About Us

SciPol is the comprehensive resource from Duke University's Initiative for Science and Society for engaging with the latest developments in science and technology policy.

About SciPol

SciPol is a non-partisan, public website dedicated to tracking and analyzing science policy across a range of scientific fields. We additionally offer resources to help individuals better engage with or find employment in science policy. We focus primarily on science policy from the United States federal government; we also occasionally cover state or international policy in addition to voluntary policies or policy suggestions offered by industry, academic, and nonprofit entities. 

SciPol provides timely and quality information to a broad audience of academics, policymakers, businesses, journalists, nonprofits, and general members of the public. We deliver thorough, comprehensive, and accurate explanations of the latest science policy to better inform society about such policies that may eventually impact their daily lives. We do not offer policy suggestions, nor do we endorse or oppose any science policy we discuss on the site. 

About Science & Society

The Duke University Initiative for Science & Society seeks to maximize social benefit from scientific progress by making science more accessible, just, and better integrated into society.

Advances in science and technology rapidly change the world we& live in, shape our lives and culture, and raise myriad ethical, legal, and policy-related questions. The Duke Initiative for Science & Society examines these broad-ranging questions about the integral role of science in social institutions and culture.

Science Verticals

SciPol currently covers policy touching on five distinct scientific topics—or "verticals"—with plans to expand to new verticals in the near future. 

Energy

Energy both unites and underlies all human activity. The discovery, extraction, distribution, conversion, and use of various forms of energy is the economic foundation of our global economy. Ultimately, the choices we make about energy are inextricably linked to our environment, human health and well-being, and the interaction of nations and populations around the globe.

In the Energy policy vertical at SciPol, we turn the spotlight specifically to new developments in industry, policy, and science that have a direct and intentional impact on the United States energy sector.

Focus Areas for the Energy Vertical

  • Source: Fossil Fuels (Coal, Oil, & Gas), Wind, Solar, Nuclear, Water (Hydroelectric, Hydrokinetic, Hydrothermal), Thermal (Geothermal, Hydrothermal), Biomass (Plant-Based Biofuels, Animal-Based Biofuels), Emerging Fuels (Photobiological)
  • Production, Conversion, Distribution: Discovery, Extraction, Conversion, Storage
  • Use: Residential, Commercial, Industrial, Transportation

Emerging Trends We Cover in Energy Policy

  • Hydropower Expansion & Authorizations
  • Preparing a Future Energy Workforce
  • Increasing Transparency & Streamlining Governance of Federal Power Regulation
  • Great Lakes Pipeline Safety

Exclusion Areas for the Energy Vertical

  • Vehicles & Vehicle Emissions Standards
  • The Clean Air Act
  • Emissions/Air Pollution
  • Energy Efficiency
  • Land Conveyances

For the Energy Vertical, we also generally exclude the following types of policies:

  • Congressional Resolutions
  • Congressional Amendments
  • Tax Law and Amendments to the Internal Revenue Code of 1986
  • Appropriations or Authorizations Bills
  • Industry Annual Reports

Genetics/Genomics

Genetics is the study of genes, genetic variation, and heredity. Genomics is the analyses of an organism’s entire genetic makeup, which is called a genome. Genomics includes efforts to understand how genomes are organized and function, how they differ in subtle ways among individuals to influence health and disease risk, and how they interact with environmental or non-genetic factors, such as a person's lifestyle.

Focus Areas for the Genetics/Genomics Vertical

  • Agricultural genetics
  • Cancer genetics
  • Direct-to-consumer genetic testing
  • DNA collection
  • DNA diagnostics & gene sequencing
  • Fetal tissue research/testing
  • Gene editing and gene therapy
  • Genes and ancestry
  • Genetic toxicology and mutation causation
  • Genetic diseases: research, diagnosis, and treatment
  • GMO foods & labeling
  • Human identification & forensic DNA
  • Newborn screening, typically related to DNA collection
  • Policies affecting the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA)
  • Reproductive procedures/technologies, such as preimplantation genetic diagnosis or mitochondrial replacement therapy
  • Research trends in biomedicine and biotechnology
  • Stem cell research/testing & stem cell-based therapeutics

Emerging Trends We Cover in Genetics/Genomics Policy

  • Biodefense and bioterrorism
  • Ethical implications of human genome editing
  • Genetic privacy and security
  • Precision medicine in everyday applications
  • Using direct-to-consumer DNA test data to solve crimes

Exclusion Areas for the Genetics/Genomics Vertical

  • Policies broadly regarding cancer or disease
  • Using genetic data to identify, track, or list endangered species

Nanotechnology

Nanotechnology is defined as science, engineering, and technology conducted at the nanoscale, which is at the scale of about 1 to 100 nanometers, thousands of times smaller than the human eye can see. Nanoscience crosscuts all fields of the physical sciences including chemistry, biology, physics, materials science, and engineering. Nanotechnology enables understanding, measurement, manipulation, and manufacture at the atomic, molecular, and supramolecular (more complex) levels, such as by controlling new molecular organization, properties, and functions. These efforts enable the creation of novel materials, devices, and systems.

Focus Areas for the Nanotechnology Vertical

  • 3D printing using nanoparticles or cells to produce small circuits or organs for transplantation
  • Energy sustainability technologies
  • Environmental remediation and protection strategies
  • Material properties conferred by nanoscale materials
  • Nanoinformatics (i.e., big data about nanomaterials)​
  • Nanomedicines
  • Nanosensors incorporated into consumer products or directly applied to skin
  • Nano-enabled batteries
  • Naturally occurring, incidentally produced, and engineered nanomaterials​
  • Semiconductors and electronic circuit advancements
  • Superconductivity at room temperature

Emerging Trends We Cover in Nanotechnology Policy

  • Governance mechanisms for regulating the use of nanomaterials
  • Using nanomaterials and nanotechnology to address environmental problems

Neuroscience

Neuroscience is the study of nervous system development, structure, and function. Much of neuroscience focuses on how the brain works, including how it dictates behavior and cognitive functions. Not only is neuroscience concerned with the normal functioning of the nervous system, but it also investigates what happens to the nervous system when people have neurological, psychiatric, or neurodevelopmental disorders.

Focus Areas for the Neuroscience Vertical

  • Brain health and cognitive development
  • Brain research and related technologies and techniques
  • Environmental neurotoxins
  • Infectious diseases with impacts on the nervous system, such as Zika
  • Mental health, such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, and schizophrenia
  • Neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s
  • Neurodevelopmental disorders, such as autism
  • Neurological diseases, such as epilepsy
  • Nervous system mechanisms relating to addiction
  • Traumatic brain injury, concussions, and head safety

Emerging Trends We Cover in Neuroscience Policy

  • Contemporary drugs relating to neural disorders
  • Efforts to address the opioid crisis and to assign responsibility for the problem
  • Increased attention to concussions and brain injuries stemming from impact sports and military service
  • Novel research efforts to address Alzheimer's disease
  • Scientific and ethical research around brain-computer interfaces and related technologies
  • Tobacco and nicotine regulations
  • Ties between mental and physical health

Robotics/AI

SciPol covers the related fields of Robotics and Artificial Intelligence (AI) in one vertical. Robotics is an interdisciplinary field combining computer science, mechanical engineering, and electrical engineering to design, construct, and operate robots. A robot, in this context, is a programmable machine capable of carrying out complex actions automatically. Artificial intelligence refers to the development of machines capable of performing tasks that traditionally require human intelligence.

Focus Areas for the Robotics/AI Vertical

  • Algorithm-driven financial planning services
  • Autonomous/driverless transportation, including road, rail, maritime and air
  • Autonomous weapons
  • Civilian drones regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration
  • Liability and safety implications for robots
  • Medical service robots, including concierge and therapy robots
  • Precision agriculture
  • Privacy issues for robot technology
  • Robot-assisted surgery

Emerging Trends We Cover in Robotics/AI Policy

  • Expressed concerns regarding the future of work
  • Governance mechanisms for regulating autonomous vehicles
  • Governance mechanisms for regulating drones
  • Investigating the "black box" of artificial intelligence systems

Contact Information

SciPol

Questions about the site? Recommendations for policies or science topics to follow? Want to get involved? Send us an email at scipol@duke.edu. You can also communicate with us on social media, either Twitter or Facebook.

Mailing Address:

Duke Initiative for Science & Society
Attn: Duke SciPol
Erwin Mill, Bay A, #201-205
2024 W. Main Street
Durham, NC 27705

Science & Society

Contact Science & Society for questions regarding events, educational programs, and other ways to get involved with Science Policy at Duke. You can also call (919) 668-0790 or email scienceandsociety@duke.edu