Starts Thursday November 12 – IEEE International Symposium on Technology and Society 2020 (ISTAS ’20)

By on November 11th, 2020 in Conferences, Magazine Articles, Social Implications of Technology, Societal Impact

Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, United States

November 12-14, 2020

ISTAS 2020 is a Virtual Conference

Register HERE



Submission Deadline September 14, 2020


Main Conference Website




The International Symposium on Technology and Society (ISTAS) is the flagship conference of the IEEE’s Society on the Social Implications of Technology- the oldest society and conference of its kind.

ISTAS is a multi/inter/trans-disciplinary forum for engineers, policy makers, entrepreneurs, philosophers, researchers, social scientists, technologists, and polymaths to collaborate, exchange experiences, and discuss the social implications of technology.

ISTAS’20 Theme: Public Interest Technology

Public interest technologies (PIT) serve to address social needs and challenges in society. People working in this space ask communities what their needs are first, without presuming they know what is best for them and generally use a participatory approach to innovation with values in mind and cultural awareness. In short, context matters in the creation of technologies and technological systems.

Public interest technologies pertain to technologies that may aid not-for-profits and non-government organizations to achieve their goals. These technologies might leverage open source software for collaboration, and open data initiatives to overcome societal challenges, may exercise crowdsourcing and crowdsensing techniques toward collective awareness, and provide open workforce exchanges where Information and Communication Technologies and engineering volunteerism is encouraged towards satisfying the needs of under-resourced organizations and citizenry.

Public interest technologies are equally relevant to private corporations who seek to embed the goals of human rights, social justice, sustainability and environmental justice in their workforce, going beyond corporate social responsibility and compliance. It is a corporate mode of operation that considers people as citizens, not just as customers in traditional business models.

In essence, a public interest technology approach to design addresses public problems in society such as privacy encroachment, data breaches, unsustainable practices, humanitarian crises, energy inefficiencies, accessibility to information and how technology can be applied to aid in policymaking and public service for the alleviation of these problems and adherence to universal services and obligations of all peoples.

We are particularly interested in definitions, concepts, frameworks, applications and elaborations with respect to the following areas of Public Interest Technology:


Public Interest Technology Sub-Themes & Panels
  • Defining public interest technology
    • Terminology, ontology, definition, application
  • Engineering activism
    • Lobbying, advocacy, activism, actionism
  • What is the “public interest”​​​​​​?​
    • Who decides what the public interest is and how it is served?
  • Engineering volunteerism
    • Pro-bono support by corporations
  • Funding public interest technology initiatives
    • Bridging the gap between commerce, corporations and communities
  • Public interest technologies, humanitarian activities and global challenges
  • Forming meaningful partnerships
    • Long-term strategies not band-aid solutions for NGOs and NfPs
  • Public engagement strategies in public interest technology
    • Living and communicating a cultural shift in the workforce
  • STS employability
    • Where do STS scholars fit in tech firms?
  • Public interest technology and the future of work
  • What does a PIT curriculum look like?
    • How does it differ to traditional STS?
  • Public interest technology and the mining industry
    • Technologies of preservation, reclamation and sustainability
  • Addressing tensions between the engineers and the social scientists
    • Respect and acknowledging hard and soft skillsets as equal
  • Collective awareness and the governing of the commons
    • Strategies for sharing, redistribution and efficiency
  • Engineering and technology scholarship
    • Why engineers and technologists need the humanities and social science sensibilities
    • Humanities-driven solutions, research, practice, inquiry
  • Converging emerging technologies and the role of public interest technology
    • Going beyond lip service
    • Debating the pros and cons in public
    • Forums for exchange: local, national, global
  • Theories, frameworks and methodologies in public interest technologies
  • Going beyond tech as product, and understanding tech as an innovation process that engages people
  • Critique of PIT​​​​​​
  • Ethic of care/ care ethics
    • Empathy, being human, respecting each other
    • Respecting the Earth, social imaginary(ies)


Submission Guidelines

All papers must be original and not simultaneously submitted to another journal or conference. The deadline for paper submission of all types is 14th September 2020. All papers must be submitted through EasyChair. The following paper categories are welcome:

  • Full papers are those that are over 4 pages in length and no more than 12 pages in length. Full papers require to have an explicit methodology, and may be applied or theoretical in contribution. Comprehensive literature reviews will be considered for conference publication, if they clearly describe the uniqueness of their presentation as compared to previous research. Papers that source a mix of high impact research papers, and more digital communications are acceptable. Select papers will be invited to be extended by authors and included in a special issue for 2021.
  • Short papers are those that are between 2-4 pages using the IEEE Conference Template. They will undergo a desk review, and be permanently included on the conference web site. These may take the form of commentary, opinion, or leading edge pieces and may be considered for publication in the IEEE Technology and Society Magazine.
  • Abstract only contributions are those that use the IEEE Conference Template and keep to no more than 1 page. It may include an abstract of about 200 words with additional text elaborating on the abstract. These long abstracts may be considered for publication on the open access IEEE Technology and Society Blog edited by Cia Romano. They should have a clear purpose and line of argumentation and may allude to past or research in progress. Authors who submit in this category will be given an opportunity to present their points of view.

List of ISTAS20 Thematic Topics

  • Public Interest Technology and Engineering Education
    • Technology curricula, STS sensibilities, interdisciplinarity, social sciences, humanities, engineering, employablity, fluency, vision
    • Private corporations, government agencies, non-government organisations (NGOs), non-for-profit, public-private partnerships
  • Methodological Approaches to Systems
    • Sociotechnical systems, participatory design, co-design, human factors research, human-computer interaction, experimental, values
  • Emerging Technologies and Responsible Innovation
    • Smart cities, drones, facial recognition, AI, maching learning, big data, IOT, GIS, cloud computing, brain-to-computer interfaces
  • Social Implications of Technology, Social Impact, (Un)Intended Consequences of Technology
    • Benefits, costs, (un)known, health, addiction, death, scenario planning, trajectories, futures, backcasting, nowcasting, forecasting
  • Veillances
    • Surveillance, dataveillance, uberveillance, borders, social credit system, predictive policing, DNA collection, LBS, voice-activated
  • Law, Regulation, Technology Standards and Guidelines, Principles, Governance, Policy, Ethics, Privacy and Security
    • Soft law, pacing problem of emerging technology, case law, enforceability, ethics boards, data privacy, data ownership, by design
  • Social Justice, Environmental Justice, Citizen Science, Humanitarian Technology, Risk Assessment
    • Under-represented populations, minorities, speculation, harm, environmental impact, risk, greed, preservation, sustainability
  • Universal Service Obligation, Discrimination, Access, Accessibility, Fairness, Openness, Transparency, Equity
    • Indigenous communities, displaced populations, women, mobility, affordability, speed, encryption, open data/systems, open access
  • User/End-user/Employee Perspectives, Corporate Social Responsibility, Human Rights
    • Citizens, patients, participants, business users, rights of children, dis/ability, cognitive impaired, humans, diversity, animals
  • Other traditional topics discussed at IEEE SSIT Conferences including, but not limited to:
    • social issue related to energy
    • health and safety technology systems
    • engineering ethics and professional responsibility
    • engineering education and the social implications of technology
    • public education in the social implications of technology
    • history of electrotechnology
    • technical expertise and public policy
    • social issues related to information and communication technology
    • systems analysis in public policy decisions
    • economic issues related to technology
    • peace technology
    • future of work


General Chair – Katina Michael, Arizona State University

Program Committee Chair – Roba Abbas, University of Wollongong

  • The 30 member strong international technical program committee will be announced shortly

Organizing Committee Co-Chairs – Netra Chhetri, Nalini Chhetri, Arizona State University

  • Cindy Dick – Event Management
  • Salahadine Hamdoun – Publications Chair
  • Elma Hajric – Workshop and Tutorials Chair
  • Farah Nájar Arévalo – Social Media Co-chairs
  • Martin Andrés Pérez Comisso- Social Media Co-chairs
  • Katina Michael – Conference Web Site Co-Chair
  • Terri Bookman – Conference Web Site Co-Chair
  • Other members of the Social Policy Engineering Collective:
    • Emma Frow – Governance of Emerging Biotechnologies
    • Kirk Jalbert – Civic Science for Environmental Futures Collaborative
    • Darshan Karwat –
    • Laura Hosman –
    • Faheem Hussain – Development for Displaced Population
    • Thad Miller – Center for Smart Cities and Regions
  • Jay Pearlman – VP IEEE SSIT Conference Chair

Keynote and Invited Speakers

  • Professor Jeremy Pitt – Imperial College London (Keynote)
  • Professor Christine Perakslis – Johnson and Wales University (Keynote)
  • Professor Joseph Carvalko – Quinniapac University (Keynote)
  • Dr Rebecca Monteleone – University of Toledo (Invited Speaker)


IEEEISTAS20 proceedings will be published in the IEEEXplore database by IEEE. Abstracts and short papers under 2,000 words will be available from the conference web site post peer review at

Select papers will be chosen for inclusion by the guest editorial team led by Dr Roba Abbas, in a special issue of the IEEE Technology and Society Magazine for publication in 2021, after authors extend their papers, and agree to undergo a new peer review process.


The conference will be held in Tempe, Arizona between the 12-14 November 2020. The conference venue is known as the Memorial Union and is located at 301 E Orange St, Tempe, AZ 85281. The closest hotel to the venue is The Graduate Hotel, for which we have secured excellent rates for attendees at the event.

Please note, there are co-located events to ISTAS20 that will be announced over the coming months. We invite you to consider staying the whole week and participating in a diverse range of workshops and training around the theme of the conference. ASU is a pioneer in Public Interest Technology education, Science and Technology Policy, and Innovation and Global Development Studies. We hope you will consider extending your stay with us in Tempe between the 9-15th November.


All questions regarding the conference should be emailed to An answer to your question should be forthcoming within 48 hours.

Support Needed

We are presently seeking support from:

  • Partners
  • Contributors
  • Patrons
  • Supporters

This support can take the form of direct grants (e.g. student travel grants or child care grants), paid advertising in the event program, services provided in exchange for brand exposure, underwriting a specific activity (breaks, lunch, etc.), and providing keynotes or other attendees gifts, among other ways. Note, supporters are distinguished from financial and technical sponsors that are internal to other IEEE Societies. If you would like to be a supporter, please write to

Cross-Societal Gathering

Over the three decades, members of the IEEE SSIT have been invited to attend panels at a variety of other acclaimed societal conferences. We would like to highlight the opportunity for a gathering at ASU that is inclusive to multidisciplinary areas of expertise, and not exclusive to engineers. IEEE SSIT is the perfect venue for those working in areas that require two or more areas of study. Among the Societies we look to for inspiration are:

  • PIT UN –
  • 4S – Society for Social Studies of Science
  • fPET – Forum on Philosophy, Engineering and Technology
  • SPT – The Society for Philosophy and Technology
  • SHOT – Society for the History of Technology
  • IEEE Societies: Computer, Security & Privacy, Robotics & Automation, TechEthics, BRAIN Neuroethics, SIGHT, History of Computin

About the Host Institution

ISTAS20 is being hosted by the School for the Future of Innovation in Society jointly with the Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University, Tempe Arizona. The Conference is being brought to you by the following multidisciplinary groups within ASU:

  • Society Policy and Engineering Collective (SPEC)
  • Consortium for Science Policy Outcomes (CSPO)
  • Innovation in Global Development (IGD) PhD Program
  • Human and Social Dimensions (HSD) PhD Program
  • Science and Technology Policy (MSTP) Masters Program
  • Public Interest Technology (PIT) Masters Program

The School for the Future of Innovation in Society (SFIS) is a transdisciplinary unit at the vanguard of ASU’s commitment to linking innovation to public value. We are pursuing a vision of responsible innovation that anticipates challenges and opportunities, integrates diverse knowledge and perspectives, and engages broad audiences. By examining the ways we translate imagination into innovation — and how we blend technical and social concerns along the way — we learn to build a future for everyone. For more visit:

About the PIT Universities Network (PIT-UN)

ISTAS20 will convene at the same time that the PIT UN meeting will happen at Arizona State University. The Public Interest Technology Universities Network is a partnership that fosters collaboration between 21 universities and colleges committed to building the nascent field of public interest technology and growing a new generation of civic-minded technologists. Through the development of curricula, research agendas, and experiential learning programs in the public interest technology space, these universities are trying innovative tactics to produce graduates with multiple fluencies at the intersection of technology and policy. For more details on how to become a member visit: