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Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts

October 2009 Issue Newsletter Archives >


$150,000 Award from National Council on Disabilities

James White, Associate Director, International Programs in the Center for Advanced Communications Policy and Visiting Professor in the School of Public Policy, with co-PI Paul Baker will study The Prospect of Digital Inclusion: Technology's Impact on Employment and the Opportunities for People with Disabilities

$157,000 Awarded by Kresge Foundation

Grant awarded to Marilyn Brown, Professor in the School of Public Policy, to research Improving the Prospects for Clean Energy in the Southeast

Noteworthy Press

The Washington Times Book Review of Engagement with North Korea: A Viable Alternative

Reviewer interviewed Fei-Ling Wang, Professor, Sam Nunn School of International Affairs, who contributed a key chapter to the book.  Also see profile of Wang's research for the book in the September Newsletter 

Wall Street Journal Blog & Atlanta Business Chronicle

Also, NPR and a number of IT blogs covered research by Nunn School Assistant Professor Dan Breznitz and Molly Taylor of GT's Enterprise Innovation Institute on critical factors for successful IT hubs using Atlanta as a case study.  Also see story in this newsletter Hi Tech Lessons from Atlanta

Boston on CNN

School of Economics professor Danny Boston in live interview on an October 5 CNN segment about the "awful" September job report

October 14, 2009
GT Barnes & Noble Bookstore
12:00 PM
October 14, 2009
Klaus Advanced Computing Bldg., Rm. #116 East & West
1:30 PM
October 14, 2009
Old CE, Room 204
3:30 PM
October 15, 2009
Hotel Palomar, Midtown Atlanta
7:45 AM
October 15, 2009
Large AFROTC Classroom, 2nd Flr. OKeefe Bldg.
11:00 AM
October 15, 2009
Clary Theater, Student Success Center
7:00 PM
October 16, 2009
Clary Theater, Student Success Center
7:00 PM
October 20, 2009
Georgia Tech Global Learning Center, Room 222
8:00 AM
October 20, 2009
Skiles Building, 002
4:30 PM
October 22, 2009
Clary Theater, Student Success Center
7:00 PM
October 23, 2009
DM Smith, Room 303
12:00 PM
October 23, 2009
The Academy of Medicine
7:00 PM
October 26, 2009
Old Civil Engineering Building, Room 104, 221 Bobby Dodd Way
4:00 PM
October 26, 2009
Clary Theater, Student Success Center
7:00 PM
October 27, 2009
Marcus Nanotechnology Center
12:00 PM
November 2, 2009
Old Civil Engineering Building, Room 104, 221 Bobby Dodd Way
4:00 PM


All news

A Global View of Science and Innovation Policy

Policy moving to the forefront

Atlanta (October 12, 2009) — The Obama administration’s emphasis on research-based policy-making and human resources for science and engineering gives new import in the U.S. to the type of dialog that unfolded during the Atlanta Conference on Science and Innovation Policy Oct 2-3.


A robust international presence on both the conference planning committee and among participants indicates that questions relative to science and technology (S&T) governance, societal participation in S&T policy-making, and how common national and global goals can be achieved through innovation and science are increasingly part of the dialog in countries around the world.

The conference drew some 215 participants from 31 countries across five continents. It was organized by the Ivan Allen College School of Public Policy with help from faculty and researchers from our schools of economics, international affairs, and history, technology, and society; Georgia Tech’s College of Management and Enterprise Innovation Institute; and universities and research centers in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Finland, and India.

“Our focus on science and technology policy occupies a unique space,” said conference chair Susan Cozzens, Professor in the School of Public Policy and Associate Dean of Research for the Ivan Allen College. “By engaging economists, sociologists, policy scholars, and researchers from both affluent and developing countries around the world, the conference engages an extraordinarily comprehensive and diverse dialog.”

In addition to the role of S&T policy, sessions addressed wide-ranging issues around trends such as the dynamics of multinational corporations, the emerging nanotechnology industry, and the status of open innovation. Several panels discussed security and energy issues. Others delved into the challenges of careers in science and engineering, along with global collaboration and mobility of researchers. The emerging economies of China, India, and South Africa received attention, including the search for a more level global playing field in commerce and the offshoring of research and development.

Boston Advises Senate Committee on SBA Guidelines

Committee focuses on minority entrepreneurship

Atlanta (October 8, 2009) — Economics professor Thomas "Danny" Boston has been tapped by U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu’s chief of staff to help the Small Business Administration (SBA) re-fashion federal guidelines for purchasing from minority businesses. Boston was asked to join a roundtable discussion convened September 24th by Landrieu who chairs the Senate Small Business Committee.

Dr. Thomas D. Boston

The roundtable hearing enabled senators and their staff to explore small business policy and seek recommendations for changes from Dr. Boston and other participants. Discussion centered on “Minority Entrepreneurship: Evaluating Small Business Resources and Programs.”

Boston's work with the committee centers on the SBA's Small Disadvantaged Businesses(SDB). Program modifications in 1998 established a Personal Net Worth (PNW) ceiling or cap. The $750,000 ceiling was designed to restrict access to federal preferential procurement contracts to disadvantaged business owners. Boston's research shows that, in practice, the ceiling has severely constrained the capacity of participating firms. "Increasing the PNW ceiling is a necessary condition," says Boston, "but it is a very short‐run solution to a major regulatory impediment."

This was Boston's third briefing during the past year at the behest of a congressional body relevant to his research on minority entrepreneurship.

Hi Tech Lessons From Atlanta

How to build a high tech hub

Atlanta (October 9, 2009) — Why do Silicon Valley and Boston continue to thrive as high tech industry hubs while other promising areas stagnate? It’s a question long debated by researchers, but new findings by Dan Breznitz of the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs and School of Public Policy, identify localized business connections and funding as imperatives. In a case study focusing on Atlanta, Breznitz highlights critical changes needed for that city and provides a roadmap for other regions looking to grow high tech industry.

Atlanta, Georgia

Breznitz, and co-author Mollie Taylor a PhD student at the Sam Nunn School and a researcher of the Enterprise Innovation Institute at Georgia Tech, set out to settle the debate over what induces sustained regional entrepreneurial growth in the high tech industry – the availability of resources or business social structure. They focused their research on the Atlanta metropolitan area because it leads the U.S. in the various factors necessary to attract and sustain technological-entrepreneurial clusters: top research universities, a large educated labor pool, a wealth of new technologies and entrepreneurs, a vibrant creative class, and generous venture capital financing. Atlanta has also been perceived as having the social business structure needed to induce growth. The study revealed otherwise.

Breznitz and Taylor found that Atlanta companies haven’t meshed within the local economy. The result has been a decade of steady migration of companies to other states leaving the city with an “at best, stagnant” industry profile - both the percentage of high tech employment and wages in the overall economy stayed flat in the last decade. Furthermore, not only has Atlanta lost most of its independent large high tech companies, but forty percent of the city’s most promising start-ups leave Georgia for other states either through migration or acquisition within three years of getting their first major institutional investment. California, New York, New Jersey, and Florida are common destinations for Georgia-born IT companies.

“The metro area excels at incubating high tech businesses, but it lacks the cohesive business social structure needed to sustain them so many of the most promising young companies leave the city," says Breznitz. "Instead of building great high tech companies, Atlanta has become a feeder system for great high tech companies in other states."

Analysis of Atlanta’s most promising new companies and the city’s top 50 technology firms revealed little contact either between IT executives with those of Fortune 500 companies or with other technology companies. CEOs, attorneys, and managers in Atlanta IT companies don’t sit on each other’s boards and don’t communicate. The problem isn’t unique to the city’s IT industry, but there are far fewer interlocks within the IT community than in other industries that are successful in the region.

Dr. Dan Breznitz

"High tech companies here don’t interlock with each other or with the large companies that dominate Georgia’s economy. Many of our interviewees complain that they feel as if they work in isolation compared with their competitors from other high technology regions," says Breznitz, highlighting a complaint that he and Taylor heard consistently from the area’s high tech workforce.

The study provides lessons for Atlanta and other cities aspiring to grow high tech industry. It identifies the need for policies and institutions that stimulate information sharing, collective learning, access to resources, and business community buildings. It also identifies venture capital industry with true local focus as crucial to embedding a company locally. In conclusion, business social variables are critical for long-term entrepreneurial-technological economic growth.

The study is part of an overall initiative to come with new technological entrepreneurship policies for Georgia, and was co-sponsored by Enterprise Innovation 2 (EI2), the Kauffman and the Sloan Foundations. Breznitz, who is also a senior research in EI2 Science Technology Innovation Policy program and Taylor, are working together with Stephen Fleming, Vice Provost of EI2, Robert Lann, the Head Community Policy and Research Service at EI2, and Don Betts of EI2 to translate the study’s finding into new policy directions as well to initiate future research to further inform policy development.

"Change Through Debate" by Dr. Susan Herbst

A perspective on American political civility

Atlanta (October 8, 2009) — This perspective by Dr. Susan Herbst
appeared in Inside Higher Ed, October 5, 2009

A variety of scholars have weighed in on the current debate about American political civility, noting brutal fights on the floor of Congress in the 19th century, nasty mud-slinging of U.S. presidential campaigns throughout history, and other less than impressive aspects of our cultural past. And of course, they are correct that incivility is nothing new. What makes incivility seem omnipresent is the communication environment of our day: the pressure on our 24/7 journalists to fill airtime, new venues for citizens to state their opinions -- thoughtful or lunatic -- online, and a culture that encourages unabashed self-expression.

Dr. Susan Herbst

Who thought we would see the day when CNN news anchors would read incoming “Tweets” from viewers to us in serial fashion, opening an international information channel to faceless, opinionated people with no qualification for broadcasting except time on their hands?

It was difficult not to be appalled by the excesses of campaign rally crowds during the 2008 presidential election, the displays at some health care town hall meetings this past summer, and Congressman Joe Wilson’s outburst ("You lie!"). Students of American political history put these events in context, easily, because incivility is manifest in a variety of ways during different eras. But that scholarly response seems a very unsatisfying reaction to the ill-mannered eruptions, name-calling, and sheer meanness that we find on television and our favorite internet sites, now on a regular basis. The incivility is still worrisome, even if historically predictable, and we look for a way to cope with it.

The scholarly literature on trends in civility is mixed in its conclusions, with some arguing for either a bumpy or near-linear increase of incivility in both the United States and Western Europe, others arguing that we are actually more polite now than ever in public, and still others – like myself – who posit that civility and incivility are both timeless strategic rhetorical weapons. Some people are better at using these tools than others, to achieve their goals, but a macro-historical argument about collective civility is probably a bit of a stretch and difficult to demonstrate empirically, to say the least.

Continue reading Dr. Herbst's commentary by clicking the "Related Link" below

"Science and the Stasi" by Dr. Kristie Macrakis

Dr. Kristie Macrakis is Assistant Professor in the School of History, Technology, and Society.  This article appeared in Nature, October 1, 2009 

In 1992, three years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, a spy walked into the US embassy in Warsaw and offered to sell the CIA the real and code names of all intelligence agents from the HVA (Hauptverwaltung Aufklärung) — the foreign department of the Stasi, the East German Ministry for State Security. The CIA bought the highly sensitive information for a mere US$75,000. The spoils — released to the Berlin Stasi archive and made available to me in 2005 — have the potential to alter popular perceptions of the activities of the East German intelligence agency and secret police. An analysis of the CIA material reveals that about 40% of all HVA sources planted in West German companies, research institutions and universities were stealing scientific and technical secrets.

It is not uncommon for nations seeking to catch up in technology to spy — they are often seduced by the possibility of turning secrets into products. History abounds with examples of countries that copied and then improved on foreign technology. In the eighteenth century, France spied on, and stole, Britain’s textile technology. The Soviet Union stunned the world with its theft of American atomic-bomb secrets in the twentieth century. Since the end of the cold war there has been an increase in state-sponsored and orchestrated industrial, economic and scientific espionage. Recent cases and convictions of Chinese technological espionage against US and UK high-tech industries illustrate the persistence of this quest.

Boosting scientific, technical and economic prowess through espionage is a protracted process.  Ultimately, success lies in a country integrating stolen ideas or products into its research and development system. But even with a highly perfected espionage operation such as that of East Germany, pilfering nations often forget that a scientific establishment based on pirated and cloned technology is rarely a leader, especially in fast-moving fields such as computing. In fact, every smuggled document weakens true scientific innovation by maintaining dependence on espionage and the state security regime.

The Sector for Science and Technology was the largest and most important unit in the Ministry for State Security for acquiring technical blueprints, plans and hardware. It was also considered the most successful because it saved East Germany millions of marks in research and development costs through its efficient acquisition pipeline of secrets from the West. Modelled on the KGB’s science and technology directorate, the sector was founded in 1971 from three operational units for biology and physics, computers and military technology and the economy, plus an evaluation unit for grading stolen material. Major General Horst Vogel, an unassuming bear of a man and a working-class patriot from Saxony, headed the unit from 1975 to 1989.

Continue reading Macrakis' article

More about Macrakis

Nersessian Elected Fellow of Cognitive Science Society

Nancy J. Nersessian, Regents' Professor with a joint appointment in the College of Computing and the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts at Georgia Tech, was elected as a Fellow of the Cognitive Science Society this summer.  The society is an international organization that promotes interdisciplinary research in the field of cognitive science, which is comprised of disciplines as diverse as artificial intelligence, linguistics, anthropology, psychology, neuroscience, philosophy and education.

Nersessian has engaged in research on the cognitive practices of scientists and engineers for 25 years and is recognized as one of the founders of the field of cognitive studies of science.  Her research on the working methods of scientists helps in understanding how class and instructional laboratory settings can be improved to foster creativity, and how new teaching methods can be developed based on this understanding. These methods will allow science students to master model-based reasoning approaches to problem solving and open the field to many who would think of themselves as scientists based upon traditional views.

Before her election as a Fellow, Nersessian served as president of the Cognitive Science Society during 2003 to 2004 and was on the governing board from 2001 to 2006.  She is currently associate editor of the journal, Cognitive Science and has an article appearing in the October 2009 issue of the journal Topics in Cognitive Science.

This Month's Banner Photo

Pictured this month are Ivan Allen College faculty who taught at Oxford in Summer 2009 and students who participated in the Oxford Study Abroad Program. 

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The Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts College at Georgia Tech is recognized internationally for integrating the academic rigor, research, and professional emphases of technology and science, with the humanities and social sciences. Comprised of six schools, we offer nine undergraduate degrees, six master's degrees, and five doctoral degrees. Learn More

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