Transparency and Communication
Science and technology play critical roles in the formulation of international policies on challenges facing the global community. They also contribute substantially to the development of enabling technologies for implementation of these policies and for coping with their consequences. Global issues such as climate change, renewable energy sources, and the security and privacy of individuals are matters in which science and technology take a lead. Many of these issues benefit from the core competency of MIT, thereby ensuring that the Institute will be called upon more frequently to participate and contribute to their resolution.
Some new technologies are highly controversial and will generate substantial debate and opposing points of views within the MIT community. For example, a national information system for tracking activities of suspected individuals could raise significant concerns about protecting the privacy of the innocent.
Similarly, formulation of energy or environmental policies that may favor a specific technology or a particular national resource could create similar controversy. As we have witnessed over the past few years, the manner by which the federal government has handled several of these issues, especially those related to security and privacy, has resulted in a great deal of disagreement, resignations of officials, and even discussion of indictments of some senior members of the government. We at MIT need to put in place a process that is transparent, extensively debated, and well accepted by the community.
We welcome the recent emphasis on increased communication within MIT and with the outside world that the MIT administration has initiated in support of these undertakings. The Faculty Newsletter will carry more reporting on administration policy and planning. At the same time we caution that the administration not confuse transparency and communication with public relations.
This edition includes an article on the history of the Faculty Newsletter and its roles both in correcting policy errors at MIT and in broadening discussion, debate, and participation on a variety of important matters. The topics were not just internal to MIT, but represented interaction with national and even international constituencies. As we move forward toward increased communication and transparency within MIT and outside, having the FNL as a channel for discussion and debate becomes even more critical. In the coming year we will be developing the Newsletter Website as a mechanism for timely consideration of national and international policy issues, along with items of primarily internal interest. We also will be increasing the clarity and transparency of our editorial policies, as well as moving to an Editorial Board that is elected by the full faculty.