In a time when technological advancements are breaking new ground in health, artificial intelligence, and transportation, there is one factor that must be considered yet is often overlooked: the social impact. 

“Social sciences and humanities have an important role to play in the social shaping of these technologies by participating in research and policy development as well as by steering the direction of innovation toward more socially just and equitable outcomes,” said Maaz Gardezi, an assistant professor of sociology in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences.

Virginia Tech faculty will discuss such social implications of emerging technologies in a variety of fields during the Governance of New and Emerging Technologies virtual symposium on April 6 from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sponsored by the +Policy Network, all campus community members are invited to attend. Registration is required.

Also a stakeholder in the +Policy Network, Gardezi got the idea from the Virginia Tech-Deloitte Problem Day forum, sponsored in years past by the Data and Decisions Destination Area, and organized the event in part as a way to kick-off a cyber technology interest group within the network.

"We hope to build on the +Policy Network’s existing strengths and shape a strong and innovative network of Virginia Tech researchers who are excited about policy-relevant research on emerging technologies," Gardezi said.

One of the main goals of the symposium is to identify researchers across the university with expertise or interest in policy and governance of new and emerging technologies for sustainability and resilience. It also aims to provide a collaborative learning platform for interdisciplinary teams to tackle issues of equity and social and environmental justice and highlight faculty prepared to study and engage in this complex, critical enterprise at local, regional, national, and international levels.

"We look forward to learning more about what our colleagues are researching and thinking about regarding social and policy implications of cyber technology, especially in emerging areas in which implications – for both good and malfeasance – are still hypothetical," said Isabel Bradburn, director of the +Policy Network. “This symposium also provides a platform for showcasing some of the promising new faculty we have supported through research fellowships as well as brings together multidisciplinary panels that also include cyber developers and other engineers for networking and conversation." 

Gardezi said discussing challenges to the collaborative process, “what if” policy questions, and the research process is part of the invitation. 

"This work is exciting and rewarding, but it is hard. We want to not just discuss research, but also challenges and opportunities in such collaborations and explain ways for improving convergence in similar research projects,” Gardezi said. 

Each team of Virginia Tech researchers will speak for 50 minutes on the topic of their research. The topics are as follows:

Food and Agriculture Tech Governance: 9:30-10:20 a.m.
Panelists: Brianna Posadas, Saul Halfon, and Jessica Agnew; Moderator: Maaz Gardezi

Health Care Tech Governance: 10:30-11:20 a.m.
Panelists: Sarah Parker, Hoda Eldardiry, and Dayoung Kim; Moderator: Max Stephenson Jr.

Environment and Energy Tech Governance: Noon-12:50 p.m.
Panelists: Elinor Benami, Christopher Zobel, and Daniel Breslau, Moderator: Maaz Gardezi

Public Interest and Cyber Security Tech Governance: 1-1:50 p.m.
Panelists: Sylvester Johnson, Brendan John, and Shalini Misra, Moderator: Rishi Jaitly

Visit the +Policy Network website for more information and to register for this virtual event in advance.

Written by Felicia Spencer