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About Charles Weiss
Charles Weiss explores the interweaving of science and technology with politics, economics, business, finance, ethics, law, psychology and culture. His publications cover a broad range of topics related to international policy for science, technology, and innovation: environment and energy policy, scientific uncertainty, precaution, the technical assistance program of the Marshall Plan, and science and technology in economic development. Professor Weiss was the first Science and Technology Adviser to the World Bank and served in that capacity for fifteen years.
Weiss is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Science, Technology and International Affairs (STIA) at the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. He served as Director of the STIA program from 1997-2006, and shaped it into a unique undergraduate program that treats the role of science, technology and innovation in energy, environment, health, security, economic development and business competitiveness. STIA is now the second most popular undergraduate major at the School of Foreign Service.
Weiss’ latest book is The Survival Nexus: Science, Technology and World Affairs (Oxford University Press, 2022), which explores the role of science and technology in global issues of climate change, global health, nuclear issues, cybersecurity, Internet governance, competitiveness, and the alleviation of poverty and hunger. He is co-author, with William Bonvillian, of Structuring an Energy Technology Revolution (MIT Press, 2009) and Technological Innovation in Legacy Sectors (Oxford University Press, 2015), and is co-editor of Mobilizing Technology for Developing Countries (Praeger, 1979), and Technology, Finance and Development (Lexington, 1984).
Professor Weiss is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He is listed in Who’s Who in America and Who’s Who in the World. He holds a B.A., summa cum laude in chemistry and physics, and a Ph.D. in chemical physics and biochemistry, both from Harvard University. He lives with his wife in Bethesda MD. They have two children and six grandchildren.
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Titles By Charles Weiss
In this book, Charles Weiss explores the intertwining of science, technology, and world affairs that affects everything from climate change and global health to cybersecurity, biotechnology, and geoengineering. Compact and readable, the book ties together ideas and experiences arising from a broad range of diverse issues, ranging from the structure of the energy economy to the future of work and the freedom of the internet.
The Survival Nexus highlights opportunities to mobilize science and technology for a better world through technological innovations that address global health, poverty, and hunger. It alerts the reader to the Earth-in-the balance risks stemming from the decline in the international cooperation that once kept the dangers of pandemics, climate change, and nuclear war in check. It warns of the challenge to democracies from the multi-faceted global information and cyber-wars being waged by authoritarian powers. Central to the global problems it explores are questions of basic ethics: how much are people willing to respect scientific facts, to act today to forestall long-run dangers, and to ensure equitable sharing of the benefits, costs, and risks arising from advances in science and technology.
Weiss clearly explains the technical principles underlying these issues, showcasing why scientists, policy makers, and citizens everywhere need to understand how the mix of science and technology with politics, economics, business, ethics, law, communications, psychology, and culture will shape our future. This important nexus underpins issues critical to human survival that are overlooked in the broader context of world affairs.
America is addicted to fossil fuels, and the environmental and geopolitical costs are mounting. A public-private program—at an expanded scale—to stimulate innovation in energy policy seems essential. In Structuring an Energy Technology Revolution, Charles Weiss and William Bonvillian make the case for just such a program. Their proposal backs measures to stimulate private investment in new technology, within a revamped energy innovation system. It would encourage a broad range of innovations that would give policymakers a variety of technological options over the long implementation period and at the huge scale required, faster than could be accomplished by market forces alone. Even if the nation can't make progress at this time on pricing carbon, a technology strategy remains critical and can go ahead now.
Strong leadership and public support will be needed to resist the pressure of entrenched interests against putting new technology pathways into practice in the complex and established energy sector. This book has helped start the process.
Technological Innovation in Legacy Sectors uses a new, unifying conceptual framework to identify the shared features underlying structural obstacles to innovation in major Legacy sectors: energy, air and auto transport, the electric power grid, buildings, manufacturing, agriculture, health care delivery and higher education, and develops approaches to understand and transform them. It finds both strengths and obstacles to innovation in the national innovation environments - a new concept that combines the innovation system and the broader innovation context - for a group of Asian and European economies.
Manufacturing is a major Legacy sector that presents a particular challenge because it is a critical stage in the innovation process. By increasingly offshoring production, the U.S. is losing important parts of its innovation capacity. "Innovate here, produce here," where the U.S. took all the gains of its strong innovation system at every stage, is being replaced by "innovate here, produce there," which threatens to lead to "produce there, innovate there."
To bring innovation to Legacy sectors, authors William Bonvillian and Charles Weiss recommend that policymakers focus on all stages of innovation from research through implementation. They should fill institutional gaps in the innovation system and take measures to address structural obstacles to needed disruptive innovations. In the specific case of advanced manufacturing, the production ecosystem can be recreated to reverse "jobless innovation" and add manufacturing-led innovation to the U.S.'s still-strong, research-oriented innovation system.