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Stanford Connections

Mar 8 2017

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During the past few years CASBS has been on an upward trajectory, having revitalized its flagship fellows program and initiated new avenues of interaction through multi-year research networks, projects, and workshops comprised of interdisciplinary, collaborative groups.

One of the welcome – and predicted – implications of the Center’s recent trajectory is the widening and deepening of connections with a variety of Stanford University entities and scholars. In doing so, CASBS increasingly is contributing to the university’s fabric and richness.

“There’s been two-way interaction for decades,” notes CASBS program director Sarah Wert. “But the recent expansion of CASBS activities involves establishing new or stronger partnerships with external organizations. Among the most important are those with other Stanford units and people within them.”

In 2016-17, for example, all three of the Center’s public symposia feature campus collaborators. The Graduate School of Education (GSE) will co-sponsor the upcoming talk by CASBS fellow Jonathan Jansen, who earned his PhD at GSE in 1991. In January the Clayman Institute for Gender Research co-sponsored a talk that featured Clayman director and 2015-16 CASBS fellow Shelley Correll as a co-presenter. In October 2016 the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment co-sponsored a talk by CASBS fellow Eric Klinenberg, who also is a visiting scholar at Woods. (CASBS director Levi is a Woods senior fellow as well.)

Projects, networks, and workshops are a primary driver of the widening and deepening of connections with Stanford entities and faculty. The Woods Institute is a good example. With Klinenberg and CASBS fellow Andrew Lakoff as project leads, CASBS and Woods are establishing a network of environmental scientists, social scientists, and civic designers to identify promising approaches to climate change adaptation efforts. (This first year focuses principally on water issues in cities.) An October 2015 Woods-sponsored workshop at CASBS on “The Social Life of Climate Change” helped lay the groundwork for the new network.

In collaboration with Stanford Medicine and 2016-17 CASBS research affiliate and National Humanities Medal winner Abraham Verghese, CASBS is an active participant in Presence, an interdisciplinary center dedicated to the art and science of human connection. Presence seeks more social science expertise to inform its research program, and in 2017-18 it will support one CASBS fellow who will advance the initiative’s areas of strategic focus.

Presence is but one example of an increasing number of campus researchers and units that are discovering the need for the social and behavioral sciences to help solve pressing questions they are asking. Support of and participation in one or more CASBS-based workshops are an excellent way to start exploring and tackling those questions. An upcoming workshop on “Digital Technology and Democratic Theory” is funded by the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society; two of its principal conveners are Stanford scholars Lucy Bernholz and Rob Reich. It will explore the meaning and implications of the growing role of digital technology in democratic institutions. Reich also directs the McCoy Center for Ethics in Society, with which CASBS frequently collaborates and on whose advisory board Margaret Levi serves. The Center is a partner in the Ethics Center’s explorations of the ethics of field research and its new Basic Income Lab, directed by Julianna Bidadanure.

The Stanford Cyber Initiative, which sponsors one CASBS fellowship during 2016-17, funded a December 2016 workshop on “The Moral Economy of the Future,” a continuation of a CASBS project on the future of work and workers but within the context of an economy that values equity, inclusiveness, and basic protections. Participants included Stanford professors Michael Bernstein and Melissa Valentine.

Valentine was also a participant in CASBS’s 2016 revival of a summer institute on “Organizations and their Effectiveness.” Co-directed by Stanford sociology and education professor (and two-time former CASBS fellow) Woody Powell, the summer institute was supported by partial funding from the Stanford Dean of Research, the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, and the Hoover Institution. The CASBS summer institute is back in 2017 and for the next three years.

A series of three workshops on “Understanding the iGeneration,” in which speculation and anecdotal evidence about those born during and after the mid-1990s are subjected to serious scientific scrutiny, are taking place at CASBS during 2017. Three of its principal conveners are Stanford scholars: Jane Shaw (dean of religious life), Sarah Ogilvie (linguistics), and Roberta Katz (CASBS research affiliate, board member, and Stanford’s former associate vice president for strategic planning). Stanford faculty participants include Nora Fahim, Hazel Markus, Sarah McGrew, Byron Reeves, and Fred Turner.

In June, CASBS will host a second Immigration Policy Lab, the first occurring in September 2015. The principal conveners are Stanford professors David Laitin (a former CASBS fellow), Jens Hainmueller, and Duncan Lawrence, executive director of the Stanford Immigration Policy Lab based at Stanford’s Institute for Research in Social Sciences.

The list goes on – at both institutional and individual levels. CASBS now enjoys or has been developing institutional collaborative partnerships with Bio-X, Clinical Excellence Research Center, Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, Stanford School of Engineering, Stanford Law School, Stanford Neurosciences Institute, SPARQ (co-directed by former CASBS fellow and current board member Jennifer Eberhardt), and WSD HANDA Center for Human Rights and International Justice.

At the individual level, during the 2014-15 academic year 40 Stanford faculty participated in CASBS-held workshops. In the 2015-16 academic year, that number exceeded 70. Conversations with faculty participants indicate that they bring new ideas and thinking from their interactions at CASBS back to their home departments, schools, centers, and institutes.

The reimagined CASBS is extending its reach widely and deeply into its back yard: Stanford. The Center is more engaged with the university than ever before. The continuing wave of projects germinated and nurtured at CASBS stimulates not only the intellectual life of the Center but also the intellectual life of the university in which it resides. Furthermore, an ongoing CASBS priority involves engaging the Stanford community with its fellows and the research produced at the Center. The ensuing relationships make CASBS-based research more relevant and better aligned with contemporary concerns.

Finally, Stanford involvement with CASBS activities helps facilitate the combination and integration of perspectives as teams develop new ideas and quicken the pace of inquiry, discovery, and the production of transformative knowledge and research. It thus helps CASBS serve as an innovation accelerator with greater capacity to translate ideas more readily into practice and deliver solutions to thorny societal problems. In turn, CASBS reciprocates by assisting the university in its efforts to deliver on many of its overlapping aims and concerns.

Written by Mike Gaetani