The Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes (CSPO) advances new ideas about the societal impacts of science and technology, and related policy problems. But like any mission-oriented research effort, we sometimes struggle to take these ideas and apply them in the real world. The realm of federal policy in particular, with its strong political forces, complex bureaucracies, and organizational inertia, seems a harsh environment for principled, intellectual arguments about how things could or should be.
One small idea, which we hope will grow, is to convene monthly meetings of program managers from agencies across the federal government. A program manager who disburses funding to researchers occupies an important, but often difficult position in the federal bureaucracy. On the one hand, they may have considerable influence on the way problems get framed, and on the way in which knowledge advances in particular areas. On the other hand, they may be limited by a variety of factors related to agency politics, the culture of particular scientific disciplines, and constricting performance and evaluation criteria.
Our main goal for this effort is to provide a forum for social learning among individuals who want to think differently about the funding and management of science and technology research. What are the best ways to link research outcomes with broader benefits? What innovations in program review can support this goal? There are many more such questions that program managers struggle with. It is our hope that through ongoing interactions with us and with each other, the people who actually implement science and technology policy can learn from each other, and that we can learn from them about how to frame our ideas in useful ways.
We held the first of these meetings last week, and judging by the level of enthusiastic discussion, the event was a success. Hopefully we can keep up interest, and broaden participation in a way that leads to a network of motivated and innovative science and technology policy professionals.
Arizona State University
Consortium for Science, Policy, and Outcomes