Rider Foley discusses sustainability and reasonable scientific innovation

Sasha Weilbaker, Staff Writer



Rider Foley, a visiting professor from the University of Virginia’s School of Engineering and Applied Science, gave a talk on reasonable innovation titled Towards Responsible Innovation: Aligning Activities, Aspirations and Stakeholders” on April 4 in Gardner Lecture Hall. Foley graduated from Arizona State University with a Ph.D. in sustainability.

Attendees were mainly students and faculty from the engineering department. The event was jointly hosted by the Swanson Fellowship in the Sciences and Engineering, College of Engineering, School of Management, College of Arts and Sciences, Electrical and Computer Engineering Department.

According to Foley, present-day large corporations are not sufficiently concerned with the environmental and social costs of innovation and are motivated only by the promise of economic growth.

As were doing the practice of science and engineering, are we thinking about what were actually creating and what the harms might be?” Foley said.

Foley introduced the idea of scientists, engineers, and social scientists working together in a collaborative effort to gain new perspectives. He also spoke about “reflexivity,” which he defined as a process of self-reflection through an integration with individuals from different disciplines.

Foley discussed government involvement in scientific innovation, whether it is through technological advancements for military purposes or government regulations on externalities.

Were moving away from the idea that the government can solve [problems], and towards a far more decentralized, harder to control set of stakeholders, and I would actually believe there is much more opportunity to bring in the value of more people rather than the value of one,” Foley said. 

Foley concluded his lecture on a positive note during the Q&A session. When asked where companies can look for motivation to create sustainable innovations, he affirmed that well-established companies are currently looking to be more environmentally friendly because they want their companies to last a long time.

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