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Illuminating Policy Around the Globe

News Type Public Address
Featured Experts
Jeff Bielicki, Associate Professor
Caroline Wagner, Professor
Long Tran, Assistant Professor
By Joan Slattery Wall

From the U.S. and Canada to Europe, Southeast Asia and even outer space, John Glenn College of Public Affairs faculty lend their expertise to further national and global public policy, science and research.  

Indeed, as government and nonprofit organizations around the world shape policy for public good, they rely on academic experts to inform decision making. 

“We always seek a range of perspectives when assembling experts from across the stakeholder spectrum on a given topic,” said Karen Howard, director of science and technology assessment and acting chief scientist at the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO).  

For example, on behalf of the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine, the GAO tapped Glenn College Associate Professor Jeffrey Bielicki to provide input to a report issued last fall on the advantages and challenges of carbon capture technologies, which capture carbon dioxide at sources like industrial facilities or remove it from the atmosphere, then either store it underground or use it to produce goods, like concrete. 

University researchers, Howard said, bring a unique set of insights based on their experience in the details of research, interaction with funding agencies when seeking and reporting on projects, and collaboration with others at conferences and other settings where such research is discussed.  

University researchers are often able to contribute to the conversation in ways that go far beyond the details of research conducted in their labs, adding and summarizing insights gleaned from many others in the field.

Karen Howard
Director of Science and Technology Assessment and Acting Chief Scientist, U.S. Government Accountability Office

“They are also accustomed to collegial open debate about the merits of various proposals,” Howard said, “which is very helpful when discussing the challenges facing an emerging field and the pros and cons of a range of options that could be considered for addressing those challenges.”  

Associate Professor Jeffrey Bielicki, Energy and Environment Policy and Management

Glenn College Associate Professor Jeffrey Bielicki (right), who also has a appointment in the College of Engineering, talks with civil engineering doctoral student Marcos Miranda about research to clean coal mine drainage while producing rare-earth elements for electronics manufacturing. (Credit: Ohio State College of Engineering)

Bielicki runs the Energy Sustainability Research Laboratory, where he and his students research issues in which energy and environmental systems and policy interact, specifically on topics related to carbon management, renewable energy and the energy-water nexus. Bielicki, who holds a joint appointment in the Department of Civil, Environmental and Geodetic Engineering, collaborates with researchers in academia and U.S. Department of Energy national laboratories in disciplines that span physical, natural and social sciences. 

Commerce in the Cosmos 

Glenn College Professor John Horack leads a terrestrial-based lab exploring policy and science solutions for the commercial space industry. 

“Professor Bielicki provided valuable insight and foresight, particularly in discussions on the development of carbon dioxide transport and storage infrastructure,” said Howard. “We also reviewed multiple reports from Professor Bielicki and co-authors as part of our evidence collection. The related section of our report ultimately included two options for policymakers to consider to address challenges to the deployment of carbon capture, utilization and storage.”  

The resulting GAO report, “Decarbonization: Status, Challenges, and Policy Options for Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage,” received extensive interest on Capitol Hill as well as attention from the Renewable Fuels Association, Howard said. Bielicki’s input contributed to policy recommendations regarding the development of frameworks to manage carbon dioxide storage at the state level and the facilitation of strategic siting of carbon capture, utilization and storage facilities.  

Professor Caroline Wagner, Global Policy for Science and Technology

Glenn College Professor Caroline Wagner shares her experiences with students to help shape their futures in hopes that they bring passion, values and some caution to developing and using new technologies. (Credit: Majesti Brown) 

As a child, like many in her generation, Professor Caroline Wagner says, she was inspired by Sen. John Glenn and others in the space program, and she read numerous books about technology development and science fiction. 

“This curiosity led me to wonder about society’s decision-making process on new science investments and emerging technologies,” Wagner said. “I pursued a career in policy with the goal of bringing values and human-centered ethics to decisions about science and technology.” 

Now government agencies in the United States and abroad seek her expertise to advise global policy in science and technology investment and management.   

Before she entered academia, she spent more than 20 years doing policy analysis and evaluation for the U.S. Congress as a staff member for the Committee for Science, Space and Technology and an analyst for the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment; as an advisor to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy; and as a research analyst for the Rand Corp., among others. 

“I’ve studied international collaboration in science and technology for a long time,” Wagner said. “The government spends billions of dollars on it every year. Because the government spends so much money on it, it becomes a public policy issue. 

“I bring a unique perspective, as do others who have been in and out of government advising,” she said.  

We tend to know, because we’ve been there, how government officials make decisions and what kinds of challenges they face.

Professor Caroline Wagner
John Glenn College of Public Affairs

That expertise led to her selection as a panel member for the Council of Canadian Academies on a report called “International Science and Technology Partnerships.” The assessment, with an expected release this fall, will examine best practices and identify key elements of a rigorous, data-enabled approach to selecting international science, technology and innovation. Canadian government entities, then, will use the science behind this public policy to make decisions.   

“The lead sponsor of this report is Global Affairs Canada, which is our foreign ministry, responsible for our high level, bilateral agreements between countries related to science and technology, and 10 other federal departments and agencies who are co-sponsors,” said Jeff Kinder, project director, Council of Canadian Academies. “There’s a lot of interest in it.” 

He said Wagner contributes subject matter expertise in international science partnerships not only from the U.S. but from her experience in Europe.

A Champion for Global Environmental Policy, Justice  

Glenn College graduate Daniel V. Ortega-Pacheco helps develop sustainability in national and international policy, research, government, finance, nonprofit and agriculture sectors. 

“Caroline has been a very engaged panel member and made huge contributions to the deliberations,” he said. “In addition to that, she will provide some data analysis based on her own research.” 

Wagner has served as a consultant to the U.N. for the Sustainable Development Goals and is an advisor to the International Center for the Study of Research ICSR, an ongoing research activity out of the United Kingdom. She contributed to reports from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development on COVID-19’s disruption to the global science system and to a statement from the Global Research Council on the importance of openness and exchange in science and technology research. 

Assistant Professor Long Tran, Nonprofit and Public Management

Assistant Professor Long Tran, who was born and raised in Vietnam, strengthens research ties with colleagues there. Mementos on his desk were handmade in Vietnam: a vase that was a wedding gift, a toy dragon signifying his name in Vietnamese and a toy frog representing the many live ones that were near his home. (Credit: Majesti Brown)

Assistant Professor and Washington Faculty Fellow Long Tran centers his research on cooperation and coordination, two interrelated challenges of management. 

Outside academia, he has had research and consulting experience at many local nonprofits and international development organizations, such as the German Corporation for International Cooperation, the U.N. Development Programme, and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) International Development Innovation Network. 

Last year he helped establish the Vietnam-America Association for Public Affairs and Policy with colleagues from across the United States and Vietnam. 

“It’s the first association that promotes research collaboration and academic exchanges among scholars in Vietnam and the United States in the fields of public affairs and policy,” Tran said. “It currently has over 800 members. It’s still a pretty new initiative, so there are going to be a lot more activities in the future, but so far, we have organized five online presentations for researchers in the group to share their findings and knowledge.” 

Tran presented “For-profit charter schools: An evaluation of their spending and outcomes,” a report he co-authored with Glenn College Professor Stéphane Lavertu for the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, to education policy researchers in Vietnam as part of the Partnership for Higher Education Reform’s efforts to share and improve education policy research. Funded by USAID, the partnership is a five-year initiative to modernize Vietnam’s leading universities and strengthen its higher education system in alignment with USAID’s Higher Education Program Framework. 

“I think it is clearly important for public policy scholars to engage in public policy issues by providing evidence-based analysis and insights,” Tran said. “Besides contributing to well-informed policy decisions that can better serve the public, this engagement also helps researchers like myself build our knowledge, network and impact.”

Read the latest edition of Public Address, the Glenn College magazine.