View this email in your browser

Director's Letter

By Shobita Parthasarathy

The last several months have been beyond challenging. Our hearts are aching for the over 150,000 people who have died of COVID-19, as well as for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, David McAtee, Tony McDade, and the hundreds of Black Americans who have been killed and brutalized by the police across this country. I know this is a very stressful time. Ours is a community dedicated to the public good, and I want to highlight some of the ways that we and our students have engaged in discussions about racial equity and in the policy response to the COVID-19 crisis.

STPP students are writing COVID Briefs to provide timely, evidence-based analyses of important science and technology policy issues related to the COVID-19 crisis. The briefs aim to bring cutting edge research and thinking to decision-making around the pandemic. Read our first COVID brief by Alex Kate Halvey, PhD Candidate in Materials Science and Engineering, Engaging with Uncertainty: Best Practices for Science Communication during the Climate Crisis and COVID-19. STPP faculty affiliates are also doing a variety of COVID-related research projects. Robert Hampshire has received US National Science Foundation (NSF) funding to address food insecurity during the pandemic, and I have received NSF funding to understand the development, implementation, and implications of COVID-19 diagnostic testing, comparing the United States, United Kingdom, Singapore, and South Korea. We also held two informal virtual events to bring together STPP students, faculty, and alumni, the first with a theme of coping during the pandemic, and the second on structural racism in science and technology policy.

Our upcoming events for the fall semester will all be virtual and easy to attend from anywhere, with additional opportunities for students to connect with speakers in smaller groups. On November 23rd, Osagie K. Obasogie, professor of bioethics at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health, will be speaking about biomedical innovation and racial equity. And on December 7th, Erin Simpson, associate director of Technology Policy at the Center for American Progress will talk about tech and election politics. We hope you’ll join us.

New STPP Promotional Video

Last year, STPP partnered with a local production company to produce a short video to promote our Graduate Certificate Program. The 3 minute video features interviews with STPP faculty and students, and highlights the unique interdisciplinarity of our program. Watch it on YouTube, and share it with any students you know who might be interested in doing the certificate. 

Cameras in the Classroom: Facial Recognition Technology in Schools

Ban facial recognition in schoolsWe are thrilled to announce the publication of Cameras in the Classroom: Facial Recognition Technology in Schools, the first report from STPP's new Technology Assessment Project (TAP). TAP anticipates the implications of emerging technologies using an innovative analogical case study approach. In this report we analyzed the history of similar technologies to identify five consequences of facial recognition technology: 1) it is racist; 2) it brings state surveillance into the classroom; 3) it punishes nonconformity; 4) it commodifies children's data; and 5) it is inaccurate. As a result, we advocate a ban on the use of this technology. 

We will be holding a webinar to launch the report on September 16th, at 1pm Eastern time. You can register herePlease feel free to share this with interested friends and colleagues!

STPP in the Field

The students featured below received the STPP Student Career Development Grant. The Career Development Grant provides supplemental support for students to attend STPP-related conferences and professional development opportunities that may otherwise be cost-prohibitive. For more information about the grants, and to apply, visit

Reflection on the 2020 AAAS Annual Meeting

Kelsey Diffley, Ph.D. Candidate in Chemistry, and STPP Graduate Certificate Student

In February 2020, I attended thSelfie of a brown haired white woman with a busy conference floor behind here American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Annual Meeting in Seattle, WA with support from the STPP Career Development Grant. 

As a Ph.D. candidate in Chemistry, the conferences I have attended in the past are basic research focused. The AAAS Annual Meeting was a refreshing change of pace as the sessions explored the interdisciplinary nature of science and policy, communication, and advocacy. The theme of the meeting was “Envisioning Tomorrow’s Earth”, and the sessions very much focused on what science and scientists need to achieve for our future. I was able to see all I’ve learned in the STPP core courses in action with sessions titled, “Science is Political, not Partisan” and “Ethical Concerns with Advances in Technology and Genetics.”

One aspect of the conference I really enjoyed were the diverse and plentiful career workshops that were available. The workshops ranged from learning about opportunities in science policy outside of fellowships or at the state level to how to use humor in science communication. It was insightful to learn how different scientists got into policy or advocacy work, illuminating the various routes available for Ph.D.’s such as myself. 

I came away from the meeting with newfound goals of what I as a scientist can achieve in science and technology policy. Overall, the meeting was a fantastic opportunity to explore careers and hear from professionals in the science policy space. And being able to hear Bill Gates as a plenary speaker was pretty cool! I’m grateful the STPP program was able to help me attend this meeting with the Career Development Grant.

Reflections on an internship with the U.S. Climate Alliance 

Laura Grier, MS in Environmental Justice and Policy, STPP Graduate Certificate alum

On any given day of the past winter semester, I got to work as a policy researcher, data tracker, event planner, team builder, and climate advocate. It is thanks to the STPP Career Development Grant that I could serve in these various roles as a State Climate Policy Intern with the U.S. Climate Alliance in Washington, D.C. 

Housed at the U.N. Foundation, the U.S. Climate Alliance is a bipartisan coalition of state governors who are committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in their states in accordance with the Paris Agreement. My internship gave me both hands-on experience researching and communicating about climate policy and a broad understanding of the many ways state governors address climate change according to their states’ politics and geographies. 

My primary role as State Climate Policy Intern was to conduct research in response to interests and requests from member states. Notably, I compiled research on siting renewable energy projects, developing methods of storing renewable energy for future use, and advancing a just energy transition that supports worker livelihoods and local economies. I analyzed policies that address short-lived climate pollutants, monitored Alliance press hits, and tracked climate updates from governors’ annual state of the state addresses. I also spent a significant amount of my internship planning and supporting the Winter Governors’ Office Team Meeting. During this biannual convening, representatives from member states spent two days collaborating and planning together in Washington, D.C.. 

It was encouraging to celebrate as states continued to take the lead on climate change. While I was working with the Alliance, several states - including Washington - passed regulations that phase down the use of hydrofluorocarbons, a powerful short-lived climate pollutant; Virginia joined several other states in mandating that 100% of electricity come from renewable sources; New York’s “Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act” aimed at addressing climate change and advancing environmental justice took effect. These are just a few of the ways Alliance members seek to protect the environment and the health of the residents of their states despite the US government’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement. 

The spread of Covid-19, which caused our team to start working remotely in March, highlighted the importance of enacting strong policy that protects the environment, public health, and the economy. It was eye-opening to be a part of conversations that center around how decarbonizing the economy is crucial for mitigating climate change and can also reduce air pollution that impacts people’s health and create sustainable jobs in vulnerable communities. Understanding these intersections between climate, health, and the economy laid a crucial foundation upon which I hope to build during my career. 

Engaging with so many climate policies to support the work of state governments all across the US was a great way to begin my career in the environmental policy field. I am inspired by the ways governors continue to lead in advancing climate policies that suit the needs of residents in their states. In addition to building my skills that I developed in graduate school, such as research, policy writing, and event planning, I was able to connect with stakeholders and organizations in DC. I am grateful to the STPP program for the skills and knowledge that allowed me to succeed in this work and for the opportunity to pursue this internship opportunity.

Breaking Down the Expertise Barrier to Protect the Public from Science and Technology: Reflections on the 2019-2020 STPP Lecture Series

Stephanie Sandoval-Pistorius, M.S., Neuroscience Ph.D. Candidate and STPP certificate student

This year, I took the Politics of Public Policy and Introduction to Science and Technology Policy Analysis by Shobita Parthasarathy and Joy Rhode, respectively. In these courses, I learned about the “expertise barrier”, which is the practice of limiting science and technology policymaking to those with technical expertise (1). While in the STPP certificate program, I gained an appreciation for hearing the opinions of the general population on science and technology policy (STP). The importance of involving non-scientists in STP was echoed in the STPP lecture series this year, which has led me to believe that public engagement in STP is key to protecting the public from harm that can come from science and technology (S&T). 

In his lecture entitled, Show Your Face? The Pros and Cons of Facial Recognition Technology on our Civil Liberties Chris Calabrese, J.D. discussed the harm that can take place if facial recognition technology is left unchecked. Mr. Calabrese explained, “[Face recognition is] powerful, it’s useful, and it’s often dangerous, like many technologies.” Facial recognition can be used for many good things like finding a wanted fugitive or a missing child, but it can also be used to monitor specific groups of people, as is done in China (2).  Mr. Calabrese believes that creating strong regulations is key to using powerful technologies responsibly and that at the heart of such regulation should be consent and transparency. He reminded us that “[a]s we incorporate more and more technology into our lives, we have to think about the impact of that technology and what we want to do with it.”

In her talk entitled, To Solve Drug Pricing We Must Solve the Drug Patent Problem, Priti Krishtel, J.D. showed that not only can individual technologies cause harm but also the systems in place around them. The U.S. patent system was originally established as a means of incentivizing innovation by granting individuals exclusivity to their inventions/discoveries (2). However, as Mrs. Krishtel explains, patents have become a tool for companies to maintain exclusivity on a drug to keep prices high, leading to structural economic inequality. High drug prices disproportionately effect low-income communities and communities of color, which can lead to generational poverty (3). She gave the example of drug prices increasing by 700% when patents were placed on therapeutics in India. Mrs. Krishtel has worked to make pharmaceuticals more available to those in need and is currently working to reform the U.S. patent system. In her talk, Mrs. Kristel stressed that public participation is key to patent reform. 

The dangerous use of S&T is not modern. Technology has been used to harm others and there has been systemic abuse of others in the name of science before. One way we can control the negative impact of scientific advances is by eliminating the expertise barrier. Another way of broadening the types of voices involved in S&T policy is by diversifying the community of technical experts. In Layne Scherer’s STPP lecture on the recent National Academies of Science report, Graduate STEM Education for the 21st Century, she discussed how to improve graduate STEM education. One of the recommendations in the report is “Ensuring Diverse, Equitable, and Inclusive Environments.” Increasing the diversity of the STEM community will hopefully lead to increased diversity of those who have a voice in establishing STP. It will be harder to avoid or forget about the potential harm a technology can cause marginalized communities when members of those communities are involved in not only creating the technology but also in creating the policies that regulate their use. 

As a scientist, it seemed strange to me that we should take into consideration the opinions of those without a strong science background when considering STP, especially in a time when science and facts seems to not be a priority for a large portion of the country. But, as Mrs. Kristel says, “I think that in this rapidly evolving area of medicine, science and technology policy there has to be more of a robust public discussion, and public input has to start influencing the direction we take on matter of public policy.” Hopefully, as STPP students, we can lead the charge on making S&T more equitable.  

1.    Parthasarathy, Shobita. “Breaking the Expertise Barrier: Understanding Activist Strategies in Science and Technology Policy Domains.” Science and Public Policy, vol. 37, no. 5, Jan. 2010, pp. 355–367., doi:10.3152/030234210x501180.
2.    Feng, Emily. “How China Is Using Facial Recognition Technology.” NPR, NPR, 16 Dec. 2019,
3.    Montague, Gilbert H. “The Sherman Anti-Trust Act and the Patent Law.” The Yale Law Journal, vol. 21, no. 6, 1912, p. 433., doi:10.2307/784715.

Keep In Touch with STPP

As always, we want to hear from you! We want to hear your professional and life updates. You can find us on Twitter and LinkedIn, or email us at

Our mailing address is:
Science, Technology, and Public Policy Program
Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy
University of Michigan
735 South State Street | Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.


This email was sent to <<Email Address>>
why did I get this?    unsubscribe from this list    update subscription preferences
University of Michigan Science, Technology, and Public Policy Program · 735 S State St · 4204 Weill Hall · Ann Arbor, MI 48109-3091 · USA

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp