2018 Annual Institute

2018 Annual Institute
Society of Policy Scientists
November 1-3, 2018
The World Bank Group headquarters in Washington, DC

"The Policy Sciences and Sustainable Development"

The 2018 Policy Sciences Annual Institute will focus on new, cross-disciplinary sustainable development solutions.  A particular emphasis will be the application of the Policy Sciences – for example, through existing innovative solutions or by sharing ideas and perspectives – relevant to the ‘problems’ set out by the SDGs at any level, in any context.  For this reason, we encourage participation by policy scientists who conduct work in any field and at any level— local, state, national, or international.


Background on the 2018 Institute theme.  The Policy Sciences has long been at the forefront of development issues.  In Human Rights in World Public Order: Human Rights in Comprehensive Context (1977), Myres McDougal, Harold Lasswell, and Lung-chu Chen cited then-President of the World Bank Group Bob McNamara to set out the fundamental aim of social and economic development processes: “The end desired…by all [people] of good will is the enhancement of human dignity. That is what development is all about.” 

McDougal, Lasswell, and Chen then articulated the following problem definition – a snapshot of the challenges which development processes are designed to enable humanity to overcome: 

“[P]opulation-resource-technology imbalances have significantly contributed to the deprivations and nonfulfillment of human rights: widespread hunger and malnutrition; existence of slums and shantytowns, poor housing, crowded living conditions; spread of disease and emotional stress; poor health and leisure facilities and services; the deterioration of the environment (well-being); the widening gap between the rich and the poor (both individually and nationally); depletion of finite resources; widespread poverty; substandard living conditions (wealth); rising levels of unemployment and underemployment (skill); persisting widespread illiteracy and inadequate educational facilities and opportunities (enlightenment); practices of discrimination, especially racism (respect); confusion in rectitude standards and the rising rate of crime (rectitude); pervasive sense of loneliness and dislocation of families (affection); popularity of political extremism; propensity toward recourse to violence (internal and external); increasing potential for transnational conflicts (power and security). [1]

With many of the above challenges in mind, in September 2015 the U.N. General Assembly adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which are simultaneously an articulation of the world’s most pressing human development and sustainability priorities – from climate change, to economic inequality, to innovation, to sustainable consumption, to peace and justice, and more – and a series of time-bound, quantitative goals, targets and indicators that UN member states are expected to use to frame their agendas and political policies through 2030.   

The 17 SDGs are:

1.       End poverty in all its forms everywhere

2.       End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture

3.       Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages

4.       Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all

5.       Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

6.       Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all

7.       Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all

8.       Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all

9.       Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation

10.   Reduce inequality within and among countries

11.   Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

12.   Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns

13.   Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

14.   Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development

15.   Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss

16.   Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels

17.   Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development [2]

In The Policy Sciences of Development (1965), Lasswell wrote what could be a modern appraisal of sustainable development:  

[T]he policy sciences of development are beginning to emerge as an identifiable problem-oriented frame of reference, intersecting every specialized field of knowledge. The goals of development are gaining clarity; the historical perspective deepens; the interdependence of conditioning factors is better understood; the probable lines of future growth are more fully projected; and the invention and evaluation of policies designed to maximize or at least to achieve minimum results are forging ahead.

Michael Reisman expands on the policy sciences of development in functional terms:

We use the term “development” to refer to decision processes and decision outcomes which have been designed to induce the shaping and sharing of all values within and among territorial communities in ways and with consequences approximating the goal values of a world order of human dignity. The component of purposive direction toward these postulated goal values distinguishes development from social change more generally. Social change…is an ineluctable feature of social process, for all actors are constantly seeking to change parts of the social process with the aim of making it discriminate in their favor…. Development, in contrast, implies specific scope values with respect to which strategies for securing selective changes are invented and against which change-flows in decision structures and in the production and distribution of values are constantly evaluated. Thus, from a policy-oriented view, not all change is considered to be development; changes incompatible with human dignity can be characterized as retrogressions or as “disdevelopmental. [3]

Both Lasswell’s and Reisman’s formulations encourage us to consider development through a range of complementary mechanisms and at multiple levels, from the micro to macro-levels, and across disciplines.  In this way, the SDGs are also mutually reinforcing and cross-disciplinary – UNDP points out that “the key to success on one will involve tackling issues more commonly associated with another.”

The development field is constantly evolving; new lessons emerge continuously about approaching problems in particular contexts, subject to specific conditions, or as commonly expressed by development organizations, “what works, where, and why.”  Each new lesson is a step toward the achievement of a new development paradigm which transcends narrow disciplinary boundaries, emphasizes open access to new knowledge and facilitates the availability of new tools and technologies for sustainable human productivity. 

Program Committee:

  • Craig Hammer, World Bank, chammer@worldbank.org (Program Chair)
  • Matthew Auer, University of Georgia, Matthew.Auer@uga.edu
  • Diana Ascher, Stratelligence LLC, dianaascher@stratelligance.net
  • Charles Norchi, Maine Law School, charles.norchi@maine.edu
  • David Cherney, PA Consulting Group, David.Cherney@paconsulting.com
  • Jennifer Zavaleta, University of Michigan, jenniferczavaleta@gmail.com
  • Daniel Behn, University of Oslo, d.f.behn@jus.uio.no


    Prize Announcement

    Institute Location and Travel Information

    Registration Information

    PSAI 2018 Agenda

    [1] Human Rights in World Public Order: Human Rights in Comprehensive Context (1977). Nw. UL Rev., 72, p. 259
    [2] See Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, G.A. RES/70/1, UN Doc A/RES/70/1 (Sep 25 2015), available at: http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/RES/70/1&Lang=E (last visited Feb 26 2016).
    [3] “Development and Nation-Building: A Framework for Policy-Oriented Inquiry,” (2008). Faculty Scholarship Series, Paper 61, p. 310.