversation with its new School for the Future of Innovation in Society (SFIS).

“The influence of science, technology and innovation in how we live our lives has never been greater. Tomorrow it is likely to be greater still,” says Founding Director David Guston, offering his vision for the new school.

“Universities serve society by producing knowledge and facilitating opportunity. They educate new generations of informed citizens and skilled, productive workers,” he says. “At SFIS, we see our efforts as part of a larger social fabric — local, regional, national, global — that informs our wants and needs about the futures we will want to inhabit.”

Preparing for the future

The new school is drawing together faculty and students with a broad range of interests and fields of study.

Together, they will delve into the opportunities and changes brought by new technologies. They will explore both the pros and cons of innovations that may shape the future, whether impacting persistent inequalities, challenging outdated modes of energy production or addressing complex transportation systems.

Student Monamie Bhadra is pursuing her doctorate through the school. Her work will focus on the Indian government and decisions to continue plans for new nuclear plants.

“India is a unique nation, holding the status of the world’s largest democracy, but also one with fault lines along caste, class, language and religion,” Bhadra says, discussing her upcoming studies. “I wanted to know how developing nations and emerging democracies like India pursue high technologies like nuclear power, while at the same time having commitments to democratic governance.”

Evolving new school

SFIS has initially enrolled more than 150 students in its graduate programs, and is developing undergraduate majors and minors. Officials expect to draw students with varying interests, including research, teaching, public service, communication, international development, and science and technology policy.

The school integrates faculty from a range of fields, and most have been affiliated with ASU’s Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes.

Students may pursue master’s degrees in Science and Technology Policy, Global Technology and Development, Applied Ethics with concentrations in Biomedical & Health Ethics and Science, Technology & Ethics, as well as a Ph.D. in Human and Social Dimensions of Science and Technology.  Students can also earn a graduate certificate in Responsible Innovation.

In addition, the school offers an immersion program, Science Outside the Laboratory (SOtL), in Washington D.C.

ASU President Michael Crow says the school will allow students to do more than “simply watch change happen.” Rather, they will focus on the implications of new innovations, and prepare for a future that he said will be driven by technical and social innovations.

“Where do we want to go as a society … How will technology help us to get there?” says Crow, touting the new school. “And how do we act in responsible ways to produce the kinds of outcomes that we’d like to produce, or at least the options that we’d like to produce.”