Genomics and Society Graduate Research Fellowship

UC Santa Cruz’s Sociology Department is pleased to announce a new graduate research Fellowship in Genomics and Society. Offered by the Sociology Department, the Science and Justice Research Center and the Genomics Institute with funding from the National Human Genome Research Institute, the GSGRF funds students interested in research at the interface of genomics and society. Today, genome scientists and social scientists at UCSC work together to create a scientifically and socially robust form of genomics that is responsive to the widest range of lives. The fellowship supports research in this unique interdisciplinary environment.

The fellowship includes a graduate student fellowship stipend at a graduate student researcher rate plus a research allowance of $800 per year to cover supplies and travel to one relevant academic meeting or research site. The fellowship is guaranteed for the first year, and it may or may not be renewed for subsequent years.

Eligibility: To qualify for this fellowship, you must be an applicant to the UC Santa Cruz Sociology Department (deadline: December 10), and a US citizen or permanent resident. We especially encourage members of the following underrepresented groups to apply: African American, Native Pacific Islander, Native American/Alaskan, Hispanic, Latina/o, and Chicana/o.

Selection criteria: The Genomics Institute in consultation with the Sociology Department will select fellows based on responsiveness to the goals of the RMI program, the academic record of the applicant, and the potential impact of the students’ research our understanding of the relations between genomics and society. (For more information on the RMI program see

Application process: Students will be nominated for the fellowship through their Sociology application. Students have the option of discussing their proposed area of research in genomics and society in the Personal Statement.

For more information about the Fellowship program, please contact the RMI fellowship director, Zia Isola (email:; phone: 831-459-1702).

Dec 12 | Science & Justice Training Program Certificate Reception

4:00-5:30 PM | SJRC Common Room, Oakes 231

Please join us in congratulating the graduate fellows on their achievements in completing the Science & Justice Training Program. This certificate provides recognition to current graduate students who have developed collaborative research methods for exploring the meeting of questions of science and knowledge with questions of ethics and justice. For more pedagogical information on the nationally and internationally recognized Science & Justice Training Program, please read Experiments in Collaboration: Interdisciplinary Graduate Education in Science and Justice originally published in PLOS Biology.

Graduate students interested in the Science & Justice Training Program, please visit: Science & Justice Training Program.

Faculty interested in supporting the Science & Justice Training Program or for more information on our Broader Impacts Initiative, please read: Broader Impacts.

Nov 18 | The Genomic Open: Then and Now

The story of the Bermuda Principles and their codification of genome scientists’ commitment to save the human genome from private enclosure is the dominant story of the Human Genome Project. Twenty years after the first historic Bermuda meeting, this seminar will gather together at UC Santa Cruz key players in the creation of an ‘open’ approach to genomics with historians of genomics and allied fields to critically reprise this iconic story. UC Santa Cruz played an important role in ensuring that genomic data remained in the public domain. Today it continues this commitment, but the times have changed. First, genomics is no longer primarily funded by public funds, and a line between public and private efforts can no longer easily be drawn. Second, human genomics is marked by a desire to gain data from private persons who have privacy rights that do not easily articulate to an ethos of open access. Third, genomics is a global science that requires working across nations that have diverse approaches to questions of privacy and private/public ‘partnerships.’ Finally, the number of people producing genomic data and the amount of data itself has grown exponentially, creating new challenges for creating data sharing rules and norms. Participants in this workshop will return to the forging of the Bermuda Principles in 1996 both to generate new insights about the emergence of the genomic open in the 1990s, and to understand what a richer understanding of this history might offer to contemporary efforts to enact public genomics.

Admission is free, however seating is limited, please register here.

This event is sponsored in part by: The UCSC QB3 Genomics Institute

10:30-5:00pm | BioMed 200


Rachel Ankeny, Professor of History, The University of Adelaide, Australia

Jenny Bangham, Research Scholar, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin

Scott Edmunds, Executive Editor of GigaScience

David Haussler, Scientific Director of the Genomics Institute, UCSC

Stephen Hilgartner, Professor of Science & Technology Studies, Cornell University

Kathryn Maxson, PhD candidate, History of Science, Princeton University

Jenny Reardon, Professor of Sociology and Director of the Science and Justice Research Center, UCSC

Beth Shapiro, Associate Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, UCSC

Hallam Stevens, Assistant Professor of History, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

Michael Troncoso, Chief Campus Counsel, UCSC

Robert Waterston, Professor and Chair, Genome Sciences, University of Washington



Welcome and Introductions

10:30 – 10:45AM   Jenny Reardon (Sociology, Science & Justice Research Center, UCSC)


Historical perspectives

10:45 – 11:10AM   Bob Waterston (Genome Sciences, University of Washington)

11:10 – 11:40AM   Rachel Ankeny (History, The University of Adelaide, Australia)

Kathryn Maxson (History of Science, Princeton)

11:40 – 11:55PM   Jenny Bangham (Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin)

11:55 – 12:10PM   Steve Hilgartner (Science & Technology Studies, Cornell)

12:10 – 12:45PM   Discussion


Genomic Open meets the Biomedical Enclosure

1:45 – 2:00PM   David Haussler (Genomics Institute, UCSC)

2:00 – 2:15PM   Jenny Reardon (Sociology, Science & Justice Research Center, UCSC)

2:15 – 2:20PM   Michael Troncoso (Chief Campus Counsel, UCSC)

2:20 – 3:00PM   Discussion


Where are we now?  Emerging Problems and Innovations

3:30 – 3:45PM   Scott Edmunds (Executive Editor of GigaScience)

3:45 – 4:00PM   Beth Shapiro (Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, UCSC)

4:00 – 4:15PM   Hallam Stevens (History, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore)

4:15 – 5:00PM   Discussion

“Science & Justice: The Trouble and the Promise” published in Catalyst

Catalyst-cover_issue_4_en_USThe article “Science & Justice: The Trouble and the Promise,” co-written by Jenny Reardon, Jacob Metcalf, Martha Kenney, Karen Barad has just been published in the inaugural issue of Catalyst: Feminism, Theory, and Technoscience, a new STS journal supporting theoretically inventive and methodologically creative scholarship incorporating approaches from critical public health, disability studies, postcolonial studies, queer theory, sci-art, technology and digital media studies, history and philosophy of science and medicine.

A PDF of the article can be downloaded here: Catalyst article PDF

Nov 04 | Big Data: The Promises and Problematics of Prediction


By virtue of big data, we are being offered a dizzying array of predictive possibilities unimaginable a generation ago. If a crime has occurred in such and such a place, it is probable that others will be committed in the same area (predictive policing). If a student presents with a given profile, it is likely that she will run into trouble within a year at university (educational data analytics). If an infant displays a particular genetic disposition, it is likely that he will become antisocial. In a world where correlation is cast as causation, a core political and philosophical task is to understand what it means to put our faith in the prophets of big data. In this talk, from the Council for Big Data, Ethics and Society, Geoffrey Bowker and Jacob Metcalf will explore with us the landscape of prediction in big data.

Geoffrey Bowker, Professor of Informatics, University of California, Irvine

Jacob Metcalf, Researcher, Data & Society Research Institute

November 4, 2015 | 4:00-6:00 PM | Physical Sciences Building 305

Oct 07 | It’s About Time: How Perceptions of Time Influence Environmental Action

How do conceptions of time inform our perceptions of anthropogenic climate change and influence the political and societal will to respond? How can an appreciation for the timescales of civic policy help scientists to frame their findings for effective social change? How can we render scientific data actionable while retaining the depth of temporal knowledge? This presentation and panel discussion will provide an interdisciplinary approach to understanding the effects of human behavior on different timescales. By bringing together these different perspectives, we aim to theorize how perceptions of time can help communities, such as UCSC, implement both long- and short-range environmental goals and allow for more active engagement with environmental issues.

Elida Erickson, Sustainability Programs Manager and Interim Director, UCSC Office of Sustainability

Zoey Kroll, Internet Communications Coordinator, San Francisco Department of the Environment

Adina Paytan, Research Professor, Institute of Marine Sciences, UCSC

Organized by Science & Justice Training Program Fellows Carolyn Branecky (Earth and Planetary Sciences) and Samuael Topiary (Film + Digital Media)

Read Rap Report > It's About Time

October 7, 2015 | Physical Sciences Building, Room 305 |   4:00-6:00 PM 

It’s About Time: How Perceptions of Time Influence Environmental Action
SJWG Rapporteur Report
7 October 2015
Rapporteur Report by Carolyn Branecky & Samuael Topiary
The Panel Discussion
At this Science & Justice Training Program event, Zoey Kroll, Adina Payton, and Elida Erickson
discussed how different perceptions of time influence the ways they communicate anthropogenic climate
change to broader publics and the implications of this communication for political action. Carolyn and
Topiary moderated a discussion with the three panelists, followed by a question and answer discussion
with the audience. By focusing on the timescales that define each of the panelists’ efforts, we explored
some of the possibilities as well as the limitations on both communication and action which face the
environmental movement today.

The panel began with a presentation by Zoey Kroll, who provocatively suggested that ten seconds
was the timeframe she is most guided by in her work as the Internet Communications Coordinator at the
San Francisco Department of the Environment (SFDE). In suggesting that she has about ten seconds to
capture the attention of the average visitor to the SFDE website, Kroll stated that her work was defined by
her ability to communicate quickly and simply. Thus, she sees quickness as essential to working on the
long-term goals of municipal transformation. The SFDE provides easy to understand guidelines for
recycling and composting to help SF city dwellers and businesses to implement new city ordinances, such
as the plastic bag ban.

Dr. Adina Paytan, UCSC Earth and Planetary Sciences Research Professor, focused on the
techniques she uses to communicate the impact of human activities on the ocean environment. She
explained how her research spans a wide range of temporal scales, observing natural processes that occur
in one season to environmental change that evolves over millions of years with spatial scales that range
from the molecular to the global. Although her work explores these multitudes, she explained how she
relies upon human lifespans to communicate the gravity and relevancy of her data. Using the benchmarks
of generations within her own family, she plots the changes in ocean acidification levels, noting the wide
change between the years when she was born and when her daughter was born. Using these personal
markers in her research data graphs, Paytan suggests that in talking about long-term issues, she finds it
essential to put her data into the perspective of a human generation, stating that a 100-year lifespan is
about as much as people can really understand in terms of rates of change.

Elida Erickson, Sustainability Programs Manager and Interim Director at UCSC’s Office of
Sustainability, focused on institutional timescales at the university, stating that the Office of Sustainability was established seven years ago by students, focusing on the problems of food waste. She discussed the ways that timescales for environmental action can differ among the groups that she works with. On the one hand, college students want to see change happen within their 4-year term at the university and have been successful in some cases at catalyzing that change within their time here. Yet, from the administrative side, sometimes institutional policies, such as building permits in the case of one student project, can defer or prevent the implementation of creative solutions. In drawing a distinction between student timeframes and administrative timeframes, Erickson raised the issue of how working with committees has its own kind of timeframe and challenges, and suggested that working with administrators was the least fun part of her job. She also noted that the ambition and perspective of students wanting to achieve environmental goals on a student timeframe can help to push the administration to move faster than they might otherwise to implement environmental policy changes.

Conversation Following the Presentations
Both UCSC and the City of San Francisco have Zero Waste programs, whose shared goal is to
eliminate (in some sense of the word) waste by a given date. Kroll, representing the City of San
Francisco, and Erickson, representing UCSC’s Office of Sustainability compared the implementation of
these Zero Waste programs in a compelling way. Both of these speakers discussed the role which politics
plays in their work as well as the need to navigate institutional positions when strategizing on
communicating environmental action. Kroll suggested that she tends to think and work from a citizen
point of view, rather than from a City government's administrative perspective. Erickson suggested there
was a difficulty with fast change, suggesting that UC-wide initiatives, such as Zero Waste, which are
mandated from the top down, often leave people in the middle having to adjust.For example, UCSC is
“crawling” on a campus-wide composting due to the undesirability of a bin next to offices. She suggested
that while the voice of students can push the administration to be more responsive, it can also be pushed
aside more readily. Kroll suggested that in San Francisco, the idea of Zero Waste 2020 produces
excitement and creates a sense of a goal for people to work toward. She notes that to date, San Francisco
has achieved an 80% diversion rate and that 10% of the outlying waste has to be addressed with producer
responsibility laws.

The panel discussed the difference between achievable goals and “impossible” or aspirational
goals, such as Zero Waste, and mused about the ways in which achievable goals helps to foster personal
action, while “impossible” goals can be useful to galvanize a larger community movement. This line of
thinking was interrogated by Anthropology PhD candidate Kristin Lawson, who questioned the role of
time in relationship to differences between institutional and individual action. Kroll responded that
institutions and municipalities can affect change at the procurement level and spoke about the high
purchasing standards held by the City of San Francisco, which publishes a directory for approved sources,
which in turn, provides a pathway for industry to move in this direction. Kroll also discussed the way that
her personal experience of working on a collective urban farming project with a 2-5 year timeframe
demonstrated how working toward specific goals can head off a sense of numbness and disempowerment
that comes from doom and gloom climate change predictions. She added that, in San Francisco, one
hears is a lot of talk about “disruption” as a solution and she wonders if the feeling of urgency (about
climate change) must be combined with the experiences that help one feel one’s actions are making a
difference. Kroll focuses on how to make her work be as accessible and inclusive as possible.

Paytan picked up on the issue of “doom and gloom,” stating that she feels scientists need to be
more solution-oriented when communicating the negative consequences of their research, such as rapid
climate change, species extinction, and environmental destruction. Dr. Karen Barad (UCSC Feminist
Studies) pushed Paytan on the ways in which scientists communicate their work using standard notions of
time, questioning “the seduction of clock time” and its tie to capitalism. Barad wondered about the
temporality of urgency and its relationship to doom, questioning whether there might be a way to discuss
urgent time, which is not tied to doom, but rather allows the past and the future to carry more meaning.
Paytan countered that, although we receive distressing data about climate change, our planet has been
around for four billion years and has been through other huge changes, stating that she personally finds
comfort in knowing that we humans are not going to be here forever. Barad countered that she is not
comforted by how this kind of philosophical nihilism is often taken up politically, especially considering
the unevenness of how the planet is being damaged and by whom. She noted that scientists often have
lively alternative conceptions of time and can think about temporality more richly when our hands are not
tied to “clock time.” Barad continued by suggesting that although something like sea-level rise happens
at a certain rate within a fixed frame, the consequences of that rise are experienced very differently by the
people living in rich countries than in poor ones and wondered whether these effects should be put in
words of time or social equality.

Towards the end of the panel discussion, PhD student Ella Ben-Hagai raised the question of
whether zero waste goals were paradoxical to the push for economic development and expansion in both
San Francisco and at UCSC. She also provocatively wondered whether the zero waste programs were
causing these two enclaves to become islands of “sustainability” and created zones of privilege or
whether there was some notion of zero waste mandates as being more “trickle down” kinds of strategies
for other places.

The panel discussion concluded with a question about the politics behind scientific research and
an acknowledgment of the importance of having interdisciplinary conversations between scientists, social
scientists and humanists and which include voices and experiences from both inside and outside of the
academy, in helping to further discussions about environmental action and in order to build new alliances
to build a progressive agenda.

Post-panel Discussion Reflections
Following this panel discussion, we received written comments from our panelists reflecting on moments
that stuck out to them. The following quotes come from this written feedback:

“It was interesting to hear candid words from Elida about what it's like to work within a
university context, ... how terms are defined or redefined as campaigns evolve (Can Zero Waste
really mean 95% waste diversion?). The role of the Science and Justice Program in bringing
together a dynamic audience and panel cannot be understated.

“Having social scientists, humanists and physical scientists on the panel contributed to a
fascinating exchange of ideas. As a scientist and particularly a geologist I tend to define time as a
precise measurement related to the rates of rotation of planetary bodies (the Earth and the Moon)
and it was very interesting and educating for me to hear how others regard time in a much more
subjective manner and that time could be by personal and even societal experiences. I also
learned a lot about the challenges people have when they have to communicate timelines to a
broad community and accomplish set goals, both the campus sustainability goals and the City of
SF environmental Stewardship (0-50-100 roots) goals are impressive!”

September 30, 2015 | Cocktail Hour: Meet & Greet

4:00-5:30 PM | SJRC Common Room, Oakes 231

Please join us for a beginning of quarter cocktail hour hosted by Science & Justice Director Jenny Reardon. In addition to a chance to celebrate the new academic year and enjoy each other’s company over nice food and drink, we will (re)introduce the S&J Community. Some of which are new, some have new roles, and some have been away and we would love to hear about what they have been up to.

We will also officially welcome the Center’s recently hired Assistant Director of Research and Academic Programs, Dr. Emily Cohen!

This will be a great chance for everyone to meet the new faces in the Center and foster emerging collaborations!

Emily Cohen, joins SJRC as Assistant Director of Research and Academic Programs

cohen_headshot_reduced_1147x960Emily Cohen completed her PhD in Anthropology at New York University where she earned a certificate in Culture and Media, she also holds a BA in Anthropology from UC Santa Cruz. She is completing revisions for her first book Bodies at War: An Ethnography which is under review at Duke University Press. Her book examines what it means to rehabilitate after landmine injury in Colombia. Her postdoctoral research Military Utopias of Mind and Machine examined the rise of military utopic visions of mind that involve the creation of virtual worlds and hyper real simulations in US military psychiatry for the cultivation of “psychological resilience.”

Continue Reading Emily Cohen, joins SJRC as Assistant Director of Research and Academic Programs

James Battle • 2013-2015

battle-headshotJames Battle is a University of California President’s Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Sociology at UC Santa Cruz. A graduate of the UC Berkeley/UC San Francisco Joint Medical Anthropology Program, Dr. Battle’s work focuses on the medical anthropology and sociology of The Black Atlantic, creolization, and the political economy of race. A member of the Race, Genomics and the Media Working Group at UCSC, his current research examines the discursive politics of race since the genomic revolution. In particular, this project explores the bioethical implications of changing institutional relationships and approaches to health disparities research. He is currently working on a book manuscript examining genomic “Africa” and its intersections with historical discourses of race, gender, and kinship in anthropology and sociology. His Science & Justice Research Center participation reflects his larger research concerns about the ways categories mobilize differential practices, resources, and forms of care.

Mentored by Jenny Reardon.