published May 2, 2013

SSI 2013 to Feature Symposium on Science and Public Policy

Given the central role that public issues - and the development of public policies designed to address them - play in the civic engagement aspirations of the SENCER enterprise, a focused exploration of science and public policy seems essential. Responding to requests we received last year, we will experiment with a pre-Institute symposium designed to be useful to participants in SENCER initiatives, to creators of SENCER courses and programs, and to students.

The Symposium will examine the historical interdependence of science and public policy and the contributions each has made to the other in the science-society bargain. Among the contemporary questions the Symposium will address the:
- reception (sometimes unquestioned and sometimes hostile) that scientific findings enjoy in the public policy process,
- fundamental changes occurring in our political system and their implications for science practice, education, and policy,
- meaning of a "human right" to the benefits of scientific progress,
- challenges facing those who craft science communication strategies as they navigate the identities, values and interests of those receiving scientific information, and
- assessment of the quality and reliability of public opinion surveys used to for public policy formation on matters "shaped" by science.

Climate change, vaccination policy, embryonic stem cell research, energy and evolution are among the public policy issues from which the Symposium will draw for illustration, exploration, and discussion.

The Symposium will be organized and moderated by Janice Ballou, a public opinion specialist, retired Senior Vice President at Mathematica, Inc., and SENCER external evaluator; and Joseph Karlesky, a professor of government at Franklin and Marshall College. Invited speakers include Dan Kahan, professor of law and psychology at Yale University and a leader in Yale's Cultural Cognition project, and The Honorable Rush Holt, Member of Congress.

The Symposium is planned for the evening of July 31 and will conclude just before the main SSI program begins on August 1. Space for the Symposium is strictly limited to 25 participants. The opportunity to participate is open to SSI 2013 participants. Following the review of applications, SSI attendees selected to participate will receive invitations. There is no charge for the Symposium. Participants will assume responsibility for the additional night of lodging that participation will require. The National Center will provide meals during the Symposium and materials.

If you are participating in the Institute and are interested in taking part in the Symposium, you can read more and access the application here. The deadline to apply for the Symposium is May 8.