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Kathryn Sullivan Featured

9:36am EDT March 28, 2002

Cutting-edge technology is no threat to former NASA astronaut Kathryn Sullivan, Ph.D., president and CEO of Columbus' Center of Science and Industry (COSI). But it does pose several questions, such as how to keep COSI ahead of the technology curve and which technologies should be showcased.

Sullivan is a bit skeptical when it comes to some new developments, but weeding through the hype, she finds value in others.

"I think technologies that give scientists the ability to work at the single molecule level are very important," says Sullivan, "and robotics and the entry of them into our personal lives (are also very important)."

But the question of how to keep COSI ahead or even abreast of the technology curve has no easy answer.

"That's a question the entire museum industry is working to answer," says Sullivan. "When technologies turn on a dime, that is a challenge."

Sullivan cites the rapid rate of change in leading edge technology and its expense as the primary obstacles to overcome. COSI's Input/Output program works to solve these issues and bring worthwhile technologies to the museum.

"We approach high-tech companies with a corporate lab element, asking them to place some of their latest products here," says Sullivan. "They can showcase their products or we can act as a beta test site."

However, with fierce competition, companies are not always eager to put their products on public display.

"There are some proprietary issues to be worked through," Sullivan says.

Does she find any of the new technologies problematic?

"It's not the technologies that concern me, it's humankind and how we apply and use them," Sullivan says.

While it's impossible to eliminate risks ("There is always risk, just living as a human being"), there are ethical and moral standards to examine.

"How can we really have a dialogue between the scientists and us citizens to explore and gain a better understanding without it turning into a shouting match?" Sullivan says. "If we can find the way to have the right kind of conversations, there are ways that technology can benefit society." How to reach: Columbus COSI, (614) 228-2674 or http://cosi.org/index.html