Every public policy that is implemented by our city, state, or federal government goes through an intense and often confusing process of assessment and selection. Many scientists and engineers involved in this assessment process, while familiar with the policy making process, are undoubtedly unfamiliar with the political and economic models of policy making. The lack of such an understanding is a major shortcoming of existing science and engineering curricula, resulting in science and engineering students who graduate with little understanding of how their designs, calculations, and scientific findings will be received and interpreted by policy makers. Whether or not young science and engineering professionals appreciate the importance of accounting for political and economic feasibility and impact, they lack the tools and techniques to integrate it into their thinking and planning in a methodical way.
This IPRO project is designed to fill in the gaps of science and engineering curricula by designing online materials and apps that can be used by undergraduates and faculty at Illinois Tech and elsewhere across the United States. Illinois Tech students are ideally situated to recognize, study, and develop these materials. These materials and tools will help translate the complexities of the policy making process for science and engineering undergraduates and their instructors. The goal of this IPRO project is not to make everyone a political scientist but rather to improve the overall level of awareness about how policy assessments are politicized.
The specific outcomes or deliverables of this IPRO project will be based on the shared interests of the team members, but the following examples offer possibilities: (1) a library of both real and simulated cases in which scientists and engineers are faced with politicization in the policy making process; (2) an A-to-Z tutorial of what scientists and engineers can expect when they are asked to assess policies of scientifically and technologically challenged policy makers; and (3) a simulation tool for making more reliable predictions of policy choices given a variety or typically overlooked factors such as interest groups, tentative budget forecasts, and public opinion fluctuating both with and without the influence of the media.
For this IPRO project to be successful, team members will familiarize themselves with the political and economic models of policy making. Active collaboration across all disciplines is essential, since fulfilling the goals depends on balanced input from students in human sciences, natural sciences, engineering and business. The design of the online materials must reflect an empathy for varied learning and user styles. This will be accomplished by the IPRO team members through field testing of their ideas with small groups of Illinois Tech undergraduates and faculty members.
The first two weeks will include a significant emphasis on understanding the political and economic models of policy making. This will be followed by two weeks of effort to agree on goals, establish a plan for the semester, and create a vision for the tangible outcomes of the project. The remainder of the semester will be devoted to implementing the plan and achieving the goals.