Training the Next Generation of Public Interest Technology Professionals

CSPO professor receives grant from Public Interest Technology University Network to support community innovation fellowship.

The Consortium for Science, Policy & Outcomes is launching an exciting new program that uses technology in support of public interest organizations and the people they serve. A new partnership between the CSPO- and Museum of Science-led Expert and Citizen Assessment of Science and Technology (ECAST) network and the Association of Science and Technology Centers (ASTC) received a $180,000 grant to develop an immersive training program on public interest technology issues from the Public Interest Technology Universities Network (PIT-UN). The grant was one of 27 awarded as part of PIT-UN’s inaugural “Network Challenge,” focused on leveraging technology and expertise to advance the public good.

Mahmud Farooque, Associate Director of the Consortium for Science, Policy & Outcomes, and Ira Bennett, Associate Director for Research at the School for the Future of Innovation in Society, will be leading the project from ASU.

“This program will put the public at the center of public interest technology through direct participation in informed and inclusive dialogue on the social, ethical, and legal implications of emerging technologies impacting their communities,” Farooque said.

ASTC President and CEO Cristin Dorgelo, who previously served as the Chief of Staff at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, is excited for ASTC to collaborate with ASU in offering a competitive fellowship program and piloting a training curriculum at five science and technology museums and centers in PIT-UN cities. Through an extensive 2018 listening process—in which ASTC explored opportunities and challenges in science engagement with its nearly 700 members—ASTC identified broad interest in advancing public dialogue and deliberation programs on issues related to emerging technologies, equity, and inclusion, including demand for growing related skills in future leaders of science engagement. “Our member museums are eager to collaborate with community partners in building capacity for this community-science work,” Dorgelo said.

Already a leader in PIT programs, this project will further support ASU’s efforts to emphasize the development of technologies and technical expertise that advance the public good. The training program will meet the growing demand from experts and policymakers for authentic public participation in key global issues and trends. Collaborations are imperative for harnessing science, technology, and innovation to advance the public interest on a range of topics and challenges, ranging from climate change, sustainability, and community resilience to artificial intelligence, automation, and technology-driven effects on workforce, privacy, security, and equity.

PIT-UN is a partnership of 21 colleges and universities dedicated to building the nascent field of public interest technology and growing a new generation of civic-minded technologists. Originally convened by the Ford Foundation, Hewlett Foundation, and New America, the network represents a major commitment by partners in philanthropy, higher education, and public policy to define and build the public interest technology sector.

ASTC is a network of nearly 700 science and technology centers and museums, and related organizations, engaging more than 110 million people annually across North America and in almost 50 countries. ASTC’s purpose is to champion and support science and technology centers and museums. With its members and partners, ASTC works towards a vision of increased understanding of—and engagement with—science and technology among all people.

Led by the ASU Consortium for Science, Policy & Outcomes and the Museum of Science, the ECAST network combines academic research, informal science education and policy analysis to engage experts and citizens on science and technology policy issues. Since 2012 ECAST has conducted 60 deliberations in 16 cities on topics such as biodiversity, climate and energy, driverless cars, asteroid, and solar geoengineering.