In This Issue
Summer Bridge on Issues at the Technology/Policy Interface
July 1, 2016 Volume 46 Issue 2

Issues at the Technology/Policy Interface

Friday, July 1, 2016

Author: Ronald M. Latanision

Editor's Note

I am pleased to present in the following pages articles that address an array of matters involving both technology and public policy.

  • Guru Madhavan and colleagues write on a subject of interest to all Americans, health policy decisions. They describe a systems-based tool that can enhance transparency in health policy decisions and be adapted in other policy areas. I am particularly pleased that former NAM president Harvey Fineberg and Rita Colwell (NAS), former NSF director, are among the authors of this article.
  • Joseph Sinfield and Freddy Solis propose high-impact innovation for addressing large-scale sociotechnical challenges, using problem-solving methods that integrate contributions from a multiplicity of fields. They point out that innovation efforts have typically focused on the novelty and differentiation of an idea, rather than its impact.
  • John Scully analyzes the water crisis in Flint, explains the fundamentals of lead corrosion in potable water, and calls for better technology stewardship, with examples of some tools to achieve this.
  • Gretchen Jacobson reports on the new NACE global study, IMPACT—International Measures of Prevention, Application, and Economics of Corrosion Technologies, which focuses on segments of four major industries: energy, utilities, transportation, and infrastructure. She describes a corrosion management system framework as well as financial tools and other strategies for corrosion management.

          At this year’s NACE conference, CORROSION 2016, the keynote speaker, television journalist Steve Kroft, appealed to NACE members to take action and help communicate to leaders and policymakers that the cost to fix or prevent infrastructure degradation is less than the cost of infrastructure failures.

          Together the Scully and Jacobson articles emphasize the critical need for attention to this country’s infrastructure, which is aging and, as in Flint, abused. There are both political and technical issues associated with the state of the infrastructure in the United States. There seems to be nonpartisan agreement on the need for inspection, maintenance, and improvement, but there is a very clear partisan divide on how to pay for them.

  • Bismark Agbelie, Samuel Labi, and Kumares Sinha (NAE) write about the need to recognize the funding shortfall for the maintenance of part of this nation’s infrastructure, roads and bridges. They make the case for transitioning from the current fuel tax–based indirect funding mechanism to a direct user charging approach. The policy implications are clear and important.
  • Kelly Grillo, Jane Bowser, and Tanya Moorehead describe tools and strategies that can be used in the classroom to help K–12 students identified with learning disabilities succeed in STEM courses, thereby encouraging them to pursue further education and careers in these fields.
  • Lionel Barthold (NAE) and Dennis Woodford provide an update on DC power, largely abandoned more than a century ago and now making a comeback in generation, distribution, storage, and use. As the authors comment, “Edison would smile.”

Jonathan Linton and Daniel Berg (NAE) follow with a well-crafted op-ed on the symbiosis of science and technology innovation. They offer the view that “There is a need to avoid well-meaning policy that creates unanticipated consequences that block the flow of knowledge between science, technology, invention, and innovation.” This op-ed will resonate with many of our readers.

Our featured interviewee is Sandy Magnus, engineer and former astronaut, and now executive director of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA). She is clearly a wonderful role model for young people in terms of engineering education.

Her comments reminded me of a YouTube video ( about Professor Matt Mench of the University of Tennessee and three young women engineers who aspired to become involved with NASA…and were indeed hired by NASA. They have a great message for other young women and I recommend that you watch this. I thank Rusty Shunk, a high school classmate of my wife, Carolyn (Liberty High School, Bethlehem, PA), and former executive vice president at Dickinson, for bringing Matt Mench and the University of Tennessee students to my attention.

The NAE is very interested in encouraging young women to become engineers; its program EngineerGirl ( is an excellent example of its efforts in this area. And the annual Engineering for You (E4U) video contest ( aims to develop public understanding of and engagement in engineering.

The fall issue will focus on OpenCourseWare.

As always, I welcome your comments and feedback at

About the Author:Ronald M. Latanision (NAE) is senior fellow, Exponent Failure Analysis Associates.