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How to Save America’s Knowledge Enterprise

From Tight Budgets, Primitive Myths, and the Shadow of Albert Einstein
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For more than 50 years, America’s R&D system has remained fundamentally unchanged, according to the researchers, policymakers, and journalists who spoke at Monday’s Future Tense event, “How To Save America’s Knowledge Enterprise … From Tight Budgets, Primitive Myths, and the Shadow of Albert Einstein.” Held at the New America Foundation in Washington, D.C., How To Save America’s Knowledge Enterprise featured incisive critiques of the aging system that is incapable of helping us solve looming problems in medicine, energy, and business.

In opening remarks, Daniel Sarewitz, co-director of Arizona State University’s Consortium of Science, Policy, and Outcomes, noted that our current research enterprise is built on several assumptions: that the more money we put in, the more results we’ll accrue; that scientists should only be accountable to one another, via peer review; and that knowledge will always help. But these assumptions are deeply misguided: For instance, as we’ve learned more about climate change, we’ve seen only more carbon dioxide emissions, so knowledge isn’t by itself a solution to a problem.

By turns, the afternoon’s conversation discussed the problems faced and perpetuated by universities (both in carrying out research and in educating students), business, and government (as both funder and as researcher).

Read a complete recap of the event from Torie Bosch on Slate's Future Tense Channel


12:00 p.m. - "Just Trust Us": The Postwar Golden Era and Why We Cling to It

Dan Sarewitz - @CSPO_ASU                                                                      
Director, Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes, Arizona State University
Professor of Science and Society, Arizona State University

12:15 p.m. - The Cost of Clinging to What Increasingly Looks Like Failure

Stephen Trachtenberg - @GWtweets
President Emeritus and Professor of Public Service, George Washington University

George Poste - @ASU
Chief Scientist, Complex Adaptive Systems Initiative, Arizona State University
Founder and former Director, Biodesign Institute, Arizona State University

Andy Revkin - @Revkin                                                                              
Senior Fellow, Pace Academy for Applied Environmental Studies, Pace University
"Dot Earth" Writer, The New York Times

Deborah Blum - @deborahblum  
Author, The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York
Winner of 1992 Pulitzer Prize for The Monkey Wars series in the Sacramento Bee

1:15 p.m. - Is our Knowledge Enterprise Complex Capable of Seeding the Jobs-Creating Industries of Tomorrow?

Jon Gertner - @nytmag                                                                       
Contributing Writer, New York Times Magazine
Author, The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation

Eric Isaacs - @Argonne
Director, Argonne National Laboratory

Michael Lind - @NewAmerica                                                                     
Policy Director, Economic Growth Program, New America Foundation

Jonathan Koppell - @coppasu
Dean, College of Public Programs and Director, School of Public Affairs
Arizona State University

2:30 p.m. - Making Biomedical Science Nimble: It's the Patients, Stupid!

Ron Deprez - @unetweets                                                                     
Director, Center for Community and Public Health, University of New England

Ben Heywood - @patientslikeme                                                               
President and Director, Patients Like Me

Sheri Fink - @sherifink
Bernard L. Schwartz Fellow, New America Foundation
Winner of 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting on Memorial Medical Center in New Orleans

3:15 p.m. - Sweden Solved its Nuclear Waste Problem, Why Can't We?

Daniel Metlay  
Senior Staff Member, Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board

Lisa Margonelli - @NewAmerica
Director, Energy Policy Initiative, New America Foundation

3:30 p.m. - Environment and Energy: Innovating in the Belly of the Beast

Margaret Davidson - @USNOAAGOV
Director, Coastal Services Center, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Michael Holland - @Energy
Senior Advisor and Staff Director, Office of the Undersecretary for Science, Department of Energy

Jeff Marqusee - @DeptofDefense
Executive Director, Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program, Department of Defense
Director, Environmental Security Technology Certification Program, Department of Defense

Lisa Margonelli - @NewAmerica
Director, Energy Policy Initiative, New America Foundation

4:30 p.m. - Redesigning the Cold War University

Michael Crow - @michaelcrow
President, Arizona State University

Event Time and Location

Monday, May 21, 2012 - 12:00pm - 5:30pm
New America Foundation
1899 L Street NW Suite 400
Washington, DC 20036

Related Programs

Event Photos

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A range of photos from this event are available on Flickr. Click on the icon at left to view or download the photos.

Video Clips

See video
Michael Crow talks about the role of universities in scientific research.
See video
Eric Isaacs comments on setting national priorities for research and the myth of the lone inventor.