Concepts and Tools for a New American Science Policy

Concepts and Tools for a New American Science Policy


Concepts and Tools for a New American Science Policy (CaTNASP) is an innovative training program for career professionals who are looking for practical skills that will change the way science is practiced, policy is formulated, and the public is engaged. From communicating important discoveries to designing more effective research programs, from improving collaborative relationships to assessing project results, CaTNASP teaches the concepts and skills needed for career advancement and the creation of a New American Science Policy.

Why Concepts and Tools?

  • What is the rightful place of science?
  • Can we manage the tensions between expertise and politics?
  • How can we make science more usable for decision-makers?
  • Are we measuring what really matters in science policy?
  • How can private firms and government collaborate to accelerate innovation?

How, that is, can science be a force for social betterment in an era of fierce political conflict, profound social challenges, and tight budgets? For more than a decade, the Consortium for Science, Policy, and Outcomes (CSPO) at Arizona State University has been developing knowledge and methods, cultivating public discourse, and fostering policies designed to help decision-makers and institutions grapple with the problems of a complex world. We are reconsidering and reimagining science and technology policy from the bottom up, to better contribute to society’s pursuit of prosperity, health, and opportunity.

To that end, CSPO has developed Concepts and Tools for a New American Science Policy. This executive training program for early career science and technology practitioners is built around ten modules that explore different aspects of a renewed and reinvigorated science policy. Topics range from strengthening connections between researchers and the public to the role that science plays in confronting and managing uncertainty. The program is presented on 10 consecutive Saturdays, in a convenient downtown Washington, DC location.

Why a New American Science Policy?

Why do we need to rethink science policy? After all, our lives are healthier and more comfortable, our communities more resilient, and our economy more productive thanks to the tremendous achievements of the American science establishment.

But in many ways, that establishment was built for a different era. The challenges we face today are more complex than the capacities of the tools we have developed for dealing with them. The analogies we often use for tackling difficult problems evoke past scientific and technological accomplishments—calls for “a new Manhattan project” or “a new Apollo mission,” for example. But these analogies fall apart when trying to apply their lessons to today’s complex problems. Food and resource scarcity, geopolitical disruptions, environmental degradation, climate change, socioeconomic and employment shifts, and other intractable challenges are not solvable with increased federal funding or more R&D; in fact, looking for “solutions” may be part of the problem. Addressing such challenges requires a more thoughtful, effective, and inclusive scientific establishment: we need a New American Science Policy.

Who should attend?

Early career science policy and program fellows, practitioners, managers, designers, developers, knowledge brokers, regulators, funders, communicators, and others looking for creative and complementary alternatives to complex and intractable challenges at the intersection of science, society, and policy. Note that this program counts as 40 training hours for practitioners with professional development requirements.

What to expect?

The course modules will introduce participants to case studies, research findings, and solution approaches that CSPO and its many collaborators in academia, government and industry have co-developed through pioneering work on science policy. More than simply a lecture series, courses led by luminaries in a range of fields will provide the concepts, tools, and skills needed to create and navigate a scientific establishment that will, if it is to succeed, look very different from what came before. Topics covered include:

The Political Economy of Cold War Science Policy

World War II and the Cold War made the modern world of American science policy.  Despite the end of the post Cold War era, we continue to live in a world where the assumptions and practices developed during the Cold War remain in place–the Department of Defense remains a dominant patron of the physical science and engineering disciplines while the NIH continues as the primary patron of the biomedical disciplines. Understanding this political economy forces us to understand just what kind of knowledge is going to be made and what problems American science and technology will address.

A New Typology for USER-Inspired Science

The ‘basic’ and ‘applied’ approaches to research are insufficient to respond to discrete societal problems. In order to do research that responds to such problems, we need a better idea of what constitutes knowledge production, dissemination and use. Could a new typology of research support more robust deliberation about the design and management of new scientific research programs whose aim is to produce useful information for decision support?

Public Value Mapping U.S. Climate Science Research

How could we utilize outcomes-oriented, non-economic, public value driven approach to assess the effectiveness of U.S. climate science research?

The Challenge of Socio-Technical Momentum

Over time technologies and social structures become more and more difficult to change.  This can be problematic when change is necessary to solve problems. This program will look at how such structures gain momentum and techniques have been used to overcome it.

Accelerating Innovation

Private firms innovate based in part on public knowledge. Even so, governments have many tools other than R&D spending to foster innovation. Politics shapes and constrains policy choice. When political forces align, good policy choices accelerate innovation. Examples include jet engines/gas turbines and microelectronics and computing. Conflicting political forces lead to poor choices, distorting innovation, with  biofuels a recent illustration.

Education for an Unknowable Future

Young people in school today may still be working 50 years from now. The assumption seems to be that “basic skills” (reading, writing, arithmetic) coupled with post-secondary education for a growing fraction—especially in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) occupations—will provide an adequate basis for whatever comes along. Not everyone manages to adapt, as the course of the US labor market since the 1970s demonstrates. How can our institutions—and not just schools and universities—do a better job of preparing us for a future that no one can predict?

Partnering for Inclusion to Change the Development Orthodoxy

How can development assistance be designed to harness community partnership encourage participatory technology development and work on a broad range of issues related to food security, biodiversity, and sustainable development?

Participatory Technology Assessment

How can people who fund technology development (through taxes and consumer purchases), and who live with its positive and negative consequences, but are not otherwise formally engaged through advocacy, play a role in technology assessment?

Repositioning American Science Museums

Can the museum become a place where the role of science and technology in our lives is actively discussed, where the values of visitors are acknowledged, and where tools to participate in our increasingly technological democracy can be shared?

Writing True Stories That Matter

What is narrative/creative nonfiction? How to think about, write, and publish true stories for the general public that engage, intrigue, and inform.


The program fee is $2000, which includes lunch and program materials for all ten sessions, a certificate of completion, and a networking reception.

CaTNASP: A training program for early career science and technology policy practitioners over ten consecutive weekends

How do I apply?

  • Applications for Spring is now closed
  • Applications and program details for Fall will be available in May.
  • Email us if you are interested.

Program Agenda:

  • 10am – Concept/Tools Presentation
  • 11am – Discussion
  • 12pm – Lunch and Skills Studio/Case Study Introduction
  • 1pm – Skills Studio/Case Study Discussion

Topics and Speakers

  • Education for an Unknowable Future – John Alic
  • Partnering for Inclusion to Change the Development Orthodoxy – Netra Chhetri
  • Doing Post Normal Science in the Age of Uncertainty – Dan Sarewitz
  • Reconciling Scientific Research Portfolio with User Demands at NOAA – Claudia Nierenberg
  • A New Typology for User-Inspired Science – Elizabeth McNie
  • Public Value Mapping and Useful Climate Science – Ryan Meyer
  • Situating Science between Experts and Citizens – Dave Guston
  • Pioneering Partnership and Engagement at NASA – Amy Kaminski


Contact the Program Coordinators: