New U-M program looks at policy influences on science, technology

June 6, 2006

ANN ARBOR—A new program at the University of Michigan will enable graduates to better affect science and technology policymaking” hot topics for public debate and political action.

U-M’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy will offer a graduate certificate in science, technology, and public policy, including courses about how science and technology are influenced by politics and policymaking, through the new Science, Technology, and Public Policy Program.

The graduate certificate was approved by the Presidents Council, State Universities of Michigan” a forum for the presidents and chancellors of Michigan’s 15 public universities to discuss higher education finance and policy issues.

Starting in 2006-2007 academic year, the graduate certificate program will be available to all master’s and doctoral students. The program also will hold seminars and conferences featuring leading scholars and policymakers involved in science and technology policy issues.

“We believe this certificate program will be a perfect complement to existing educational initiatives at the University,” said Rebecca Blank, Ford School dean.” It should help to position the University of Michigan as a leader in science and technology policy matters at both the national and international level.”

James Duderstadt, professor of science and engineering and former U-M president, and Shobita Parthasarathy, an assistant professor of public policy, will direct the program.

The pervasiveness of science and technology worldwide has had two major implications for policymaking, Parthasarathy said. The results of scientific investigations and the availability of new innovations have become increasingly relevant throughout public policy, even in areas such as crime and immigration. For instance, as policymakers develop strategies to deal with homeland security, they must also determine how to develop and regulate biometric scanning systems that ensure both border security and an individual’s civil rights.

The second major implication involves policies shaping scientific and technological development, which affect a variety of areas including the environment, national economic competitiveness, and public health. Government funding for stem cell research, for example, has been controversial in the United States because many people see this field as violating their religious beliefs.

At present, there are only a handful of educational programs at the graduate level in the United States that focus on science and technology policy issues. Duderstadt said the new U-M program will offer a variety of courses to bridge the instructional gap between science, technology, and public policy.

The program will reside at the Ford School, which currently offers master’s and doctoral degrees. The Ford School is also planning to add an undergraduate program to its curriculum and will begin accepting applications in winter 2007. The first class of juniors will be welcomed in fall 2007.

The Ford School began in the early 1900s as the Institute of Public Administration” one of the first of its kind nationwide. The IPA was reorganized in 1968 as the Institute of Public Policy Studies, with an expanded curriculum to include economic analysis, political analysis and quantitative methods. In 1995, it was given school status within U-M and named the School of Public Policy. The school was officially named after former President Gerald R. Ford, a U-M alumnus, in 1999.

U.S. News & World Report ranked the Ford School among the top 10 schools nationwide in public administration/public policy. Currently, Ford School faculty and staff are housed in three U-M buildings, including the main office in Lorch Hall. In August 2006, the entire faculty and program staff will move into the five-story, 80,000 square-foot Weill Hall, currently under construction at the northeast corner of State and Hill streets.


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