About The Potomac Institute for Policy Studies

The Potomac Institute for Policy Studies is an independent, 501(c)(3), not-for-profit public policy research institute. The Institute identifies and aggressively shepherds discussion on key science, technology, and national security issues facing our society. The Institute remains fiercely objective, owning no special allegiance to any single political party or private concern. With over nearly two decades of work on science and technology policy issues, the Potomac Institute has remained a leader in providing meaningful policy options for science and technology, national security, defense initiatives, and S&T forecasting. The Institute hosts academic centers to study related policy issues through research, discussions, and forums. From these discussions and forums, we develop meaningful policy options and ensure their implementation at the intersection of business and government.

These Centers include:

  • Center for Revolutionary Scientific Thought, focusing on S&T futures forecasting;

  • Center for Adaptation and Innovation, chaired by General Al Gray, focusing on military strategy and concept development;

  • Center for Neurotechnology Studies, focusing on S&T policy related to emerging neurotechnologies;

  • Center for Regulatory Science and Engineering, a resource center for regulatory policy; and

  • International Center for Terrorism Studies, an internationally recognized center of expertise in the study of terrorism led by Professor Yonah Alexander.

The Potomac Institute’s mission as a not-for-profit is to serve the public interest by addressing new areas in science and technology and national security policy. These centers lead discussions and develop new thinking in these ar- eas. From this work the Potomac Institute develops policy and strategy for their government customers in national security. A core principle of the Institute is to be a “Think and Do Tank”. Rather than just conduct studies that will sit on the shelf, the Institute is committed to implementing solutions. 

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Water on the Rise: Policies for Coastal Plains

A potential sea level rise in coastal areas such as Miami, Norfolk, and New York City threatens the population’s economic and social status quo. Engineers, policymakers, and emergency managers, are encouraged to rethink their approach to mitigating the risk from hurricanes, storm surge, and the potential of elevated sea levels. The state of Louisiana, in general, is one of the regional economic hubs for energy production, infrastructure distribution and international and domestic trade; nevertheless, the loss of land over time due to sea level rise and hurricanes is threatening infrastructure in this coastal area.

Engineers can use the environment and technology to adapt to changes in the environment. The author promotes the idea to build floating cities, which would use solar energy to produce electricity and recyclable seawater to produce freshwater. Funding for such projects would come from public-private partnerships utilizing limited recourse or non-recourse financing. Investing in a floating city concept would save the money that would have been invested in levee systems upgrades, protecting the city from flooding, and creating larger ports that encompass greater services to assist with the distribution system. Therefore, implementation of the floating city project can put the coastal people and the infrastructure out of danger, and hence, ensure social and economic stability.

Read more: Water on the Rise: Policies for Coastal Plains

Space to Breathe: The Argument for a New Outer Space Treaty

Since the beginning of the space race, military space policy has been pursued in an environment with little international consensus. The force-enhancement capabilities provided by military space assets have been tied into the overall deterrence structure of the US, and because of this, American policymakers have resisted international efforts to regulate military actions in space. Given growing complexities in the space environment, however, and an increase in the number of space-faring nations, it would be wise for the US to reconsider its approach to space policy. The pursuit of a new international space treaty, along with changes to American space policy, could create needed stability, protect space infrastructure, and strengthen US deterrence capabilities.

Read more: Space to Breathe: The Argument for a New Outer Space Treaty

Creativity in Science: Fostering Failure

Many of the world’s greatest accomplishments that can be attributed to science are a consequence of failure.1 Specifically, they are the result of perseverance from failure. The best scientific minds are unfazed by failure because it is the fuel that drives their pursuits of knowledge forward. Failure breeds innovation and innovation is driven by creativity. Revolutionary science requires creativity and thus requires failure. The scientific community, those who produce and fund our science, is becoming increasingly fearful of failure. Our scientists fear that producing lackluster results will mean they will lose their jobs. Our funding institutions fear that investing in endeavors that do not produce immediate gains for society (or their investors) will result in decreases in their future budgets or cancellation of their programs. A culture change within the scientific community is needed as we continue to move into the 21st Century that will embrace failure and learn how to manage this failure into future success. Doing this will create new incentives for scientists to demonstrate their creativity, help us manage our risks better in scientific funding, and lead to a surge innovative solutions to the 21st Century’s most complex scientific problems.

Read more: Creativity in Science: Fostering Failure

Science of Communication

Science communication is a critical, yet underdeveloped field that encompasses scientists, policymakers and the public. With the goal of providing a general and accurate understanding of scientific investigation and implications of scientific outcomes, it serves as a foundation for evidence-based decisions regarding issues that impact everyday life. Moreover, science communication has importance in influencing governmental decision-making with regard to science regulation, policy, and funding. Despite its importance, science communication has experienced deficiencies and failures which have often been blamed on scientists, media, or the public.

Science communication can broadly be defined as the “...use of appropriate skills, media, activities, and dialogue to produce one or more of the following responses to science: awareness, enjoyment, interest, opinion forming, and understanding.”1 Scholars have emphasized the essential and vital role of science communication among all fields of scientific debate, research, and advancement. Ideally, science communication should relay scientific information clearly and accurately, utilizing the most current, reliable, quality sources.2 Good science communication is essential in today’s society as it guides public understanding, evaluation, and ultimately, behavior in various areas of social life – ranging from environmental awareness to grocery purchases to medical decisions.

Read more: Science of Communication

©, 2016, Potomac Institute for Policy Studies, All rights reserved.

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