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Parthasarathy testifies about equity in innovation before key Congressional subcommittee

February 25, 2021

On February 25, Shobita Parthasarathy testified before the U.S. House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, and Related Agencies. The hearing included four invited experts to speak about energy and climate innovation issues. Parthasarathy was invited to speak about equity in innovation policy. 

Remote video URL
"Strategies for Energy and Climate Innovation" / U.S. House Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, and Related Agencies

Parthasarathy began her testimony by outlining the challenge: “marginalized communities (including those who are low-income and those who come from historically disadvantaged communities of color) are often unable to access the benefits of science and technology, yet may be disproportionately subject to the harms.” 

She noted that governments attempt to address inequities retrospectively and distinctly from the innovation process—often with limited success. 

Instead, she urged the Department of Energy (DOE) to integrate expertise from affected communities and social science throughout the research, development, and demonstration funding process. 

Drawing on examples from the biomedical sciences and energy fields, Parthasarthy presented how community-based collaborations can increase trust and more effective solutions using a “consult-consider-modify-proceed” approach. She also encouraged DOE to leverage social science research to evaluate social and equity and use the findings to guide future technology development.

Parthasarathy closed her written testimony by saying, “to ensure that energy and climate innovation can reduce rather than exacerbate inequities, we need to bring these considerations into the research and development process at the earliest stages, through the expertise of both vulnerable communities and social scientists.”

You can watch the hearing here.