Scientia Small Conference

Work in the 21st Century: Automation, Workers, and Society

February 13 - 14, 2020

Bioscience Research Collaborative Room 280 - Rice University

Registration is now closed. Please send an email to if you have any questions.


Margaret E. Beier, Professor of Psychological Sciences, Rice University.

Lydia E. Kavraki, Noah Harding Professor of Computer Science, Professor of Bioengineering, Computer and Electrical, and Mechanical Engineering and Director of the Ken Kennedy Institute, Rice University.

Moramay López-Alonso, Associate Professor of History and adjunct Associate Professor of Economics, Rice University.

Frederick L. Oswald, Professor of Psychological Sciences and Herbert S. Autrey Chair in Social Sciences, Rice University.

Eduardo Salas, Professor, Allyn R. and Gladys M. Cline Chair, and Department Chair of the Department of Psychological Sciences, Rice University.

Diana Strassmann, Carolyn and Fred McManis Distinguished Professor in the Practice and Director of the Program in Poverty Justice and Human Capabilities, Rice University.

Moshe Y. Vardi, Karen Ostrum George Distinguished Service Professor in Computational Engineering, Rice University.


This event is co-sponsored by the Rice Initiative on Technology, Culture and Society


The Future of Work conference will engage thought leaders from around the world to develop an inter-disciplinary research agenda to examine four key areas relevant to the human experience of work:

1. Automation: What are the latest advances in automation? What sectors and population groups will experience the greatest impacts from automation? What is the impact of automation on the types of jobs that will be available in advanced developed economies? What will be the impact on less developed and emerging economies? How will people cope with job loss from automation, adapt, and find new jobs? How does automation affect (or not) labor force structures with all their imperfections, employment, and the potential for serious labor force dislocations, inequities, and unemployment?

2. Workforce Development: How can countries best prepare workers to have the requisite knowledge, skills, abilities, and other characteristics (KSAOs) critical for 21st century jobs? What new forms of collaboration will be needed in the future (e.g., human-robot/AI, teams) what KSAs are needed? How will societies adjust in those fields in which automation will not occur at the same rate (e.g. child and elder care, household work, and in informal sectors of economies?)

3. Leadership: How can governments, international organizations, companies, and individuals be induced to adapt and lead effectively in the context of new technologies, machine learning, and automation? How do traditional models of leadership change when information is freely available to all?

4. Policies: What is the role of society in the 21st century workplace in terms of education, safety nets, and regulation? What policies could best help countries harness technological innovations to improve human well-being in an equitable manner? Could some technologies help decrease labor market inequities? What consequences may come from the democratization of knowledge? If efforts to prepare and retrain workers are insufficient to prevent serious employment dislocations in the wake of new technologies, should social safety nets be expanded, and if so, which ones?


All conference talks and roundtable discussions will take place in the Bioscience Research Collaborative (BRC) which is located at 6500 Main Street, Houston, 77005. Presentations will generally be 25 minutes in length, plus 5 minutes for Q&A. If you wish to attend this conference, please register. The $30 registration fee entitles you to attend all lectures, and includes the cost of all coffee breaks and lunches.

The following schedule is provisional and may be revised until late January.

Thursday, February 13

Time Description
8:00 - 8:30 Registration
8:30 - 9:00

Welcome and Opening Remarks - Conference Chair Margaret Beier

9:00 - 10:00

Keynote Speaker

William Spriggs - A Future of Work but not The Future of Work - What we should study

10:00 - 10:30 Coffee Break

10:30 - 12:30

Session 1: Automation - Moderated by Lydia Kavraki

10:30 - 11:00 - Raja Chatila - Taming Automation

11:00 - 11:30 - Wolfram Burgard - Probabilistic and Machine Learning Approaches for Autonomous Robots and Automated Driving

11:30 - 12:00 - Andrea Thomaz - Building Robot Teammates for the Future of Work

12:00 - 12:30 - Nancy Cooke - Human-Autonomy Teaming for the Future of Work

12:30 - 1:30 Lunch

1:30 - 2:30

Session 2: Workforce Development - Moderated by Fred Oswald

1:30 - 2:00 - Tara Behrend - Rethinking the Role of Career and Technical Education for Workforce Development

2:00 - 2:30 - Ruth Kanfer - Developing the 21st Century Workforce: Skill Learning in Place, at Scale

2:30 - 3:00

Coffee Break

3:00 - 4:30

Session 3: Leadership - Moderated by Moshe Vardi

3:00 - 3:30 - Art Bilger - The Future of Leadership in the Workforce

3:30 - 4:00 - Valerie Wilson - Effective Leadership and a Future that Works for All

4:00 - 4:30 - Lisa Cook - Innovation, Teams, Diversity, and Leadership in the 21st Century

4:30 - 6:30

Poster Session and Reception

Friday, February 14

Time Description
8:00 - 8:30 Registration
8:30 - 10:00

Session 4: Policy and the Future of Work - Moderated by Diana Strassmann

8:30 - 9:00 - Jane Humphries - Work in the 21st Century

9:00 - 9:30 - Damon Jones - Safety Nets and Labor Markets

9:30 - 10:00 - Heather Boushey - What economic inequality means for how we think about the future of work in the United States

10:00 - 10:30 Coffee Break
10:30 - 12:00

Session 5: Discussion and the Way Forward - Moderated by Committee

All Speakers

12:00 - 1:00 Lunch and Departure


  • Tara Behrend: Associate Professor of Psychology at George Washington University. Research interests center around understanding and resolving barriers to computer-mediated work effectiveness, especially in the areas of training, recruitment, and selection.

  • Art Bilger: Founder and CEO, WorkingNation. WorkingNation is a national not-for-profit campaign to educate the American Public about the looming unemployment crisis in this country and to start a widespread movement to meet and overcome this unprecedented challenge. Bilger is an active venture capital investor.

  • Heather Boushey: Executive Director and Chief Economist at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth. Her research focuses on economic inequality and public policy, specifically employment, social policy, and family economic well-being.

  • Wolfram Burgard: Professor of Computer Science at the University of Freiburg. His areas of interest lie in artificial intelligence and mobile robots. His research focuses on the development of robust and adaptive techniques for state estimation and control.

  • Raja Chatila: IEEE Fellow, is Professor and Director of the Institute of Intelligent Systems and Robotics (ISIR) at Pierre and Marie Curie University in Paris (UPMC). He is also Director of the Laboratory of Excellence “SMART” on human-machine interaction. He was director of LAAS-CNRS, Toulouse France, in 2007-2010.

  • Lisa Cook: Associate Professor of Economics and International Relations at Michigan State University. Among her current research interests are economic growth and development, financial institutions and markets, innovation, and economic history.

  • Nancy Cooke: Professor of Human Systems Engineering at the Polytechnic School at Arizona State University. She also directs ASU’s Center for Human, AI, and Robot Teaming, as well as the Advanced Distributed Learning DOD Partnership Lab, and is the Science Director of the Cognitive Engineering Research Institute in Mesa, AZ.

  • Damon Jones: Associate Professor; University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy. He conducts research at the intersection of three fields within economics: public finance, household finance, and behavioral economics. Damon's current research topics include income tax policy, social security, retirement and retirement savings, and the interaction between employer-provided benefits and labor market outcomes.

  • Jane Humphries: Centennial Professor, London School of Economics and Emeritus Professor of Economics History, Oxford University. Her research interests include labor markets, industrialization and the links between the family and the economy. She has published extensively on gender, the family and the history of women's work.

  • Ruth Kanfer: Professor of Psychology and Director, Work Science Center, Georgia Institute of Technology. She is a leading scholar on work motivation and engagement in different contexts and across the lifespan. As Director of the Work Science Center, she participates in and facilitates multidisciplinary research on the effects of technology on work identity, engagement, future perspective, learning and career outcomes.

  • William Spriggs: Professor in the Department of Economics at Howard University and serves as chief economist to the AFL-CIO. In his role with the AFL-CIO, he chairs the Economic Policy Working Group for the Trade Union Advisory Committee to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and serves on the board of the National Bureau of Economic Research.

  • Andrea Thomaz: Associate Professor and William J. Murray, Jr. Fellowship in Engineering #3 in the Deaprtment of Electrical and Computer Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin. Her research aims to computationally model mechanisms of human social learning in order to build social robots and other machines that are intuitive for everyday people to teach.

  • Valerie Wilson: Director of the Economic Policy Institute’s Program on Race, Ethnicity, and the Economy (PREE). She has written extensively on various issues impacting economic inequality in the United States—including employment and training, income and wealth disparities, access to higher education, and social insurance—and has also appeared in print, television, and radio media.


Click here for a complete list of Abstracts for all speakers.

Poster Session

The Scientia Small Conference – Work in the 21st Century: Automation, Workers, and Society seeks poster submissions, which describe recently completed work or work in progress, on the subject of the Future of Work, focused on the human experience of work as related to four areas: automation, workforce development, leadership, and public policy.

Presenting a poster is a great way to get feedback on work that has not yet been published. Poster presentations will be an integral part of the conference, with a session for interactive discussion on the first day of the event. In order to maintain interactive and exciting poster presentations, we expect at least one presenter per accepted poster to attend the conference. Posters and poster submissions must be in English. The submission should be in the form of a one-page abstract (in PDF). The abstract should provide some background, state the objective(s) of the work, describe the methodology of the work and its results, and state conclusions. For the final poster, presenters will have a display area sized 4 feet wide x 4 feet high. Poster presenters will receive a code for complimentary registration.


January 6, 2020: One-page abstract due
January 13, 2020: Notification of accept/decline

EXTENDED DEADLINE: If you submitted your proposal by January 6, you will receive notification of accept/decline by January 13.

January 20, 2020: One-page abstract due
January 24, 2020: Notification of accept/decline

Submissions and Inquiries:

Invitations Letters for visa application will be sent to poster presenters upon request.


Registration is now closed. Please send an email to if you have any questions.

Registration type options:

Non-Rice: $100.00

Rice Faculty /Staff: $50.00

Rice Students: $25.00 (All current Undergraduate, Graduate and Continuing Studies Students qualify)

Seating at the conference venue is limited, so early registration is recommended. The registration fee entitles you to attend all lectures, and includes the cost of all coffee breaks and lunches. All credit cards are accepted. PARKING AT THE BRC IS NOT INCLUDED WITH REGISTRATION.

Online registration will close at 11:59pm, January 31, 2020. Space permitting, you may register on-site, with all fees payable by credit card.

Cancellations must be requested no later than January 31, 2020 by 11:59pm in order to receive a refund. If you have any questions/problems, please send an email to

Scientia Institute - MS 08

Fondren Library 518
6100 Main St.
Houston, TX 77005

Phone: 713-348-4695


Duncan Hall

Traveling on Main Street, enter the Rice University campus at Entrance #2. Directly ahead is Lovett Hall (the building with the arch/Sallyport) and Duncan Hall (lecture site) is the first building to the right, across the street.


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