Science and Technology in Public Policy (with Jun Bando)
In this episode, Senior Advisor of the California Council on Science & Technology Dr. Jun Bando talks with students from the UC Riverside School of Public Policy about the role science plays in public policy.
FEATURING Jun Bando
September 10th, 2021
36 MINUTES AND 43 SECONDS
In this episode, Senior Advisor of the California Council on Science & Technology Dr. Jun Bando talks with students from the UC Riverside School of Public Policy about the role science plays in public policy.
About Jun Bando:
K. Jun Bando is the Senior Advisor to the California Council on Science and Technology (CCST). She focuses on guiding strategic planning and organizational transformation to enhance CCST’s contributions to strengthening California’s policies with science.
Learn more about Jun Bando via
“ One thing that is really helpful in this regard is training scientists to be science translators-topic of going from science/research to policy.”
- Jun Bando on the topic of going from science/research to policy.
“As with all major change, taking full advantage of these tools is going to require vision, strong leadership, and institutional cultures that really embrace innovation and collaboration.”
- Jun Bando on the topic of online learning and the new opportunities and challenges students and schools face.
“Science really needs to work to build a more diverse, inclusive and equitable culture within the field.”
- Jun Bando on the topic of racial justice issues within the science field and the effort it will take for reform
Dr. Jun Bando (Senior Advisor at CCST)
Kevin Karami (UCR Public Policy Major, Dean’s Chief Ambassador)
Sean Nguyen (UCR Public Policy Major, Peer Academic Advisor)
This is a production of the UCR School of Public Policy: https://spp.ucr.edu/
Subscribe to this podcast so you don’t miss an episode. Learn more about the series and other episodes via https://spp.ucr.edu/podcast.
Science and Technology in Public Policy (with Jun Bando)
Introduction:Welcome to policy chats, the official podcast of the School of Public Policy at the University of California, Riverside. I'm your host, Kevin Karami. Join me and my classmates as we learn about potential policy solutions for today's biggest societal challenges. Joining us today is Senior Advisor of the California Council on Science and Technology, Dr. Jun Bando. My fellow classmate Sean and I chatted with her about Science and Technology in Public Policy.
Kevin Karami: Dr. Bando, you are the senior advisor to the California Council on Science and Technology. Your work to strengthen California’s Science policies. You've also worked in the federal government in both the national security and foreign policy sectors. Thank you for joining us today.
Jun Bando: Thanks so much for having me Kevin.
Kevin Karami: So the first topic I want to start with is the opportunities that science and technology present to address some of our biggest societal issues, the biggest issues that we as a society face today. Science and technology presents possible solutions to them. One of these major issues is climate change. And many scientific research studies have made it very clear that climate change and our planet in general are currently at a tipping point. So I'd like to get us started with asking what opportunities does science and technology provide in creating sustainable solutions in the context of climate change?
Jun Bando: That's a great question, Kevin. And I think I'll touch on three things. The first is that science and technology help us to understand changes and feedback in earth systems. We use tools like artificial intelligence and remote sensing to understand and predict Earth's ice sheet dynamics. For example, changes in extreme weather events, wildfire risk, and other agricultural and ecosystem responses to climate change. So understanding them and predicting this pattern is one really important way. Another way in which science helps us is by helping us to understand the behavior of people and institutions in ways that can help support more effective policy making. For example, what are some of the factors that influence decision-making and human behavior in a climate risk context. What are some institutional barriers perhaps to adopting climate adaptation policies? If we can understand some of these challenges and barriers, we can be better prepared as a society to overcome them. And the last thing I'll point to is that we rely on science, technology for innovative solutions to things like reducing carbon emissions, sequestering, I'm sorry, reducing emissions, sequestering carbon, and adopting other kinds of hazard risk mitigation and technologies.
Sean Nguyen: Thank you, Dr.Bando for your answer. And I think that climate change definitely is a much of a globalized issue. So kind of as a follow-up. How can these potential solutions be translated into policies that are adopted by the governments of the world?
Jun Bando: That's a great question, Sean. Thanks for that. I'll point to a few things here. One is that I think it's really important to increase interaction between science and technology experts and policymakers. This kind of engagement can be really powerful because understanding and leveraging emerging insights and tools from science and technology often requires skills and expertise that may not be resident within policy-making institutions. So essentially we need more scientists who can translate their work for non-scientists. We need more policy professionals who are savvy about science. And then we'd need mechanisms that allow us to rapidly bring together scientists and policymakers, policymakers to enable the exchange of information at the speed of relevance to policy decision-making. One thing that's really helpful, in this regard, is training scientists to be science translators. Most scientists are trained to make observations and truck conclusions based on evidence, not opinion. And this is a good thing. It's really important to good science and it's one of the reasons why evidence-based policy-making can be so powerful, but most benefit, most scientists benefit from some training to be able to talk about their research in ways that are digestible by policymakers and the public without diluting the quality of the science behind it. So that's one thing, but I would point to a second thing is that we need to continue robust investments in science education and research. An informed public that trusts science and understands science is really critical to the ability of our policymakers to be able to implement needed solutions when the public understands the risks and has a high level of trust in the science informing decision-making than our policymakers are better equipped to implement good policies. I also want to highlight the importance of building a more diverse stem enterprise which really should be a priority from the standpoint of both innovation and social justice. From an innovation perspective, we know from research across multiple fields that diversity in training, experience and problem-solving approaches is fuel for innovation. We need the best teams applying a diversity of problem-solving approaches to drive these new and additional innovations in science and technology that are crucial to continuing to adapt to climate change. And from an equity and social justice perspective, this kind of diversity is also important. Around the world we know that the people that tend to be most severely impacted by climate change are people from lower income and socially marginalized communities, essentially communities in which people tend to lack social power. And so it's very important for us to understand not only where the most severe fires, floods, and other hazards will occur, but also how different groups of people, how different communities will be affected. If we're really going to build resilience into our society, we need to understand how the most vulnerable people are affected. A diverse science, technology, engineering and medicine or stem enterprise can play a really important role illness, both because of the innovative approaches that I mentioned earlier, but also ensuring that we are asking questions of equity as we approach research questions, that scientists are applying a lens of equity that essentially asks, how will different policies, how will different solutions affect different populations differently? So that's the second thing. So the first thing that I mentioned was really increasing this interaction between scientists and policymakers. And second thing is these continued investments in scientific education and research. Let me talk a little bit more about the research end in terms of public, publicly funded research and the importance of that kind of research in driving innovation in our society. Since World War II, the United States has invested a tremendous amount of public money in research from the standpoint of benefiting society and also advancing our national security interests. And these kinds of investments often have very broad social implications. One out of every three patents in this country is generated by research that has been funded to at least some degree by federal science money. And a couple of examples that are commonly cited in terms of broad social and economic benefits of this kind of investment are Google and Darpa. So google can trace its roots back to the work of two students at Stanford University working on a National Science Foundation funded project. In 1994, Sergey Brin and Larry Page were working on a tool funded by the National Science Foundation as well as some other industry contributions. And they used this equipment to generate a new tool that remains one of the primary components of Google search engine. And of course, today, Google is an enormous enterprise. Last year, I think their annual revenues were in the order of $180 billion. And Darpa is another example. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, of course, is responsible for the creation of the Internet, which is arguably one of the most consequential innovations from both a social and financial perspective of the last 100 years. Darpa has also generated technologies like GPS, voice recognition software like Siri, and of course, a number of classified military technologies that have implications for our national security. Let me just quickly touch on two more things, Sean you asked about how we can effectively bring these kinds of Science and Technology Solutions in to inform policy? A third thing is really to increase the speed and the volume of information sharing between different agencies that work on these kinds of issues. And so things like data banks and federated data structures can be really helpful as well as assigning lead agencies for coordinating data sharing across multiple sectors. And the last thing that I want to mention is the importance of long term policy planning. So improving the way that we develop and implement long-term policies can be a really powerful tool in this regard. And policy planning probably sounds like a pretty dry topic. It's actually one that I personally find really interesting because it’s so important to our ability to make progress against some of these really complex challenges. So we need effective long-term policy agendas that can help us to manage these kinds of slow burn risks that accumulate a crew risk over time that allow us to unify effort and sustain efforts toward the achievement of long-term policy goals. And we also need to prepare for shock. And I want to say a couple of things about shocks when I use the term shocks and talking about catastrophic events that have a major impact on society. So we could be talking about a financial collapse, a major cyber attack, a pandemic, or, and other kinds of natural and man-made disasters. We've traditionally thought about two categories of shocks. Some shocks are more predictable because the risks are generally known even if we may not know when or how an event will occur. So in California, earthquakes are a good example, a major earthquake, this a good example of a shock. Another kind or another category of shock is less predictable because it falls outside of our range, our current range of knowledge. So we often call these kinds of events black swans. And the 9/11 attacks would be an example of this, although arguably in retrospect, some of those signs could have been detected. The point I wanna make here is that in an increasingly uncertain and interconnected world, even known risks are predictable. Shocks are likely to interact with forces in highly unpredictable ways. And so that requires us to plan for uncertainty and really deliberately build resilience into our public services and or public policies.
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Kevin Karami: Thank you, Dr. Bando for such a comprehensive answer to a really difficult question. I think it is really challenging (and you touched on this obviously) to translate all of the research and work that science and technology and scientists do into actual policy that is adopted by governments and societies and utilized for the betterment of society. Maybe sometimes we take it for granted. Some type of new technology comes out or a new research that's done. And we think it might actually help in solving an issue. But the challenge of actually implementing that and translating it can sometimes be so monumental that the research never gets utilized, or maybe it gets utilized too late. And so it's just really, it's really great to hear that there are ways to actually do that in accomplishment, accomplish that. So I'm just really appreciative that you're able to kind of really highlight such an important issue in many ways, maybe the most important part of this discussion on how we can actually translate research into policy. So I want to kind of shift gears now. And I want to focus on California. It's obvious that California has a lot of environmental issues. Some of the biggest ones being water and air pollution. So I'd like to ask and it just kinda goes on the question that we just asked. But more specifically, what steps can California take to produce more effective public policy in regards to the water crisis and the issues surrounding air pollution specifically.
Jun Bando: Thanks for that question, Kevin. It's a really important one and what I'd like to do is maybe address a couple of specifics related to water policy and air pollution policy. And then talk a little bit more generally about how we can strengthen processes for developing these kinds of policies. On the water issue, which is front of mind for Californians for so many reasons. There are a number of things that we can do to strengthen resilience to drought, climate change, and economically driven shifts in demand for water. A few of those major issues include things like developing regional resilience strategies for drought, accelerating the implementation of local groundwater sustainability, and sustainability plans. And this is really important as we think about our long-term future.We want to promote access to safe water for rural communities in California that are particularly impacted by the drought. And I think the last thing I'll highlight in this regard is the importance of continuing to reform our water data and water allocation. Policies and processes in California. And on that note, I would highlight the work that the state has done in this regard. One key piece of legislation is assembly bill 1755, which was passed in 2016, and that's intended to promote open and transparent water data-sharing. And we saw in 2019 the establishment of clean water consortium intended to enhance the implementation of this legislation. But we have a long way to go. On the air pollution front. I’ll mention one issue that has gained, while I know has gained increasing attention recently, and that's the importance of better understanding the health impacts of exposure to wildfire smoke. This is emerging as a major public policy concern. Wildfire smoke, as I think we can all appreciate, is now a statewide issue that affects every California and it's not limited to those who live in areas that burned. Many more people die as a result of exposure to wildfire smoke, then to heat and flames from wildfires. But we often don't account for these impacts in assessments of wildfire costs and safety issues related to wildfires. And that's simply because we don't have good data, we don't have reliable data on this. So this is one issue that some of my colleagues at the California Council on Science and Technology, led by my colleague Teresa Feo and Mary Panicky at Stanford University have highlighted for the Biden administration in policy proposals through the day one project. The day one project for those who aren't familiar is an effort to generate new ideas to inform the federal government's science and technology agenda. So this issue of wildfire smoke as it affects public health is really one that has gained increasing attention. So those are just a few specific and just start to get out or a really difficult question. I wanted to talk a little bit more about how we think about developing policies for these kinds of complex issues. More generally, I highlighted earlier the importance of effective long-term policy planning. And we need clear long-term policy agendas. And we need those agendas to involve the participation of independent actors who can help to maintain focus on these long-term policy goals through political transitions and through other changes over time. We also need to aggressively leverage the best available science and technology. California has an extraordinary research enterprise in the form of its academic research institutions and federal labs and of course, in the private sector as well. And California is a global leader in developing evidence-based policies. But we still need to continue to strengthen those frameworks and relationships that allow us to bring those insights and technologies into any form and foreign policy making. We really need to be thinking about regional solutions with states during a lot of work in this regard. And we need to be thinking about how we implement whole of society approaches to these very difficult challenges. This requires us to be more effective and working across boundaries, cultural, geographic, institutional, agency and all sorts of boundaries in order to bring in the perspectives of a diverse array of stakeholders. And a really important piece of those is ensuring that we incorporate native American cultural knowledge and practices into our policies. Good example of this is how the conversation of why wildfire policy has been changing in reflection of the critical role of incorporating native American cultural knowledge and burning practices into how we manage wild ones in California, it's clear that the way that we've been managing our lands and California is frankly not working. And so there's an opportunity there again, to develop more of these whole of society transdisciplinary regional approaches to natural resource management. And then the last thing I'll say is that we really have to be willing to work on multiple interventions over time. I've talked a lot about the importance of innovation and in science, technology, excuse me. But there's no silver bullet. There's no single technology or a single policy answer to these really complex challenges. And as we're saying, it becomes increasingly clear over time, these issues are linked. We can't develop water policy in isolation from other resource management policies, wildfires, climate change, biodiversity, water, all of these issues and many more are linked. And so our policies have to reflect that.
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Sean Nguyen: Thank you, Dr. Bando for your answer. I think the one thing that definitely caught my attention was the idea that policy happens on many different levels. I think that kind of shows that there is this very much need to diversify like the amount of acknowledgement that we have across like even, even our own areas. But I would like to kind of switch the conversation a little bit to the foremost conversation of the last year or so, which is the COVID-19 pandemic as it kind of relates to higher education. So in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic, many college students who witness their educational experience turn completely virtual. With many colleges and universities projected to return to majority in-person courses fall, including UC Riverside. What role do you see technology play in the future of higher education?
Jun Bando: Thanks, Sean. That's a great question, and I imagine it's one that feels particularly personally relevant to you and your fellow students. First, I want to say that I'm very sympathetic that COVID-19 has disrupted learning for an entire generation of young people. I know that university student, college students have impacted financially, academically and in terms of mental health. And COVID has also exacerbated existing inequities in access to higher education. In terms of looking forward, I think technology was always going to play a major role in the future of higher education. And in many ways, COVID has accelerated this. Many people would say that we've seen a decade's worth of change in the last 18 months, although a lot of this has been focused on ramping up access and reducing costs and inefficiencies. And I think universities also have this tremendous opportunity to leverage technology to really enhance student learning experiences. So a lot of universities right now are really rethinking their use of physical and virtual space and thinking about how models for hybrid learning can be optimized. How can we combine virtual and in-person learning to deliver the best possible and most equitable educational experiences for students. I think that's a pretty exciting opportunity and it's really interesting to see how education sciences in forming the development of new platforms that use tools like virtual and augmented reality to deliver a more enriching learning environment for students. I think technology is also poised to help us in other ways, we can use tools like artificial intelligence and big data to better understand student's educational needs to provide more tailored feedback. Design more personalized curricula, we can help to break down silos between traditional degree programs and create these expanded learning ecosystems for both students and faculty. And so I think there's tremendous opportunity here and it's really going to require us to be very creative. I think that as with all major change, taking full advantage of these tools is going to require vision, strong leadership, and institutional cultures that really embrace innovation and collaboration. But fantastic opportunities I had.
Sean Nguyen: I definitely think that education truly has a transformed in the past year. I think that Kevin and I can both agree. We've never taken a majority of our classes online and I think that this has a great opportunity to provide more innovation when it comes to reaching different students that don't necessarily succeed in a traditional classroom setting. So another question I do have has to relate to like the past year as well. So during the COVID-19 pandemic, racial justice issues definitely was spotlighted throughout the past year from the Black Lives Matter in summer 2020 to the rise in anti-Asian hate crimes earlier this year. What role can science and technology play in furthering the conversation on racial justice issues that had been spotlight into the past year.
Jun Bando: That's a great question, Sean, and a very important one. Thanks for asking that. Unfortunately, we see racial inequity play out in virtually every social domain. And so what this means is that even the most promising technologies can be tools for inadvertently perpetuating additional biases. If we don't account for historical biases that are built into our systems. And so we've seen this play out in the employment of some technologies. Things like facial recognition, software, predictive policing, or Bill prediction tools have encountered these challenges. And so it really takes deliberate action for us to reorient the ways in which these tools are used and how they're informed by our existing databases essentially work training these tools in the tool, in the information that we're using to train predictive technologies has bias embedded in it than the outcomes will be, potentially even more biased. I would also point out science is providing really important insights into some of the forces that perpetuate systemic racism within our institutions. And so that knowledge is really important. Informing policies as we work as a society to dismantle some of that. Systemic racism. Want to talk a little bit about the ways in which the scientific community has been embracing issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion over the past year and a half. And this is something that someone who's trained as a scientist feels very close to home, both personally and professionally. And the conversations around racial justice obviously aren't limited to the science and technology communities. I think as a society, we've all had a lot of difficult and necessary conversations. A lot of these were sparked, of course, by the murder of George Floyd, killing of other black Americans. And then the ways in which the COVID-19 pandemic really highlighted and exacerbated existing disparities and inequities in access to health services and of course, health outcomes within the science and technology community. And I'll focus on more on the science side of those. A number of our leading professional societies have been increasingly vocal about the need to address systemic racism and the need to promote equity in the stem again, Science, technology, Engineering, and Medicine fields. We have seen the National Academy of Sciences highlight what it's termed a crisis inequality of opportunity for black Americans and the National Academies has committed to being a part of the change to address this crisis. The American Association for the Advancement of Science has specifically publicly called out the subjugation and silencing of minority colleagues and minority voices in science and technology. So we really, I think that most Americans are aware that science has had a history of racism. And we have some really notorious and horrific examples in the form of, for example, the Tuskegee study, 40 year of study in which black men were denied treatment for syphilis. I mean, these kinds of exploitative studies, of course, would not be, would not be accepted today within our society. And so many instances of racism or not overt, racism continues to persist in both systemic forums and in more overt forms. And so science really needs to work to build a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable culture with them within the field.
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Kevin Karami: Thank you Dr. Bando for touching on a really important but sometimes maybe difficult or sensitive topic. But I like something you mentioned throughout your answer was that this goes beyond just one community. That this is a societal issue and it affects every community in sometimes similar ways and sometimes different ways. But it impacts every community, it impacts everyone to a certain extent. And I think that's really important to recognize. Often we’ll talk about racial justice in one context that we forget that there's a larger force at play. And this is something that's more intertwined and connected. It's important for every community to do its part in helping solve it, because I don't think one portion can solve the overarching issues. To end, I'd like to just ask a bit of an open-ended question. What kind of work are you and also the Council on Science and Technology, doing currently to maybe address some of the issues we spoke about. Maybe there are some other issues that you're doing work on that we didn't get a chance to go over?
Jun Bando: Yeah, thanks for asking that, Kevin. I'll highlight three things that we're working on. One is that late last year we launched a disaster resilience initiative. And this is a public partnership, public-private partnership undertaken with the state of California and the philanthropic community. And we are trying to accelerate the ways in which the science and technology community in California can help bring to bear insights and solutions from science to inform the policy decision-making process in California. And we focused on disasters because of the really complex and cross-cutting nature of disasters in California, the disaster resilience initiative is really exciting for us because of both the scale of the problems that we're trying to help address. And because this is the first time that as an organization we've deliberately built in inequity components to our work. And this is actually something that we are now implementing into all of our studies as the California Council on Science, Technology, we're working to bring in more diverse experts and to ensure that we apply an equity lens to our research questions so that we're asking about how different issues and different policy solutions affect different communities in California with a focus on those that are disadvantaged drone and lower income. I would also point to an ongoing program, one of our flagship programs is Science and Technology Policy Fellowship Program, where we take for scientists and engineers and place them in the state government, in the executive or legislative branch to serve for a year embedded as staff in the state government. And so they're able to bring in a scientific and technical perspective to support policymaking. They may or may not be working on science and technology issues day-to-day, but they at least bring in an analytical framework that can be very helpful. And of course, they learn about the policy process. And so I talked earlier about the importance of increasing exchanges between scientists and policymakers and developing a chondro of science savvy policymakers. And so this fellowship program is one of the tools in which we do this. And there are great models and other states and at the national level for embedding scientists into the policymaking apparatus and this kind of way. And the last thing I'll say is that we've been doing a lot of work. This is a little more personal, I guess, in terms of our organization, but we've done a tremendous amount of work over the past year plus to really figure out how we can use our work on a daily basis to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion. And so we have identified a number of ways in which we can promote these issues in our work and within our team. And I think it's making us stronger as a team and we'll make us much more effective in supporting the work of the state to develop policies that are informed by science and technology.
Kevin Karami: Thank you, Dr. Bando. That all sounds really, really great and also thank you for answering our sometimes very difficult questions with really comprehensive and intricate answers. It's just really great to hear from an expert on some questions that some of us have that we don't, we can't think of the solution to it. We can't, we don't know how to solve the issues of racial injustice or how to translate science and research into impactful policy. And it's really great to hear from an expert that there are ways to do this and there are paths to the solution. So thank you for answering our questions with such comprehensive answers. And it was also great having you here today. Thank you for joining us.
Jun Bando: Thanks so much, Kevin and Sean.
Outro: This Podcast is a production of the UC Riverside School of Public Policy. Our theme music was produced by C Codaine. I'm Kevin Karami, until next time.