The Second Century Initiative (2CI) brought more than 80 leading scholars and researchers across a diverse array of disciplines; its successor program, the Next Generation Program, continues to do so. Each faculty member has provided the university with their unique perspectives and leadership in their fields. Their work moves forward important and innovative research and scholarship, while lifting the reputation of Georgia State University and its colleges/schools for work addressing the challenges of the 21st century.
This article is part of a series highlighting individual faculty members and their perspectives through a question-and-answer format. Timothy Lytton came to Georgia State in the 5th round of the 2CI under the regulatory science group, and is a Distinguished University Professor and professor of law at the College of Law, where he is affiliated with the Center for Law, Health and Society.
Q:Can you tell me briefly about your research and scholarship?
A: My research focuses on the regulation of health and safety. I have written extensively on gun violence, clergy sexual abuse, and food poisoning outbreaks. These case studies reveal that regulation often relies heavily on extensive private efforts. For example, civil lawsuits against the Catholic Church uncovered the clergy sexual abuse scandal and spurred later investigations by government agencies. Similarly, industry-funded private food safety audits monitor companies’ compliance with food safety laws, and they far outnumber government inspections. This reliance of regulation on nongovernmental actors exists also in areas beyond health and safety, such as financial oversight and environmental stewardship.
Q:What first interested you in your field of expertise?
A: Our political culture is dominated by a polarized debate between demands for increased government regulation and calls for deregulation. Competing slogans about the abuses of “big business” and the dangers of “big government” oversimplify the reality of our regulatory system and the important policy choices we face as a society. In politics, people argue over whether we should have more or less government oversight of industry. However, in practice, regulatory policy is really about how to enable government and industry work together more effectively. By bringing attention to the private efforts that undergird government regulation, my work aims to displace shrill debate with meaningful and open-minded dialogue.
Q:What did you find attractive about Georgia State?
A: I was drawn to Georgia State because of its deep commitment to both student success and quality academic research. This strong sense of social and academic mission makes me very proud to be a member of the Georgia State community.
Equally compelling, Georgia State offers many opportunities to collaborate with leading scholars on research dedicated to improving health and safety regulation. The Center for Law, Health and Society at the College of Law; the Tobacco Center of Regulatory Science at the School of Public Health, and the Center for the Economic Analysis of Risk at the Robinson College of Business are three prominent examples of Georgia State’s commitment to fostering interdisciplinary research in regulatory studies.
Finally, Georgia State has recruited scholars in a variety of fields who study regulatory science, which plays a central role in addressing the health and safety problems that I research. I am very happy to be part of the 2CI regulatory science group.
Q:How have your research and scholarship grown since you first arrived at Georgia State?
A: Since arriving, I have completed a book and several articles on the US food safety system as a case study of complex regulatory systems. My extraordinarily talented colleagues in the Georgia State College of Law library have provided me with advice and support, without which I could never have answered many of the questions central to my research. Conversations with Georgia State colleagues in the College of Law and other Georgia State colleges provided helpful insights that I have incorporated into my research.
In addition, with help and advice from many Georgia State colleagues, I recently received a five-year grant from the US Department of Agriculture to study the role of liability insurance in advancing food safety on farms.
Q:What sorts of collaborations have you been able to build at Georgia State, both within the university and outside of the institution?
A: The dynamic community of scholars at the College of Law’s Center for Law, Health and Society has offered opportunities to collaborate on research related to the regulation of food additives, pharmaceuticals, tobacco products, and firearms. I have also had the privilege to interact with scholars from other colleges of the university, which has broadened my perspective on the subjects that I study. In the past three years, I have co-sponsored conferences with the Center for the Economic Analysis of Risk at the Robinson College of Business on financial regulation, the evolution of administrative law, and the history of populism and demagoguery in the United States.
Q:What new developments do you foresee with your research/scholarly development in the future?
A: I am investigating the limitations of the science that undergirds many areas of health and safety regulation, and I am exploring how to make the regulatory system more transparent, open to experimentation, and accountable for the results of regulatory programs. In addition, I hope to apply data analytics to my work through involvement with the new legal analytics collaborative between the College of Law and the Robinson College of Business.
Q:Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
A:My new book, Outbreak: Foodborne Illness and the Struggle for Food Safety is due to be published by the University of Chicago Press in April of 2019.