Erik W. Johnston is an associate professor in the School of Public Affairs and the director of the Center for Policy Informatics in the College of Public Service and Community Solutions at Arizona State University. He is also a senior sustainability scientist with the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability.
Professor Johnston’s research focuses on policy informatics, the study of how computational and communication technology is leveraged to specifically understand and address complex public policy and administration problems and realize innovations in governance processes and institutions. His research explores how our governance systems can evolve to address increasingly complex challenges, and to meet the rising expectations of people to be full participants in their governance systems, what changes we need to make in technology, processes, institutional capacity and social norms to realize that future. For example, stakeholders are becoming more diverse, unequal, vocal and polarized, which will require the development of effective solutions, including creative approaches to collaborative governance, participatory decision-making and the ability to identify and mitigate the causes of social and environmental conflict. Urbanization and climate change are anticipated to increase societal challenges related to human-environment interactions, particularly with respect to environmental health and natural hazards. Reducing health and infrastructure vulnerability to current and future threats requires innovative, interdisciplinary approaches integrating basic and applied natural and social science in a framework that not only provides stakeholders with new evidence to support effective decision-making, but also accelerates the identification of the next series of important questions that research must address.
A dedicated action researcher, Professor Johnston leads the team at ASU that is studying how people come together to collaborate, using 10,000 Solutions, a university-wide challenge platform to propose answers to every problem from education to human rights. He is also the driving force behind the ASU Policy Challenge, an ideation contest for contributing policy suggestions to the White House.