Science, Policy, and the Public: 2020-21



Science, Policy, and the Public

Join us in exploring intersections between science, politics, policy, and justice.

2019-21 theme

Over the two years of this theme, we will contemplate a number of overarching questions about the relationship between scientific research, decision-making, and the public interest.

How are scientists and their communities engaging with the public and shaping policy discussions? 

What are the consequences when science is politicized and doubt is cast on empirical methods?

Who has the ability to exert political power, pass or reject laws, make educated decisions about natural hazards or medical technologies, and access resources and services related to environmental and bodily health? 


2020-21 Focus: Genetic Technologies: Identity, Equality, Ethics

During 2020-21, we will focus on the implications of genetic technologies for disease and disability, for the unequal distribution of benefits and harms, and for privacy. From gene editing to 23andMe, from university laboratories and corporate research parks to hospitals, from designer babies to cancer treatment, genetic technologies raise a host of questions about identity, equality, and ethics.

What conversations about these technologies are—and should be--taking place among researchers, in the business community, and in U.S. government at all levels as well as internationally? What space exists for public education and input and what form should those take?

View theme resources

Françoise Baylis

2020-21 Wayne Morse Chair of Law and Politics

Françoise Baylis is a bioethicist and university research professor at Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia.  A philosopher whose innovative research in bioethics lies at the intersection of policy and practice, she challenges readers to think broadly and deeply about the direction of health, science and biotechnology. 

Learn more

Upcoming Events


Past Events

Jun 25
Immunity Passports: Pandemic Privilege or Biological Discrimination?  4:00 p.m.

  As governments around the world seek paths toward reopening their economies and away from the "social distancing" restrictions that have been imposed in order...
June 25 4:00 p.m.


As governments around the world seek paths toward reopening their economies and away from the "social distancing" restrictions that have been imposed in order to control the spread of covid-19, immunity passports have been proposed as one solution. Françoise Baylis and Natalie Kofler will discuss and answer questions about the many ethical, practical, and scientific challenges posed by immunity passports and other types of state-sanctioned health checks.


Françoise Baylis is a philosopher whose innovative work aims to move the limits of mainstream bioethics and develop more effective ways to understand and tackle public policy challenges. Baylis brings her ethical sensibilities, informed by best practices, theory and common sense, to a wide range of public issues. She is a frequent guest on CBC and Radio Canada and the author of many news stories with a “behind the scenes” look at ethical issues. Her current research focuses on heritable human genome modification, the body economy, assisted human reproduction, and research involving women. She will serve as the 2020-21 Wayne Morse Chair.


Natalie Kofler is a molecular biologist and founding director of Editing Nature at Yale University, a global initiative to steer responsible development and deployment of environmental genetic technologies. She also serves as an adviser for the Scientific Citizenship Initiative, Harvard Medical School. Natalie’s work navigates the technical, ecological, and ethical complexity of gene editing applications designed to impact wild species, such as CRISPR-edited mosquitos to prevent malaria transmission, genetic strategies to eliminate invasive species, or the use of CRISPR gene editing to promote species resiliency to changing climates.

Oct 7
The Social Life of DNA: Race, Reparations, and Reconciliation after the Genome, with Alondra Nelson4:00 p.m.

Register for this free event Alondra Nelson is president of the Social Science Research Council. She is also the Harold F. Linder Chair and Professor at the Institute for...
October 7 4:00 p.m.

Register for this free event

Alondra Nelson is president of the Social Science Research Council. She is also the Harold F. Linder Chair and Professor at the Institute for Advanced Study, an independent center for theoretical research and intellectual inquiry. She was previously a professor of sociology at Columbia University, where she served as the inaugural Dean of Social Science.

Nelson began her academic career on the faculty of Yale University and there was recognized with several honors, including the Poorvu Prize for interdisciplinary teaching excellence. An award-winning sociologist, Nelson has published widely-acclaimed books and articles exploring science, technology, medicine, and social inequality.

Nelson is author of several books, including The Social Life of DNA: Race, Reparations, and Reconciliation after the Genome, a finalist for the Hurston-Wright Foundation Award for Nonfiction, and a Wall Street Journal favorite book.

Nelson has contributed to national policy discussions on inequality and about the social implications of new technologies, including artificial intelligence, big data, and human gene editing. She serves on the boards of the Data & Society Research Institute, the Center for Research Libraries, and The Teagle Foundation, as well as the board for African-American programs at Monticello. She also is a member of the board of directors of the Brotherhood/Sister Sol, a Harlem-based youth development organization. Her essays, reviews, and commentary have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Science, Le Nouvel Observateur, The Boston Globe, and on National Public Radio, The New Yorker Radio Hour, and PBS Newshour, among other venues. 

This event is sponsored by the Wayne Morse Center for Law and Politics as a part of its 2019-21 theme of inquiry, Science, Policy, and the Public. It is part of the African American Workshop and Lecture Series, which is sponsored by the Office of the President and coordinated by the Division of Equity and Inclusion. It is also part of the Lorwin Lectureship on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. 

Project Grants

Beyond Toxics and NAACP Eugene-Springfield will host the rescheduled Oregon Environmental Justice Pathways Summit April 9-10, 2021, at the University of Oregon. The summit brings together frontline communities, government officials, students, and scholars to develop a resource document that communities and policymakers can follow to embed an environmental justice framework in policy and practice. See past Environmental Justice Pathways webinars

Classroom Law Project will offer an interactive digital workshop titled Civic Engagement and BioTechnology Ethics: Equity and Public Health Policy on October 9, 2020. Developed specifically for science and social studies teachers (grades 5 -12), this workshop focuses on how to engage students, both in traditional classrooms and remotely, with the ways ethical policy decisions about biotechnology and healthcare can create more equity within communities. Using the Project Citizen: Civics in Action! framework, Classroom Law Project will show how this inquiry-based methodology can engage students and empower them during a time of uncertainty.

Assistant Professor Maxwell Foxman (SOJC) will prototype a board game titled WildFire, created with journalism graduate student Robin FitzClemen, in which players cooperate to put out uncontrollable blazes over the course of multiple fire seasons using real-time climate data to simulate environmental conditions. The goal is to provide players with a novel means of experiencing the trials and tribulations of dealing with wildfires in the context of global and local climate change. Based on serious game design methodology, WildFire will be play-tested throughout the year with key stakeholders, including firefighters, educators, government officials and journalists, in order to maximize its potential to inform the public. 

Carol Cruzan Morton Working with the The Oregonian/OregonLive, science journalist Carol Cruzan Morton will report on new therapeutic gene editing technologies. The reporting will focus on Oregon research and explore the quickly advancing science and implications of deliberate and accidental genetic changes that may extend through generations. The project will help inform the perspectives and conversations of policy makers and citizens. 

Associate Professor Nicolae Morar (Environmental Studies & Philosophy), along with Bryan Cwik from Portland State University, will host a workshop at UO during winter term featuring a team of international experts discussing ethical, political and policy issues related to the distribution of access to gene editing. The workshop will explore questions of reproductive medicine, genetic technologies, and justice, as well as concerns about the downstream social impacts of these biotechnologies. The speakers will also consider possible solutions to these bioethical problems. 

The Museum of Natural and Cultural History, adapting to the uncertainties brought about by COVID-19, will offer a robust and varied array of virtual, in-person, and “take out” programming related to genetic diversity and genetic engineering that is designed to engage UO faculty and students, community members, youth and families. The effort includes creating an online version of its anchor exhibit, Explore Oregon, hosting a lecture series examining de-extinction and the ethics of genetic modification, and providing science craft kits to UO students and children. Visit the museum’s website for programming news. 

Science Policy Education and Dialogue, a group launched by undergraduate students Rose Kordahl (Chemistry, Political Science) and Maya Pande (Biochemistry, Political Science), will bridge the gap between the disciplines of science, social studies, and the humanities by fostering open and tolerant discussions on complex policy issues and exploring the role of scientists in public policy. 

Adam Spencer, MS (UO School of Journalism and Communication), working with the Clackamas River Basin Council, has created Clackamas360, a virtual field trip of the Clackamas River Basin that harnesses drone photography and video to teach geography, wildlife biology and watershed conservation to high school students in the Clackamas area. The project will be hosted on a 360-degree website, with informational text and photography to correspond with workbook assignments. CRBC staff members will join high school classes via teleconferencing to introduce each lesson and show students how to navigate the website, with follow-up visits to discuss the lessons and assignments and consider how the students can actively participate in watershed stewardship.