Jenny Reardon and SJRC appear in Le Monde

Jenny Reardon, sociologist between science and justice

Jenny Reardon sitting in the forest

Jenny Reardon, professor of sociology at the University of California, Santa Cruz on October 11, 2015. (Photo by Maurice Weiss/Ostkreuz for LE MONDE)


Editor’s note:

Below is an English translation of a profile of Jenny Reardon, professor of sociology and director of the Science and Justice Research Center at UC Santa Cruz. It was published Jan. 11, 2016 in the French daily newspaper Le Monde. The original in French may be found at the Le Monde site.


It is 1986 and Jenny Reardon is 13 years old. She lives in Kansas City in Missouri, a Midwestern state of the United States, when a Newsweek article draws her attention. It describes, according to scientific testimony, the consequences for the planet of changes in the ozone layer. Jenny Reardon begins a correspondence with scientific experts, designs experiments to study the effect of ultraviolet radiation on marine ecosystems, and states her results in a scientific paper. In the following year, these experiments earned her the Grand Prize for environmental science in the General Motors International Science and Engineering Fair, a competition that aims to encourage high school students to pursue scientific careers.  “Kansas City was not the ideal place to study marine biology but my father helped me set up a laboratory in the garage of our house. I designed experiments while watching, on a black and white television set, the ‘Oprah’ show, the talk show then in fashion,“ Reardon recalls with laughter.

Despite this early success, it is not in the sciences that this committed, 43-year-old woman excels today.  Rather, she works in the analysis of contexts in which the sciences are practiced. A professor of sociology, she directs the Science and Justice Research Center, created in 2010 at the University of California at Santa Cruz, a university known, since the 1960s, for its avant-garde works. The idea? To create innovative forums in which scientists and non-scientists alike are invited to think together about the meaning of common concerns, such as those of race, genetics or ecology. “Jenny has a special ability to listen. This has greatly strengthened her leadership,” says the historian of science Donna Haraway, who works at the same university and who participated with Jenny Reardon in the creation of the research group. “She knows how to gather experts from different disciplines and to get them to think about the deeper meaning of the jargon they use,” she continues. “What I admire in her work is that she is not content with only a critical analysis of what scientists do. Rather, she seeks to open new perspectives with them,” adds the historian of science Joanna Radin of Yale University. “Genetics sheds new light on the definition of the human being, but we cannot let the scientists work alone in their corner.”   “Jenny Reardon is impressive in her ability to build bridges between the social sciences and biology, in order to bring them together to have a broader vision of what they do,” adds geneticist David Haussler of the University of California at Santa Cruz.

Initiated in theology

Creating bridges was not always easy for Jenny Reardon. She is the daughter of a former Jesuit priest who was one of eight children of a famous American cartoonist, Foxo Reardon.  A charismatic man, he introduced her to theology and taught tolerance, without disparaging too much its principles. Her mother was attuned to politics after traveling in Eastern Europe right after the fall of the Berlin Wall.  She was consequently not satisfied with just studying biology and, at the end of her studies, she was undecided between two directions: molecular biology as practiced in the laboratory led by geneticist Mary-Claire King at the University of California at Berkeley; and, science and technology studies, a new discipline that studies social, political and cultural influences on and of science, at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.  At this point, we are in the early 1990s and Mary-Claire King, who will later, in 2014, win the Lasker Award, already enjoys a strong reputation. She had just located the region in genome containing the BRCA1 gene, implicated in some hereditary forms of breast cancer. Yet, ultimately, Jenny Reardon chose to pursue the other direction.  “It was a very difficult choice. I declined to study in a prestigious laboratory located in a dream location and chose, instead, studies that do not interest many people. I felt I had betrayed those who believed in me,” she recalls.

A few years later, she returns to genetics, this time with new intellectual baggage. One subject was of particular interest to her: the Human Genome Diversity Project (HGDP), a major project launched by prominent geneticists of the time, including Mary-Claire King, and supported by the US government and then, later, abandoned in the 1990s. The geneticists had nothing other than good intentions: to study the genetic diversity of the first peoples to better understand the origins and the intermingling of populations. But those studied did not see it this way. Accusing geneticists of considering them as objects of study and as “material for a patent,” leaders of Native American tribes in the United States vetoed the project. Some anthropologists blamed the project of using modern tools to revive nineteenth century, racist biology.

The history of the concept of race

In her book Race to the finish: Identity and Governance in an Age of Genomics (Princeton University Press, 2005), Jenny Reardon navigates these divisions to reposition the controversy in the history of the concept of race.  She situates the controversy’s origins in unresolved questions between geneticists and the rest of the population concerning the relevant criteria to be accounted for in any study of the human diversity.  “When you look back a hundred years, it appears that the science of the time was influenced by racial representations rooted in contemporary society and leading to the ranking of human groups. Although they deny it, the work of geneticists is still biased by the context within which they work,” says Gisli Palsson, an anthropologist at the University of Iceland in Reykjavik. “Jenny was among those who went to the heart of the problem. Her book remains the best analysis of the subject.”

The Science and Justice project is based on that analysis. Promoting “slow science,” its goal is to involve all stakeholders in society to reflect on scientific and technological advances. And, thus, it seeks to lead stakeholders to anticipate the implications of these advances before they define social choices. In addition to multidisciplinary meetings, Science and Justice offers a degree to students from fields as different as sociology and physics, to have them collaborate rethinking fundamental and sensitive issues, such as the commercialization of genetic testing by the company 23andMe; or, the use of drones for military operations. “We try to bring these students together to take into account their respective ways of approaching a problem so that they might think in a way that is not polarizing,” explains Jenny Reardon. “We are living in a time when science exerts incredible power on how people are governed. At the same time, issues concerning equity have become acute. Science and Justice seeks answers to this question: what science do we need in this world?”

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).

“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

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

SJRC Visiting Scholars present at the annual meeting for the Society for Social Studies of Science (4S)

In collaboration with SJRC Director Jenny Reardon, 2013-2014 Visiting Scholars Rachel Tillman and Javier Aguirre from the Universidad Industrial de Santander (UIS), Bogata, Colombia organized a panel on ‘Building Bridges: Science and Justice in Institutional Contexts’ that was presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Social Studies of Science (4S).

In continuing their collaboration, they have been furthering their discussions on the future of STS in the relevance of justice to science and technology. Recently an article about the presentation appeared here. The translated version appears here, UIS Article on 4S Presentation.


Social Sciences Research Frontiers Day 2014: Collaborative Research to Solve 21st Century Challenges


The Division of Social Sciences will hold its annual half-day interdisciplinary Research Frontiers Day. This will bring faculty, students, and community members together to present and learn about how social sciences faculty research is engaging key issues of the 21st century. The day will showcase transformative research focused on solving everyday challenges, while fostering collaboration between researchers, students, and community members.

This year’s event will engage research centered on:
• Data: Is Bigger Really Better?
• Environment: Climate, Animals & Food
• Justice: Here, There, Them & Us

Andrew Mathews | 10:50 – 11:20am | Alumni Room, University Center
“Burning questions: Climate change and forest use in Italy and Mexico”

Join the conversation on social media. Follow @UCSCSocSci on Twitter and tag your tweets #rfd2014.

Friday, October 24, 2014 | 8:00am-2:00pm |Full Program

June 10, 2014: 24 Graduate Students Receive Science & Justice Certificate

The Science & Justice Research Center is proud to announce the recent campus approval of the Science & Justice Certificate 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.

Please join us in congratulating the following graduate students on their achievements in completing the Science & Justice Certificate Program.

  • Tracy Ballinger, Biomolecular Engineering/Informatics
  • Celina Callahan-Kapoor, Anthropology
  • Zachary Caple, Anthropology
  • Ian Carbone, Physics
  • Gene A. Felice II, Digital Arts and New Media
  • Elaine Gan, Digital Arts and New Media
  • Kelly Gola, Psychology
  • Elizabeth Hare, Anthropology
  • Colin Hoag, Anthropology
  • Kathleen Uzilov, Earth and Planetary Sciences
  • Martha Kenney, History of Consciousness
  • Sophia Magnone, Literature
  • Alexis Mourezna, Philosophy
  • Andrew Murray, Sociology
  • Jennifer Liss Ohayon, Environmental Studies
  • Miriam Olivera, Environmental Studies
  • Katy Overstreet, Anthropology
  • Derek Padilla, Physics
  • Felicia Peck, Politics
  • Micha Rahder, Anthropology
  • Costanza Rampini, Environmental Studies
  • Kate Richerson, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
  • Benjamin Roome, Philosophy
  • Tiffany Wise-West, Environmental Studies

March 7, 2014: SJRC Director, Jenny Reardon to give talk on “Bodies of Data: Public Participation, Governance and the New Bioinformatics” at ASU

On March 7th, 2014 Science & Justice Director, Jenny Reardon along with Erik Aarden of Harvard, and Patrick Taylor from Boston Children’s will discuss Principles in Practice, a panel chaired by Jason Robert from the Center for Biology + Society at Arizona State University, Tempe.

Recent developments at the intersection of biological, information and communications technologies have opened the way to profound transformations in biomedical research and practice by eliciting and aggregating data from human bodies at scale and scope that were previously unimaginable.  Such bodies of data form a critical infrastructure for developing a more precise and personalized medicine. Building such collections depends upon the consent of individuals to supply information and tissue from their bodies, even as the future uses and meaning of such information is necessarily uncertain.

These developments have elicited profound questions about—and new experiments in— architectures of governance.  Increased access to these technologies has attracted new actors, engendered new uses, and elicited new modes of participation in research. Examples include disease advocacy driven research, crowd-sourced citizen science, and products like direct-to-consumer genetic testing.  These new entrants bring different imaginations of rights and benefits, challenging traditional approaches to biomedical research and blurring distinctions between consumer, patient and research subject.

There is a need to rethink established regimes of governance. How will these developments affect the rights, roles and responsibilities of scientists, physicians, regulators, citizens, consumers, research participants, and patients? What opportunities—and obligations—exist for extending public participation in research to include a participatory role in governance? This workshop will examine contexts where existing architectures of ethical governance have been strained and challenged, and where forms of innovation and experimentation have begun to emerge. It will draw together an international group of leaders from the biomedical sciences, engineering, social sciences, humanities, industry and government.

For full workshop information view bodies of data or visit,

Co-Sponsored by: The Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust, the Center for Policy Informatics and the Center for Biology and Society

Science & Justice Training Program: Grad Student Informational Meeting on New Cohort

The Science and Justice Research Center is hosting an Informational Meeting for a new cohort of our nationally recognized interdisciplinary Graduate Training Program:


12:30-2:00 Muwekma Ohlone Conference Room 351

(Bay Tree Building, 3rd floor, upstairs from the Bay Tree Bookstore)

Lunch Provided

Our NSF-supported Science and Justice Training Program (SJTP) is a globally unique initiative that trains doctoral students to work across the disciplinary boundaries of the natural and social sciences, engineering, humanities and the arts. Through the SJTP we at UCSC are currently teaching a new generation of PhD students the skills of interdisciplinary collaboration, ethical deliberation, and public communication. Students in the program design collaborative research projects oriented around questions of science and justice. These research projects not only contribute to positive outcomes in the wider world, they also become the templates for new forms of problem-based and collaborative inquiry within and beyond the university.

Spring 2014 Course:
Science & Justice: Experiments in Collaboration
Prof. Jenny Reardon
Tuesdays 11-2, College 8 301

Students from all departments are encouraged to attend
Prior graduate Fellows have come from every campus Division

13 Represented Departments:
Anthropology, Biomolecular Engineering, Earth & Planetary Sciences, Environmental Studies, Film and Digital Arts, Digital Arts and New Media, History of Consciousness, Literature, Philosophy, Physics, Politics, Psychology, and Sociology

As SJTP students graduate they take the skills and experience they gained in the training program into the next stage of their career in universities, industry, non-profits, and government.

Opportunities include graduate Certificate Program (pending), experience organizing and hosting colloquia series about your research, mentorship, opportunities for research funding and training in conducting interdisciplinary research at the intersections of science and society.

For more information on the Science & Justice Training Program, please see: