New journal focuses on intersection of ethics, society, new technologies

September 3, 2013

Scholars and practitioners in the emerging interdisciplinary field known as “responsible innovation” now have a new place to publish their work. The Journal of Responsible Innovation (JRI) will offer an opportunity to articulate, strengthen and critique perspectives about the role of responsibility in the research and development process. The journal will also provide a forum for discussions of ethical, social and governance issues that arise in a society that places a great emphasis on innovation.

David Guston, director of the Center for Nanotechnology in Society at ASU and co-director of the Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes, is the journal’s founding editor-in-chief. He led an international team of scholars in proposing it to Taylor & Francis, which will publish three issues of the journal each year, beginning in early 2014. Journal of Responsible Innovation cover Download Full Image

"Responsible innovation isn’t necessarily a new concept, but a research community is forming and we’re starting to get real traction in the policy world," says Guston. "It is our hope that the journal will help solidify what responsible innovation can mean in both academic and industrial laboratories as well as in governments."

"Taylor & Francis have been working with the scholarly community for over two centuries and over the past 20 years, we have launched more new journals than any other publisher, all offering peer-reviewed, cutting-edge research," adds Richard Steele, Taylor & Francis editorial director. "We are proud to be working with David Guston and colleagues to create a lively forum in which to publish and debate research on responsible technological innovation."

An emerging and interdisciplinary field

The term "responsible innovation" is often associated with emerging technologies – for example, nanotechnology, synthetic biology, geoengineering and artificial intelligence – due to their uncertain but potentially revolutionary influence on society. Responsible innovation represents an attempt to think through the ethical and social complexities of these technologies before they become mainstream. And due to the broad impacts these technologies may have, responsible innovation often involves people working in a variety of roles in the innovation process.

Bearing this interdisciplinarity in mind, the journal will publish not only traditional journal articles and research reports, but also reviews and perspectives on current political, technical and cultural events. It will publish authors from the social sciences and the natural sciences, from ethics and engineering, and from law, design, business and other fields. It especially hopes to see collaborations across these fields, as well.

"We want JRI to help organize a research network focused around complex societal questions," Guston says. "Work in this area has tended to be scattered across many journals and disciplines. We’d like to bring those perspectives together and start sharing our research more effectively."

Drawing on ASU’s expertise

Guston is no stranger to the ethical and social aspects of emerging technologies. His Center for Nanotechnology in Society at ASU, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) with research partners at several other universities, has pioneered ways of studying emerging technologies that have become starting points for many interdisciplinary responsible innovation initiatives.

Erik Fisher, an associate director of the Center for Nanotechnology in Society and assistant professor in the School of Politics and Global Studies, is an associate editor of the new journal. His expertise in responsible innovation comes out of his NSF-funded project on "Socio-technical Integration Research," also known as STIR. The STIR project embeds social scientists and humanists in natural science laboratories to support inquiry into how decisions in the lab may end up affecting the world outside.

Fisher believes this form of collaboration is one route toward responsible innovation, but he is also interested in how the journal can help advance other, broader methods of responsible innovation. "JRI is positioned as a clearinghouse for investigating how every actor in the innovation system can affect that innovation’s impact," he says. "Ultimately we want the journal to inform debates on big questions like, 'What role do we want technology to play in our lives?'"

Fisher is a faculty member in ASU’s Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes, where Guston is the co-director. The consortium aims to enhance the contribution of science and technology to society's pursuit of equality, justice, freedom and overall quality of life. The Journal of Responsible Innovation joins other journals edited by consortium members, including: Issues in Science and Technology, co-edited by co-director Dan Sarewitz and Kevin Finneran of the National Academy of Sciences; Creative Nonfiction, edited by writer-in-residence Lee Gutkind; Science, Technology & Human Values, edited by affiliate faculty Ed Hackett; and Rangelands, edited by managing director Lori Hidinger.

Now accepting manuscripts

The Journal of Responsible Innovation is now soliciting submissions from scholars and practitioners interested in research questions and public issues related to responsible innovation. The journal seeks traditional research articles, perspectives or reviews containing opinion or critique of timely issues and pedagogical approaches to teaching and learning responsible innovation. More information about the journal's aims and scope, and instructions for authors can be found at the publisher’s website:

Engineers aim to protect cities from intensifying heat

September 4, 2013

Challenges are on the horizon for urban areas facing expectations of higher temperatures in the future. The situation could be particularly acute in the arid climate of the Southwest, where urban heat is already trending upward.

An Arizona State University engineer, along with a physician and an urban planning expert at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), is undertaking research to help cities take steps to lessen the impact of rising temperatures. mikhail chester urban heat Download Full Image

Mikhail Chester, an assistant professor in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, one of ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, will team with physician David Eisenman, a professor in the UCLA Division of General Internal Medicine and Health Services Research, and Stephanie Pincetl, an adjunct professor and director of the UCLA Center for Sustainable Communities at the university’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability.

A National Science Foundation grant providing $480,000 over the next four years will support their study of two sprawling urban areas considered especially vulnerable to an increasing number of heat waves: the Phoenix/Maricopa County and Los Angeles County metro areas.

Socio-economic and health status have largely defined the scope of heat vulnerability studies, Chester explains. At-risk communities are characterized by the poverty levels of residents, who often have uncertain access to water and electric utilities, are linguistically isolated, due to a lack of proficiency in English, and often are surrounded by infrastructure that leaves them more exposed to heat.

In these communities, the elderly and those living with debilitating physical afflictions or chronic diseases are even more at risk.

The ASU-UCLA research team will focus on an aspect that has received scant attention as a way to reduce the impact of excessive heat on those vulnerable populations: “urban form,” primarily building construction practices and public infrastructure.

The goal is to devise precise methods of determining the effectiveness of specific construction practices and infrastructure development that could be implemented to better protect people from threatening levels of prolonged heat.

The researchers will weigh the benefits of such things as building weatherization techniques, rooftop solar-energy technology, tree planting and public cooling structures and spaces.

Their aim is to produce a methodological framework – integrating socio-economic and built-environment factors – that local governments can use as a sound practical basis for investment strategies to reduce heat exposure.

The team plans to present its findings to government and community leaders in Maricopa and Los Angeles counties, and to provide the information to other researchers and the public on an interactive, map-based website.

In addition, the researchers will produce educational materials to guide other engineers, social scientists, and medical and public health professionals in using the new methods for future projects to reduce the heat vulnerability of other communities and urban areas.

Joe Kullman

Science writer, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering