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'Virtual institute' brings scholars together to advance responsible innovation

September 23, 2013

The National Science Foundation recently announced a grant of nearly $500,000 to establish a new Virtual Institute for Responsible Innovation (VIRI) at the Center for Nanotechnology in Society at ASU (CNS-ASU). In a global marketplace that thrives on technological innovation, incorporating ethics, responsibility and sustainability into research and development is a critical priority.

Responding to this need, VIRI will work to ensure that knowledge-based innovation in academic and corporate settings integrates broad concepts of responsibility. Download Full Image

Interdisciplinary and wide-reaching

VIRI is a part of an NSF initiative called “Science Across Virtual Institutes.” Virtual institutes are designed to facilitate worldwide collaboration among scientists and engineers on topics of common interest.

VIRI’s goal is to enable an international community of students and scholars who can help establish a common understanding of responsible innovation in research, training and outreach. By doing so, VIRI aims to contribute to the governance of emerging technologies that are dominated by market uncertainty and difficult questions of how well they reflect societal values.

VIRI founding institutional partners are University of Exeter (UK), Durham University (UK), University of Sussex (UK), Maastricht University (Netherlands), University of Copenhagen (Denmark), Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (Germany), University of Waterloo (Canada), Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences (Norway), and State University of Campinas (Brazil).

VIRI founding institutional affiliates are the US National Academy of Engineering’s Center for Engineering, Ethics and Society, IEEE Spectrum Online and Fondazione Giannino Bassetti.

VIRI’s activities will also be tightly connected with a new, international peer-reviewed Journal of Responsible Innovation, which will begin publication in 2014 with Taylor & Francis.

Years in the making

Led by ASU faculty members David Guston and Erik Fisher, VIRI will bring a social and ethical lens to research and development practices that do not always focus on the broader implications of their research and products. Guston, director of CNS-ASU, co-director of the Consortium of Science, Policy and Outcomes, and professor in the School of Politics and Global Studies, has been pushing for the establishment of academic units that focus on responsible innovation for years.

"We are thrilled that NSF has chosen to advance responsible innovation through this unique, international collaboration," Guston said. "It will give ASU the opportunity to help focus the field and ensure that people start thinking about the broader implications of knowledge-based innovation."

Fisher, assistant professor in the School for Politics and Global Studies, has long been involved in integrating social considerations into science research laboratories through his NSF-funded Socio-Technical Integration Research (STIR) project, an affiliated project of CNS-ASU.

"Using the insights we've gained in the labs that have participated in the STIR project, we expect to be able to get VIRI off the ground and make progress very quickly," Fisher said.

Impacts inside and out of the academy

VIRI is designed to make an impact in academia and in the marketplace. By designing curricular activities and programs, VIRI will insert responsible innovation into students' graduate and post-doctoral work before they begin their careers. Through industry partnerships, VIRI will be well positioned to bring concepts of responsible innovation directly to corporations engaging in the research and development of emerging technological products.

More information on the project can be found on the CNS-ASU website at

ASU Town Hall on Future of Health Care Delivery to be streamed, tweeted live

September 24, 2013

The Sept. 25 Arizona State University Town Hall on the Future of Health Care Delivery, featuring former U.S. Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona, ASU President Michael M. Crow and Wyatt W. Decker, Mayo Clinic vice president and CEO in Arizona, will be streamed live via the Internet and tweeted throughout the event, which is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.

The video stream can be found at; the live Twitter feed will appear on, using #FutureofHealthCare. Download Full Image

“We believe this discussion on health care delivery and where it is headed is a critically important conversation,” says Crow. “We welcome Dr. Carmona’s lead role in the conversation and look forward to his insight and that of Dr. Decker as we explore the future of health care delivery and the longstanding partnership between ASU and Mayo Clinic; the collaboration is already a transformative one that will lead to further innovation at previously unheard-of levels.”

In 2002, Carmona was unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate as 17th Surgeon General of the United States based on his extensive experience in public health, clinical sciences, health care management and preparedness. As the nation’s doctor, he focused on prevention, preparedness, health disparities, health literacy and global health. He issued many landmark surgeon general communications, including the definitive Surgeon General's Report about the dangers of second-hand smoke. Today, he is the first Distinguished Professor at the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health at the University of Arizona and the first Distinguished Professor at The Ohio State University College of Nursing, and serves as president of the non-profit Canyon Ranch Institute and vice chairman of Canyon Ranch.

Decker has been with Mayo Clinic for more than 16 years as a consultant and professor of emergency medicine. He has served in numerous leadership roles, including chair of Emergency Medicine, with chair responsibilities for both the emergency departments at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. and Jacksonville, Fla. He currently serves as chair of the Mayo Clinic Personnel Committee in Rochester, and is leading the Rochester Destination Medical Community Initiative.

ASU and Mayo have established a variety of successful programmatic collaborations since 2003, including a joint nursing education program, joint research projects and faculty appointments, and dual degree programs. The success of the ASU-Mayo collaboration led to a broader partnership in 2011 that includes health care, medical research and education. ASU’s new School for the Science of Health Care Delivery is the first of its kind in the country. Students attending the Mayo Medical School when it opens in Scottsdale, Ariz. will earn both a medical degree from Mayo and a Master of Science in the science of health care delivery from ASU, as the program will be embedded in the medical degree curriculum.

“The current health care system in the United States is undergoing massive changes,” says Crow. “ASU and Mayo Clinic are at the forefront of this transformation.

“ASU is deeply committed to new models of success in higher education, and Mayo Clinic – an institution that can change national trajectories – is equally committed to doing things in new ways,” adds Crow. “Our discussion on Wednesday evening will explore in greater depth how we can advance health care delivery in a more affordable, personalized manner. The possibilities of a decade ago are no longer mere possibilities. They are results – lifesaving results – and show that with more work, our best days are ahead of us.”

Copy writer, Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College