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ASU law center commemorates 25th anniversary

January 28, 2010

A quarter-century of academic study at the intersection of law and science was commemorated Jan. 27, as the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law unveiled its new Center for Law, Science & Innovation and announced programs that will reinvent the law school's role in solving global technological challenges.

Conducted by Paul Schiff Berman, dean of the law school, the renaming celebration took place at the University Club on Arizona State University's Tempe campus.

The Center for the Study of Law, Science, & Technology was renamed the Center for Law, Science & Innovation to reflect the new expanded role of the center in national public policy debates, Berman said.

"These are more than just technology issues – they deal with the capacity of law, policy and governance structures to innovate in order to keep pace with the revolutionary new scientific changes that are fast approaching," he said. "New advances in genomic-level manipulation allow human beings to alter our own evolutionary path; robotics and nanotechnology will fundamentally change warfare and terrorism; new forms of energy are being made from microorganisms; and so on. Such advances require multidisciplinary approaches, bringing together experts in law and policy, science, technology, ethics and culture. This center will be a national focus for this sort of innovative discussion and policy dialogue."

To propel the center into its next 25 years, Berman has created a series of new programs under the innovation banner, including the new Program in Law and Sustainability, a new Public Health Law and Policy Program, and a global think tank called The Prevail Project: Wise Governance for Challenging Futures.

Last fall, Berman hired James G. Hodge Jr., an eminent scholar at Johns Hopkins and Georgetown Universities, to direct the Public Health Law and Policy Program. Hodge's work has focused on public health information privacy law and ethics, emergency legal preparedness, legal issues of communicable disease control, and health care reform.

Berman also is bringing Daniel Bodansky, a leading legal scholar on climate change and sustainability at the University of Georgia School of Law, to the faculty this summer.

Last December, Berman hired Joel Garreau, an influential author and humanist, to direct the new Prevail Project. It is a collaborative effort to collect the early warning signs that a future where technologies change not just environments, but people, their minds, metabolisms and children, is perhaps on the horizon.

Other new programs dealing with post-conviction DNA issues, real-world experiences in health care entrepreneurship and law, science and the future, also are planned.

Launched at the College of Law in 1984, the Center for the Study of Law, Science, & Technology was the nation's first and largest academic center to address the special legal problems arising from rapid developments in science and technology. It was a logical initiative for a law school known for its large number of faculty members who both recognized the critical importance of the law's relationship to advancements in science and technology and had graduate training and ongoing research interests in various scientific and technical fields.

Early on, the center was a place for internal conversations, research and writings about the interactions of law and science. Although scholarship remains at its core, the center's interests over the years have been expanded to accommodate a commitment to law students and active involvement in policy debates across the region, the nation and the globe.

In 2001, law professor Gary Marchant, a Harvard-educated lawyer with a doctorate in genetics, was named the center's executive director to broaden its jurisdiction even further.

Today, the center offers dozens of courses for science-minded law students in the areas of intellectual property, scientific evidence, biotechnology, health law, environmental and sustainability law, law and psychology, programs in genetics, nanotechnology, public health law and intellectual property, and clinics in patent law and technology ventures service. The center was among the first at any law school to offer courses in nanotechnology law and neuroscience and the law, and it was the first in the nation to design a Master of Laws (LL.M.) program in biotechnology and genomics.

"Some of the areas of particular expertise within the center include emerging technologies, nanotechnology, sustainability, personalized medicine, public health law and the forensic sciences," said Marchant, who in 2005 was named Lincoln Professor of Emerging Technologies, Law & Ethics by the ASU Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics. "The real-world interactions of law and science have absolutely exploded, and so our work here has morphed to being much more practical and to include policy debates in these exciting new fields. We are not just a science and technology innovation center – we are matching it with legal, policy and ethical innovations, too."

In recent years, the center has increased its contributions to interdisciplinary efforts, both at ASU and outside the university, Marchant said. It regularly partners with academics at ASU's Biodesign Institute, Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics, Global Institute of Sustainability, the W.P. Carey School of Business and other units.

The center has presented national conferences on many topics including the future of personalized medicine, the forensic sciences, and brain scan technology. This spring, it is sponsoring, with the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Mayo Clinic, and the Food and Drug Law Institute, a major conference for attorneys, physicians and other interested observers about the policy, legal, and ethical implications of personalized medicine, and an academic summit to outline the meaning and significance of sustainability and explore law as a means to promoting a sustainable future.

Additionally, as a direct result of the College of Law's strength in and commitment to this field of inquiry, the center was selected by the American Bar Association Section of Science and Technology to co-edit its quarterly publication, Jurimetrics: The Journal of Law, Science, and Technology. First published in 1959, Jurimetrics, a refereed journal, is the oldest and most widely read and prestigious periodical specializing in law and science.

Janie Magruder,
(480) 727-9052
Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law