Skip to content
Topics
Stories

Preparing tomorrow’s researchers for technology’s fallout

This summer, North­eastern led a pilot doc­toral fel­low­ship pro­gram to sup­port schol­arly study of social and eth­ical issues asso­ci­ated with emerging technologies.

The pro­gram was funded under a multi-​​year National Sci­ence Foun­da­tion (NSF) project on nan­otech­nology and public policy that is directed by Christo­pher Bosso, pro­fessor of public policy and asso­ciate dean of the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs.

Bosso brought together six advanced doc­toral stu­dents and early-​​career researchers for 10 weeks to work on their research, learn from one another and pro­duce indi­vidual papers on the project for future publication.

Topics included the ethics of geo­engi­neering to address global cli­mate change; use of genetic testing in employ­ment deci­sions; the use of repro­duc­tive tech­nolo­gies to select the sex of one’s chil­dren; the jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for prop­erty rights over dig­ital goods; the use of genetic ancestor pro­filing in crim­inal jus­tice con­texts; and the testing of cog­ni­tive enhance­ment tech­nolo­gies on non-​​human animals.

Even as they sharp­ened their schol­arly skills, fel­lows were advised on how to make their work acces­sible to non-​​specialists and to com­mu­ni­cate the impor­tance of the eth­ical issues posed by a range of emerging technologies.

“The pro­gram embodies the University’s com­mit­ment to being a leader in respon­sible tech­no­log­ical inno­va­tion,” said Ronald San­dler, asso­ciate pro­fessor of phi­los­ophy, who led the summer pro­gram and will direct a new Ethics Insti­tute at North­eastern. “The fel­lows we worked with are the next gen­er­a­tion of col­lege and uni­ver­sity faculty.

“Since tech­nology is now the pri­mary driver of social change, it is cru­cial that we encourage grad­uate stu­dents and early career fac­ulty to study the eth­ical issues that emerging tech­nolo­gies raise. The point of this pro­gram is to pro­vide them an oppor­tu­nity to do just that.”

Bosso and San­dler hatched the idea for the summer fel­low­ship pro­gram out of a desire to foster a com­mu­nity of shared inquiry on the eth­ical and policy aspects of emerging tech­nolo­gies, and after having both worked with stu­dents brought to North­eastern in pre­vious sum­mers through the NSF-​​funded Research Expe­ri­ence for Under­grad­u­ates (REU) program.

“We saw such value in the shared expe­ri­ences of the REU par­tic­i­pants that we decided to create a sim­ilar com­mu­nity of inquiry for a select number of doc­toral stu­dents,” Bosso said. “It went so well, and par­tic­i­pants came away with such pos­i­tive feel­ings about their time here, that we are seeking funding to repeat the pro­gram in the years to come.”

Two summer fel­lows, John Basl and Valentina Urbanek, are former North­eastern under­grad­uate stu­dents who recently earned PhDs in phi­los­ophy from the Uni­ver­sity of Wisconsin-​​Madison and MIT, respec­tively. Urbanek is cur­rently a lec­turer in phi­los­ophy at Tufts Uni­ver­sity and Basl joins the Bowling Green State Uni­ver­sity fac­ulty this fall as an assis­tant pro­fessor of philosophy.

– by Samantha Fodrowski

More Stories

Photo of the Capitol Building at night

High stakes for politics, SCOTUS in 2018

01.04.2018
Photo of the crashed truck that was used in the October 31st attack in Manhattan.

Weaponizing Language: How the meaning of “allahu akbar” has been distorted

11.08.2017
Northeastern logo

Why I love studying Spanish

05.29.20
Uncategorized