Skip to main content
The Ongoing Transformation

The Ongoing Transformation

By Issues in Science and Technology

The Ongoing Transformation is a biweekly podcast featuring conversations about science, technology, policy, and society. We talk with interesting thinkers—leading researchers, artists, policymakers, social theorists, and other luminaries—about the ways new knowledge transforms our world.

This podcast is presented by Issues in Science and Technology, a journal published by Arizona State University and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Visit issues.org and contact us at podcast@issues.org.
Where to listen
Apple Podcasts Logo

Apple Podcasts

Google Podcasts Logo

Google Podcasts

Spotify Logo

Spotify

Stitcher Logo

Stitcher

To Solve Societal Problems, Unite the Humanities with Science
To Solve Societal Problems, Unite the Humanities with Science
How can music composition help students learn how to code? How can creative writing help medical practitioners improve care for their patients? Science and engineering have long been siloed from the humanities, arts, and social sciences, but uniting these disciplines could help leaders better understand and address problems like educational disparities, socioeconomic inequity, and decreasing national wellbeing. On this episode, host Josh Trapani speaks to Kaye Husbands Fealing, dean of the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts at Georgia Tech, about her efforts to integrate humanities and social sciences with science and engineering. We also discuss her pivotal role in establishing the National Science Foundation’s Science of Science and Innovation Policy program, and why an integrative approach is crucial to solving societal problems. Recommended Reading · Read Kaye Husbands Fealing, Aubrey DeVeny Incorvaia, and Richard Utz’s Issues piece “Humanizing Science and Engineering for the Twenty-First Century” for for our series “The Next 75 Years of Science Policy," supported by the Kavli Foundation [KS1]Think this is enough to justify using Kavli funds to promote this episode of the podcast? · Visit Kaye Husbands Fealing’s webpage at Georgia Tech · Read Julia Lane’s Issues piece “A Vision for Democratizing Government Data” · Read National Science Board members Ellen Ochoa and Victor R. McCrary’s Issues piece “Cultivating America’s STEM Talent Must Begin at Home” · Read John H. Marburger’s 2005 piece in Science “Wanted: Better Benchmarks” · Look at the National Academies 2014 summary of the Science of Science and Innovation Policy (SciSIP) principal investigators conference · View the webpage for the SciSIP program (renamed Science of Science: Discovery, Communication, and Impact) at the National Science Foundation
34:32
November 15, 2022
How to Fix the Bus
How to Fix the Bus
Buses are an inexpensive and easy-to-deploy form of mass transit that could help reduce traffic congestion and curb air pollution. But in the United States, no one wants to ride them—and for good reason: the design of the American bus has not changed much since World War II. The antiquated design is uncomfortable and creates hazards for riders, drivers, and pedestrians. How could the bus be transformed into a mode of transit that people actually want to use? On this episode, host Lisa Margonelli talks to Brian Sherlock, a former Seattle bus driver and safety specialist at Amalgamated Transit Union International, the largest public transit union in North America. He explains what’s wrong with American buses, and how a redesign could make for a better urban future. Resources: COVID-19 Revealed an Invisible Hazard on American Buses by Brian Sherlock
34:57
November 02, 2022
How can Clinical Trials Better Reflect Society’s Diversity?
How can Clinical Trials Better Reflect Society’s Diversity?
Clinical trials are crucial to the development of new drugs, medical treatments, and therapeutics. The knowledge gained from these trials helps ensure that treatments are safe and effective. Trials are also sometimes the only way for patients to access the most cutting-edge therapies for a disease. However, wide swaths of the American population, including Black and Latino Americans who often face the greatest health challenges, are not adequately represented in the clinical trials and do not benefit equitably from this research. In this episode, host Sara Frueh is joined by Gloria Coronado, an epidemiologist with the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research, and Jason Resendez, president of the National Alliance for Caregiving, to discuss the causes and consequences of this underrepresentation, and steps researchers and policymakers should take to remedy it. Resources: Read the May 2022 consensus report from the National Academies, Improving Representation in Clinical Trials and Research: Building Equity for Women and Underrepresented Groups.
44:31
October 04, 2022
The Forgotten Origins of the Social Internet
The Forgotten Origins of the Social Internet
The typical history of the internet tells a story that emphasizes experts and institutions: government, industry, and academia. In this origin story, the internet began as a product of the military during the Cold War, was adopted by academia and research institutions, and then Silicon Valley and the private sector brought it to the masses. What this history ignores, however, are the many computer enthusiasts and hobbyists of the 1980s who used modems to connect to bulletin board systems—creating thriving online communities well before most people ever heard about the “information superhighway.” On this episode, host Jason Lloyd is joined by professor Kevin Driscoll from the University of Virginia to discuss how the forgotten history of bulletin board systems can help us understand today’s social media-dominated internet and build healthier, more inclusive online communities. Resources: · Read Kevin Driscoll’s Issues essay, “A Prehistory of Social Media,” and his book, The Modem World: A Prehistory of Social Media, to learn more about early social networks. · Check out Kevin’s first book, Minitel: Welcome to the Internet, coauthored with Julien Mailland, on the French precursor to the internet. They also have a great websitefor the book.
40:10
September 20, 2022
Fruitful Communities
Fruitful Communities
Food is an essential part of our lives, but for many people fresh food is something they find in a grocery store, not growing in their communities. How can art and advances in agricultural science create new food resources, connect communities, and create more resilient food systems? On this episode, host J. D. Talasek is joined by artists David Allen Burns and Austin Young of Fallen Fruit and professor Molly Jahn from the University of Wisconsin-Madison to explore how creativity and systems thinking can change the food system. Resources: Read about the “Subversive Beauty of Fallen Fruit” in Issues, and learn more about the Fallen Fruit collective’s artwork and projects by visiting the group’s website. Explore the Endless Orchard to collaborate in creating the largest public orchard in the world. Read Molly Jahn’s Issues article, “How ‘Multiple Breadbasket Failure’ Became a Policy Issue,” on her journey from making new squash varieties to trying to improve global food security. Learn more about risk in food systems by visiting the Jahn Research Group, and take her free courses on “Systems Thinking.”
33:51
September 06, 2022
BONUS EPISODE: A Historic Opportunity for U.S. Innovation
BONUS EPISODE: A Historic Opportunity for U.S. Innovation
This summer, Congress is trying to reconcile the differences between two massive bills focused on strengthening US competitiveness and spurring innovation: the House-passed COMPETES Act and the Senate-passed USICA bill. In this episode, we speak with Mitch Ambrose from FYI, the American Institute of Physics’ science policy news service, about the historic conference aimed at negotiating the House and Senate bills. What are the competing visions for US competitiveness in the bills? How do the details get worked out, and what happens if Congress fails to reach an agreement? Recommended Reading: Follow FYI’s coverage and subscribe to their newsletters at aip.org/fyi.
30:50
June 29, 2022
Biotech Goes to Summer Camp
Biotech Goes to Summer Camp
Who gets to be a scientist? At BioJam, a free Northern California summer camp, the answer is everyone. This week we talk with Callie Chappell, Rolando Perez, and Corinne Okada Takara about how BioJam engages high school students and their communities to create art through bioengineering. Started as an intergenerational collective in 2019, BioJam was designed to change the model of science communication and education into a multi-way collaboration between the communities of Salinas, East San Jose, and Oakland, and artists and scientists at Stanford. At BioJam, youth are becoming leaders in the emerging fields of biodesign and biomaking—and in the process, redefining what it means to be a scientist. Resources: Read their essay, "Bioengineering Everywhere, For Everyone," and see the youth artwork. Visit the BioJam website to learn more.
35:18
May 24, 2022
Rethinking Hard Problems in Brain Science
Rethinking Hard Problems in Brain Science
When it comes to exploring the mind-boggling complexity of living systems—ranging from the origins of human consciousness to treatments for neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s—Susan Fitzpatrick has long been a critic of reductionist thinking. In this episode we talk with Fitzpatrick, who has spent three decades supporting brain research as president of the James S. McDonnell Foundation, about new ways to understand the human brain, the difficulty of developing an effective Alzheimer’s treatment, and how scientific research can successfully confront complex problems. Further reading: The James S. McDonnell Foundation website Susan Fitzpatrick’s review of Metazoa by Peter Godfrey-Smith and Life’s Edge by Carl Zimmer Her review of Brains Through Time by Georg F. Striedter and R. Glenn Northcutt Her review of Mind Fixers by Anne Harrington Her review of Chasing Men on Fire by Stephen G. Waxman and Understanding the Brain by John E. Dowling “Asking the Right Questions in Alzheimer’s Research,” her Feature essay in the Fall 2018 Issues in Science and Technology
30:08
May 10, 2022
Demystifying the Federal Budget
Demystifying the Federal Budget
How do budgets evolve into policies? As Congress starts to appropriate money for President Biden’s 2023 budget requests, we talk with Matt Hourihan, director of the R&D Budget and Policy Program for the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Hourihan tells of his own introduction to the byzantine mysteries of the budget, how the process works (and sometimes doesn’t work!), and what the numbers reveal about today’s science policy priorities. Resources: Find more resources to understand federal research & development funding by visiting AAAS’s R&D Budget & Policy Program. Visit AAAS’s Science Insider for breaking news and analysis on science policy. Follow Matt on Twitter at @MattHourihan.
23:33
April 26, 2022
Chasing Connections in Climate Action
Chasing Connections in Climate Action
There is scientific consensus on climate change and its human cause, but how to understand and address global warming remains a divided topic in American life. Art and religion are two lenses through which new perspectives on climate change might be discovered. In this episode, we talk to photographer James Balog and climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe about how their work creates connections across different ways of knowing, such as art, science, or religion. How can these connections—along with a better understanding of influences such as personal geographies and socioeconomic backgrounds—inform meaningful ways to confront climate change? Resources: ·  Visit Katharine Hayhoe’s website for more of her work and links to her social media. ·  Visit James Balog’s website and the Earth Vision institute to learn more about James. ·  Extreme Ice Survey: James’s innovative, long-term photography project to give a visual voice to the planet’s changing ecosystems. ·  Read James’s new book, The Human Element: A Time Capsule from the Anthropocene ·  Watch James’s movies, The Human Element and Chasing Ice. ·  Read Katharine’s new book, Saving Us: A Climate Scientist's Case for Hope and Healing in a Divided World ·  Watch Katharine’s Global Weirding: Climate, Politics, and Religion videos on Youtube
34:58
April 12, 2022
Can Bureaucracy Build a Climate Revolution?
Can Bureaucracy Build a Climate Revolution?
Between 2009 and 2019, India brought electricity to half a billion citizens, and then turned around and presided over a grid where power from wind and solar became cheaper than electricity from coal in 2018. India’s carbon-heavy government ministries have shown a surprising ability to engineer deep change. Kartikeya Singh, senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, talks with us about what role these ministries–which employ 20 million people—could play in creating an energy sector that is ecologically and economically sustainable. Read Kartikeya Singh’s essay, Bureaucracies for the Better. Visit issues.org for more episodes, conversations and articles. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn! Comments? Questions? Tweet us or email us at podcast@issues.org.
33:10
March 29, 2022
Creating a “High-Minded Enterprise”: Vannevar Bush and Postwar Science Policy
Creating a “High-Minded Enterprise”: Vannevar Bush and Postwar Science Policy
Vannevar Bush is a towering figure in US science and technology policy. A science adviser to Presidents Roosevelt and Truman during and after World War II, he mobilized the US research community in support of the war effort and was a major figure in the creation of the National Science Foundation. Although his influence on the history and institutions of US science and technology is unparalleled, the full breadth of Bush’s thinking remains underappreciated today. We talk with writer and educator G. Pascal Zachary, Bush’s biographer and editor of a new collection of his writings, about this remarkable polymath, the background behind his landmark report, Science, the Endless Frontier, and his surprising legacy for the information age. Links: The Essential Writings of Vannevar Bush, edited by G. Pascal Zachary. Faith & Science, an excerpt from a 1955 letter Vannevar Bush wrote to employees and supporters of the Carnegie Institution of Washington. Beyond the Endless Frontier, an article series from Issues that grapples with Bush’s legacy for today’s science policy.
29:39
March 15, 2022
Maximizing the Good of Innovation
Maximizing the Good of Innovation
The United States is justifiably proud of the accomplishments of its taxpayer-funded biomedical innovation system. But these innovations don’t benefit all Americans equally, which means, among other things, that the richest live 10 to 15 years longer than the very poor. In this episode we speak with Shobita Parthasarathy, a professor at the University of Michigan and director of the Science, Technology, and Public Policy Program. Parthasarathy explains how to think differently about the country’s innovation system—by removing societal bias, rethinking patents, and ensuring equitable access to medical advances—to allow all Americans to thrive. Read Shobita Parthasarathy’s article, Innovation as a Force for Equity. Explore more of Parthasarathy’s work by visiting her website. Check out Parthasarathy’s podcast, The Received Wisdom, a podcast about how to realize the potential of science and technology by challenging the received wisdom. Visit issues.org for more episodes, conversations and articles. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn! Comments? Questions? Tweet us or email us at podcast@issues.org.
27:02
March 01, 2022
Fighting COVID with Art
Fighting COVID with Art
The COVID vaccines are highly effective at preventing infection, serious illness, and even death from COVID, but many are hesitant to get vaccinated. Because art is a powerful tool for connecting with communities, building stronger relationships between artists and public health programs may be a way to increase people’s confidence about vaccines. On this episode, cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz and Jill Sonke, director of the Center for Art in Medicine at the University of Florida, join us to explore the question, “What role could artists and culture bearers play in discussions of vaccine confidence?” Links: COVIDLatino. See Lalo Alcaraz’s cartoons and resources to provide information about COVID-19 for Latinx communities. CDC Vaccination Resources. Find vaccine field guides and other vaccine information. Art & Response Repository. Art and other resources to aid cross sector collaboration.
33:49
February 15, 2022
Shaky Science in the Courtroom
Shaky Science in the Courtroom
Eyewitness testimony and forensic science are key forms of evidence used in criminal cases. But over the past few decades DNA analysis—and the exonerations it has prompted—has revealed how flawed these types of evidence can be. According to the Innocence Project, mistaken eyewitness identifications played a role in 70% of convictions that were ultimately overturned through DNA testing, and misapplied forensic science was found in nearly half of these cases. In this episode we speak with Jed Rakoff, senior US district judge for the Southern District of New York.  Judge Rakoff discussed the weaknesses in eyewitness identification and forensic science and offered thoughts on how judges, policymakers, and others can reform the use of these methods and get stronger science into the courtroom. Recommended Reading Read Jed Rakoff’s book Why the Innocent Plead Guilty and the Guilty Go Free: And Other Paradoxes of Our Broken Legal System And two National Academies reports: Identifying the Culprit: Assessing Eyewitness Identification Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward
27:05
January 31, 2022
The Marvelous and the Mundane: Art and the Webb Telescope
The Marvelous and the Mundane: Art and the Webb Telescope
The James Webb Space Telescope’s revolutionary technology is expected to reveal secrets of every phase of cosmic history—from within our solar system to the most distant observable galaxies.  In this podcast, we talk with DC-based artist Tim Makepeace about his exhibition Reflections on a Tool of Observation: Artwork Inspired by the James Webb Space Telescope that celebrates the awe-inspiring technology while drawing attention to the fact that it is a human endeavor that reveals the nuts, bolts and wires of the instrument.  Tim is joined by art historian Anne Collins-Goodyear whose research exploring the relationship between art and technology provides thought provoking historical context. See a selection of pieces from Tim Makepeace’s exhibition, Reflections on a Tool of Observation: Artwork Inspired by the James Webb Space Telescope and visit the CPNAS website to learn more about the exhibition. Visit Tim Makepeace’s website for more works. Follow Anne Collins-Goodyear’s current work at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art. Visit issues.org for more episodes, conversations and articles. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn! Comments? Questions? Tweet us or email us at podcast@issues.org.
29:48
January 18, 2022
Dinosaurs!
Dinosaurs!
It may surprise you to learn that the enormous dinosaur skeletons that wow museum visitors were not assembled by paleontologists. The specialized and critical task of removing fossilized bones from surrounding rock, and then reconstructing the fragments into a specimen that a scientist can research or a member of the public can view, is the work of fossil preparators. Many of these preparators are volunteers without scientific credentials, working long hours to assemble the fossils on which scientific knowledge of the prehistoric world is built. In this episode we speak with social scientist and University of Virginia professor Caitlin Donahue Wylie, who takes us inside the paleontology lab to uncover a complex world of status hierarchies, glue controversies, phones that don’t work—and, potentially, a way to open up the scientific enterprise to far more people. Read Caitlin Donahue Wylie’s article, What Fossil Preparators Can Teach Us About More Inclusive Science. Check out Caitlin Donahue Wylie’s book, Preparing Dinosaurs: The Work Behind the Scenes, which is available for open access. Visit issues.org for more episodes, conversations and articles. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn! Comments? Questions? Tweet us or email us at podcast@issues.org.
38:05
January 04, 2022
The Art of a COVID Year
The Art of a COVID Year
In the early days of the pandemic, communities began singing together over balconies, banging pans, and engaging in other forms of collective support, release, and creativity. Artists have also been creatively responding to this global event. In this episode, we explore how artists help us deal with a crisis such as COVID-19 by documenting, preserving, and helping us process our experiences. San Francisco artist James Gouldthorpe created a visual journal starting at the very onset of the pandemic to record its personal, societal, and historical impacts. We spoke with Gouldthorpe and Dominic Montagu, a professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of California, San Francisco. See a selection of James Gouldthorpe’s artwork from the COVID Artifacts series on Issues.org. Visit issues.org for more episodes, conversations and articles. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn! Comments? Questions? Tweet us or email us at podcast@issues.org.
29:25
December 21, 2021
Eternal Memory of the Facebook Mind
Eternal Memory of the Facebook Mind
Social media platforms like Facebook and Spotify analyze huge quantities of data from users before feeding selections back as personal “memories.” How do the algorithms select which content to turn into memories? And how does this feature affect the way we remember--and even what we think memory is? We spoke to David Beer, professor of sociology at the University of York, about how algorithms and classifications play an increasingly important role in producing and shaping what we remember about the past. Recommended reading: David Beer reviews Streaming Culture: Subscription Platforms and the Unending Consumption of Culture by David Arditi: “More and More and More Culture” Social Media and the Automatic Production of Memory: Classification, Ranking, and the Sorting of the Past by Ben Jacobsen and David Beer Spotify Wrapped, Spotify’s yearly wrap-up of your listening habits. Visit issues.org for more episodes, conversations and articles. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn! Comments? Questions? Tweet us or email us at podcast@issues.org.
25:10
December 07, 2021
Doing Science with Everyone at the Table
Doing Science with Everyone at the Table
Could we create more knowledge by changing the way we do scientific research?  We spoke with NASA’s Psyche mission’s principal investigator and ASU Interplanetary Initiative vice president Lindy Elkins-Tanton about the limitations of “hero science,” and how she is using an inclusive model where collaborative teams pursue “profound and important questions.” Read Lindy Elkins-Tanton’s essay, Time to Say Goodbye to Our Heroes? Visit issues.org for more episodes, conversations and articles. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn! Comments? Questions? Tweet us or email us at podcast@issues.org.
32:25
November 22, 2021
Science Policymakers’ Required Reading
Science Policymakers’ Required Reading
Every Monday afternoon, the Washington, DC, science policy community clicks open an email newsletter from the American Institute of Physics’ science policy news service, FYI,  to learn what they’ve missed. We spoke with Mitch Ambrose and Will Thomas about this amazing must-read: how it comes together in real time and what it reveals about the ever-changing world of science policy itself. Find FYI’s Trackers and subscribe to their newsletters at aip.org/fyi. Visit issues.org for more episodes, conversations and articles. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn! Comments? Questions? Tweet us or email us at podcast@issues.org.
27:07
November 22, 2021