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ASU deans make predictions for 2013

January 17, 2013

Part 2: In their own words, Arizona State University deans look back on the developments of 2012 and make their predictions for the new year.

Chris Callahan, dean of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication

Within the news media industry, the most significant story of the year was the nascent area of nonprofit journalism emerging as an integral part of the global news ecosystem. Nonprofit news organizations, such as ProPublica, started in the last decade as traditional news organizations began suffering dramatic cutbacks triggered by the erosion of their long-standing and highly successful ad-based economic model. These new local, regional and national nonprofit news groups have cemented their place in the news media landscape.

A growing part of this nonprofit news arena in 2012 was university-based journalism, led by ASU’s Carnegie-Knight News21 journalism initiative. Earlier this year in News21, Cronkite School professors led a team of 24 top journalism students from 11 leading universities to produce a groundbreaking multimedia series on U.S. voting rights. The nonprofit journalism was distributed on its own site as well as through traditional news organizations such as NBC News and The Washington Post. It was the largest distribution of university-produced journalism in history.

For 2013, I would project an even more rapid movement of news to mobile platforms, with more news organizations adopting a “mobile first” strategy to distribute news and capture audiences with more sophisticated and mobile-friendly news designs for both smart phones and tablets. I also envision a dramatic increase in new digital media mobile applications to engage news consumers and create deeper interactions between and among news organizations and news consumers.

Mitzi Montoya, vice provost and dean of the College of Technology and Innovation

3D-Printers are an example of the transformational change underway in digital fabrication in 2012. As the cost of advanced manufacturing technology drops to levels that make sophisticated equipment available at lower and lower cost, many new possibilities are created. Much like low-cost computing created access to computational power, lowered the cost of information access, and opened global markets – low-cost manufacturing tools will have the same effect. More and smaller manufacturers and inventors will be able to participate in markets that they previously could not access.  

R & D processes for physical goods can become even more efficient as the cost of prototyping falls. Mass customization will become a nearer reality, and the potential for personal fabrication will emerge in the way that personal desktop publishing was enabled by widespread public access to computers. Overall, these changes should mean more jobs, more small companies and more innovation in the U.S.

Massive open online courses, or MOOCs, have already been major newsmakers, but I think we are going to see even more headlines in 2013. MOOCs offer a free online university education. It is an example of democratizing higher education in the truest sense of the word. The intention is to expand the reach of the university beyond tuition-paying students to millions of students at the other end of an internet connection. MOOCs offer a dynamic different from the traditional learning atmosphere – students can access expert knowledge from Ivy League professors in the tens of thousands for free.

I don’t see MOOCs as the solution for scaling higher education, but they offer a compelling reexamination of pedagogical models, and they are certainly an excellent resource for continuing education. As dean of a college that also prides itself on remaking the higher education experience, I am encouraged that others in the field continue to experiment with how to improve higher education and make it more accessible.

Kwang-Wu Kim, dean and director of the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts

Looking into the future, I expect to see more and more significant collaborations between artists (I include designers in that category) and scientists and engineers. These collaborations will not displace the traditional work of artists but rather reflect the need to bring different modes of understanding to bear on the pressing challenges that affect our lives if we are ever going to find meaningful and sustainable solutions.

ASU is a leader in this work nationally as a founding member of a new organization, the Alliance for Arts in the Research University (a2ru), a coalition of 28 major research universities that have come together to develop a national agenda for the arts in the areas of research, curriculum and the student experience. The coalition has received a major grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to fund the first three-year stage of its development and work.

The Herberger Institute’s digital culture initiative will be a featured topic at the first national symposium hosted by a2ru in March 2013 at Penn State University. Recognizing the transformative role of digital technology in our day-to-day lives, ASU’s BA in Digital Culture emphasizes the creation of new systems that integrate digital technology with improving the everyday physical human experience. For a look at the innovative approaches ASU student artists and scientists are creating, visit the newly opened Digital Culture Gallery in Stauffer B on the ASU Tempe campus, or view the online gallery.

Robert Page, vice provost and dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Probably the top of everyone’s list for the top scientific discovery for 2012 was the detection of a Higg’s Boson-like particle by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) using the Large Hadron Collider. Called the “God particle” by some, the boson is believed to be at the heart of the “Big Bang.”

However, Arizona State University researchers figured in a number of significant scientific achievements in 2012, most notably playing a role in Curiosity’s landing on Mars and the use of X-ray lasers to image proteins for the first time.

Cited in the top 10 discoveries for 2012 by the journal Science, studies by ASU Galvin Professor Petra Fromme, Regents’ Professor James Spence and R. Bruce Doak with femtosecond nanocrystallography X-ray laser techniques opened a new area in structural biochemistry. Their studies allow the 3-D imagining of the structure of biomolecules, which enables researchers to view molecular dynamics at a time-scale never observed before. Their work is already leading to new avenues for medical treatments and drug development.   

Curiosity’s Mars landing is also listed as one of the top scientific accomplishments for 2012 by many. Professors James Bell, Alberto Behar, Jack Farmer and Meenakshi Wadhwa, who is also the director of the Center for Meteorite Studies at ASU, were part of a group of more than 300 Curiosity scientists involved. This ASU team from the School of Earth and Space Exploration designed and now work with a suite of Curiosity’s data-collection instruments and cameras.  

What’s coming up for 2013? I imagine that the Curiosity Mission will continue to deliver firsts, including more extraordinary images from Bell’s cameras, but I also expect to see new shifts in research with stem cells, breakthroughs in vaccine development, growing focus on climate change, and expansion of use and development of algae-based fuels. And I expect ASU College of Liberal Arts and Sciences scientists, engineers, social scientists and humanities researchers to be at the forefront of many of these discoveries and interpreting how these emerging discoveries will impact all of us.

Paul C. Johnson, dean of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering 

Engineering was a key player in a number of major news stories in 2012, including those involving new commercial products, innovations in education and domestic energy independence.
Intense media coverage and advertising blitzes accompanied the launch of the latest mobile computing devices, like the iPhone 5 and Nexus and Surface tablets. The concurrent explosive growth in “apps” to expand their functionality has resulted in these devices playing increasingly significant roles in our lives.  

Another big story was the 100,000-plus student online computer science courses that sparked the interest in MOOCs (massive open online courses) and stoked the debate over their impact on the future of education. The interest in MOOCs was amplified by the related discussions in the press about future affordability and accessibility to a traditional college education.

If I could choose only one topic, it would be the possible rebirth of domestic energy production through the use of “fracking” to increase natural gas production. This could be an economic game-changer at the national scale and potential political game-changer at the international scale. It is of interest because of the clear relevance to leading national concerns – the economy and jobs – and because of contentious debates about unknown adverse environmental impacts of fracking, and whether or not increased domestic gas production will alter the course of development of other alternative energy sources.

For 2013 we can anticipate interest in mobile computing devices to stay strong, continued debate on MOOCs and increasing recognition of the connection between energy independence and the strength of our economy.
There are other engineering-related storylines that might become more visible. In particular, the connection between the robustness of our domestic economy, growth in higher-paying jobs and technological innovation might be more prominent in the news in 2013. If that connection moves to the forefront of political and public awareness, it might drive new investments in preparing the next generation of engineers and in the growth of advanced manufacturing industries in the United States.

Similar to the explosion of self-publishing tools, we might also see connections being made between mobile computing and personal manufacturing, especially with the evolution of affordable at-home design and manufacturing tools like 3-D printers. This emerging trend could spur additional innovation and invention.

There is no doubt that there will be some really cool publicly accessible innovation that we never anticipated – and initially we will wonder who will use it – but will discover later that we can't live without it.

Jonathan Koppell, dean of the College of Public Programs

The great challenge for governance in the years ahead is how to do more with less. Regardless of how the budget/debt ceiling impasses of the moment are resolved, it is clear that the resources available to pursue shared goals (particularly through government) will be limited. This means that the great trend will be innovation in models of creating and distributing public goods.  

There will be an increasing number of public-private partnerships that are designed to steer private capital to underwrite everything from the construction and renovation of public housing to the launching of satellites.  Such endeavors pose new challenges. Public officials must craft complex agreements ensuring that as responsibility is transferred to private actors, the public is well-served even as private-sector actors earn margins sufficient to justify their ongoing investment. This is certainly uncomfortable to many, as the increasing incursion of market mechanisms into the public sector challenges norms and expectations.

As a result of this and broader trends, the very definition of public service will continue to expand. The provision of services will increasingly be handled by non-governmental entities – some nonprofit and some for-profit – blurring the lines between sectors. This will continue to create some challenges of accountability, but it offers the huge benefits of drawing innovative, motivated people into the realm of public service who are interested in bettering their communities but not as government employees.

At the same time, there is an increasing expectation of citizen engagement at all levels. As we have seen in countries around the world, authoritarian regimes can no longer be confident of acceptance. And even in democratic nations, citizens demand more say in day-to-day decision-making, particularly at the local level. In both cases, technology has played a huge role in opening new lines of communication amongst people and offering novel ways to allow the citizenry to participate in deliberation on concrete matters like budget and planning.

The challenge of interest group influence in politics and civic discourse generally will continue to remain a central issue underpinning every significant policy issue. Whether the subject is gun control, housing, financial regulation, energy, environment, taxation or deficits, all policymaking takes place through a prism of financial and political influence. This will remain the transcendent challenge for the immediate future as it shapes every other endeavor.

Also, the Sun Devils will win the Rose Bowl.

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