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A New Model for the American Research University

Two Arizona State University representatives argue that America needs a new type of institution that merges the quest for discovery and knowledge production with a commitment to providing a quality education to more students from diverse backgrounds.

by Issues in Science and Technology
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DALLASApril 28, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- "To an alarming extent, the American research university is captive to a set of institutional constraints that no longer aligns with the changing needs of our society," write Arizona State University president Michael M. Crow and research fellow William B. Dabars in the spring edition of Issues in Science and Technology. They argue that the nation needs a new type of institution that merges the quest for discovery and knowledge production with a commitment to providing a quality education to more students from highly diverse demographic and socioeconomic backgrounds and making a more direct contribution to meeting societal needs. Although they praise the intellectual contribution made by the elite research universities, they are critical of the way that these institutions compete for prestige on the basis of the small percentage of undergraduate applicants who are admitted. Crow and Debars argue that excellence and accessibility are not incompatible.

Also in this issue, three articles tackle the intricacies of global climate policy. Braden Allenby explains that we have entered the Anthropocene age of planetary development in which human beings must accept their responsibility as the primary driver of change. Former Department of Energy official Graham Pugh reviews the different negotiating strategies pursued by Democratic and Republican administrations and explains how a hybrid blend of the two approaches should guide future policy. In another article, four statisticians argue that increasingly sophisticated computer models are valuable tools in advancing climate science but that we need to understand their limitations as guides to international climate policy.

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Other articles include Columbia University economist Richard Nelson's reflections on the misguided attempt of other sciences to model themselves on physics. He maintains that it is unrealistic to believe that we can discover precise equations that explain the functioning of biological or social systems in the way that physical laws explain the movement of the planets or the interactions of atoms. Scientists need to develop research methods and goals that are appropriate to their field of study.

Finally, this issue includes the first of four stories selected from our first science fiction competition. Josh Trapani builds his narrative around the choices confronting women scientists in a future globalized and hypercompetitive research world. The other three winning stories will appear in future issues.

ISSUES IN SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY is the award-winning journal of the National Academy of SciencesNational Academy of EngineeringInstitute of Medicinethe University of Texas at Dallas and Arizona State University.