View this email in your browser

Stacking the Odds in Favor of Breakthroughs 

Addressing complex global problems “requires seeing beyond borders, disciplines, and barriers to begin actively changing the way science is done,” write Regina E. Dugan and Kaigham J. Gabriel. As leaders of Wellcome Leap, funded by British philanthropy Wellcome, they are adapting an established model for innovation—that of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency—to achieve breakthroughs for human health. “Although DARPA was designed specifically to serve US strategic interests,” they write, “we are convinced that its model can be retooled to increase the number and pace of breakthroughs needed to address global challenges.”

At the center of this model are expert program managers, who are given wide latitude to fund different teams, often working in parallel or as parts of networks, to quickly produce results and drive momentum toward realizing ambitious goals. An outstanding example of this approach occurred while Dugan and Gabriel headed DARPA in 2010, when a program manager posed a “what if” question that seemed highly speculative at the time: “What if mRNA injected directly into the body to elicit vaccine-level antibody production could dramatically shrink the standard timeline for vaccine development?” This work became essential ten years later in the astonishingly rapid development of COVID-19 vaccines. 

Achieving more breakthroughs, they argue, “requires new approaches that go beyond national borders, beyond the boundaries of basic vs. applied research, beyond the life sciences vs. the physical sciences, and, perhaps most critically, beyond public vs. private funding.”

Read more about how dynamic networks of scientists and engineers can tackle global problems.

AI Designed With Humans in Mind
Drawing on her research into human-centered algorithm design for healthcare, Angelique Taylor assesses a recent book on human-centered artificial intelligence.
Plus: UNESCO’s Gabriela Ramos offers a new international framework “that centers around the defense of human rights and fair outcomes with regards to AI.”
With the Biden administration’s hopes for federal climate legislation stymied in the Senate, one alternative is to encourage states to adopt their own aggressive policies to reduce carbon emissions, the New York Times reports. In Issues, Charles F. Kennel argued that scaling down the focus—even to the local level—as a good idea. Local communities worldwide experience climate change differently, he noted, and face unique environmental, economic, and social factors when making climate policy choices.
Subscribe now to receive the Summer 2022 edition of Issues. The latest issue explores the social and political costs of China’s climate policies, a prehistory of social media, the science of mentoring, perfecting the peach, and much more.

Subscribers receive a year’s worth of insights into today’s most essential topics—all at 50% off the cover price.
Is it possible that you’re not yet a subscriber to our free weekly newsletter? There’s no better way to stay current on the latest from Issues than by signing up for this email.
Header image by DeepMind.
Issues in Science and Technology is a publication of Arizona State University and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
Copyright © 2022 Issues in Science and Technology, All rights reserved.

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.