Public Policy Leader Focuses on Science, Technology and Society Initiative
Among the outstanding new faculty who joined the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences at UMass Amherst in 2005 is Jane E. Fountain, formerly associate professor of public policy at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government for 16 years. As director of SBS’s Science, Technology and Society Initiative which is based administratively in the Center for Public Policy and Administration, she will promote multidisciplinary collaboration among the natural, physical and social sciences, engineering, and public policy. In addition, she has brought to campus the National Center for Digital Government, a National Science Foundation-funded research center for digital government research, practice, and innovation. This effort makes UMass Amherst a central node in a highly visible global leadership network for longitudinal, cross-disciplinary, and problem-oriented research and practice that connects government and the public in entirely new ways.
“We are in a time of rapidly developing transformation in technology that affects organizational, institutional, and legal arrangements,” Fountain explains, noting that she saw a unique opportunity in Amherst to collaborate with a “wide and exciting range of outstanding researchers” who work on issues central to transitioning to an information society. The research and outreach activities of the National Center are meant to build deeper understanding of how social, technical, and policy research can better integrate scientific understanding with information technologies used in government.
“UMass Amherst has experts,” Fountain says, “in open source and collaboration, global politics, the development of inter-organizational relationships for public policymaking, gender and computing, online dispute resolution, process modeling, and—in science and engineering—the development and use of large-scale technological systems. They are attuned to the potential for an increase in social harm, as well as potential benefits, as a consequence of emerging technologies. Their areas of expertise, combined with the campus’s scale and culture, give us a tremendous opportunity to build a pre-eminent Science, Technology and Society program.”
But how did this cum laude graduate of the Boston Conservatory of Music, a concertmaster there for two years, become a public policy and administration leader? “I heard the violin was difficult to play and liked the challenge,” says Fountain. “The pursuit of artistic excellence and expression touches sublime chords in the human spirit. But I never intended to make music my profession. I always knew I’d work on tough intellectual problems whose solutions might reduce social, political and economic inequalities. It’s probably not an academic or career trajectory I’d suggest to others, but I have no regrets. I’m grateful to have had such a close relationship to the arts.”
After the Conservatory, where Fountain held a full performance scholarship, she switched gears by combining graduate study and professional work. She holds master’s degrees from Harvard and Yale and a dual-doctorate in political science and in organizational behavior from Yale; her dissertation received recognition from the American Political Science Association. Fountain’s research ranges widely and examines institutional processes that influence adoption and use of information technologies in government, structural and behavioral characteristics of inter-organizational networks, and how gender is affected by and affects emerging technologies. Fountain’s numerous publications include Building the Virtual State: Information Technology and Institutional Change (Brookings Institution Press, 2001), which won an Outstanding Academic Title award; it has been translated and published in Chinese, Japanese and Portuguese.
Fountain also directs the Women in the Information Age project, a multi-disciplinary study launched with support from PricewaterhouseCoopers. She has served widely as a researcher, advisory board member and consultant with government agencies and other organizations including the State of Massachusetts, the U.S. Department of Defense, the Department of the Treasury, the National Institutes of Health, the Office of Management and Budget, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Social Science Research Council, and the National Science Foundation. In addition, governments, organizations and executive programs in several countries in Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and Europe have been beneficiaries of her sought-after expertise.
“I’ve been moved by the warmth and collegiality of colleagues here in Amherst,” Fountain says, “as well as the opportunities for multi-disciplinary research and activities, attention to students and their development, and the faculty’s commitment to the campus. It is clear that with strong leadership at several levels, the campus is in a very dynamic positive phase of development.”
December 19, 2005
Read more about Jane Fountain and her work.
Digital domain: Jane Fountain drives the intersection of technology, institutions and government. (2/27/06)
Fountain Keynotes Public Policy Meeting in Japan (8/21/06)
Fountain Keynotes International Semantic Web Conference (11/30/06)