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Director's Message


August 2021

Warm greetings from the newly renamed Peter F. Cowhey Center on Global Transformation (CGT) at the UC San Diego School of Global Policy and Strategy (GPS). The naming — a fitting tribute to Peter, who served as a visionary dean of GPS for nearly two decades — was made possible with a generous endowment gift from Joan and Irwin Jacobs.

We are tremendously grateful for the continued support from the Jacobs family. Their gift will permanently support the Center on Global Transformation’s (CGT’s) efforts to drive inquiry on two major transformations of the 21st century: how structures of the global economy and political governance are changing, and how advances in science, technology and analytic methods offer new opportunities to improve policy and alter the distribution of wealth around the globe.

Let me begin with the obvious. The COVID-19 pandemic has made this a most unusual year. At the same time, the crisis has served to underscore some of the big themes at CGT, which include:

  • the importance of digital innovation in creating technologies that virtualized much of our life over the past year and facilitated remote work and personal connectedness;
  • the value of science-based policies to protect us from public health harms;
  • the power of financial, intellectual and policy investments to create novel and effective vaccines at record-breaking speed;
  • and the interconnectedness of the world in both a physical and economic sense, along with the strengths and weaknesses embedded in the ways in which we have constructed those social, political and economic ties.

Challenges notwithstanding, this past year has been a productive one at CGT. In lieu of the Pacific Leadership Fellowship (PLF) program that brings prominent leaders from around the world to campus, we launched Conversations for an Engaged San Diego, a webinar series that brought experts to our virtual campus. They discussed such wide-ranging topics as climate change policy, the future of high-skilled migration to the U.S. and the use of artificial intelligence in policing and criminal justice.

At the same time, we have continued to support research by a broad set of scholars engaged in work that complements the mission of the center. This includes timely scholarship on trade and global supply chains, climate change policy and the COVID-19 policy response in India. It also includes the exciting work being conducted by our flagship research centers: the Big Pixel Initiative (BPI), the Sustainable Development Goals Policy Initiative (SDGPI) and our newly formed Frontiers in Science and Innovation Policy (FSIP) Initiative, which is focused on the design of policies and institutions to reinvigorate the U.S. system of basic research and innovation in a world that is markedly different than even 30 years ago.

As travel restrictions are easing, we look forward to a re-energized PLF program in 2021-22. This will include visits from leaders drawn from the public, nonprofit and private sectors across the globe who will come to campus to exchange ideas about the urgent challenges confronting the world.

We are also delighted to host two PLFs that will be in residence full time. Robert Conn was the founding dean of the Jacobs School of Engineering (now emeritus), and subsequently led the Kavli Foundation, a path-breaking funder of basic scientific research globally, until his retirement in 2020. UC San Diego Professor Emeritus Peter Cowhey, who just recently retired as dean of GPS, will also serve as a PLF. He has served in policy roles for technology and international economics in the Obama and Clinton administrations. Together Conn and Cowhey will spearhead our FSIP initiative and help to enhance the reputation of UC San Diego as the place where rigorous science and social science meet to generate evidence and insights that guide policy.

To our founding supporters Joan and Irwin Jacobs, our dedicated staff and scholars, and our community of friends, collaborators and PLFs, thank you for your continued generosity and engagement. I hope to see you in person at our many public events this coming year.

Joshua Graff Zivin