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:

Reardon gives talk on The Post-Genomic Condition at UCSF

Dr. Jenny Reardon, University of California, Santa Cruz, Director, Science & Justice Research Center (UCSC) presents “The Post-Genomic Condition: Ethics, Justice, Knowledge After the Genome” at the SBS Seminar Series at UCSF.

Once an area of science oriented around close observation, attention and description—where new technologies like computers were at best an aid, and at worst shunned—today the life sciences are a hub of technological innovation. Genomics is emblematic. The field orients around a series of impressive innovations that offer great new promise but also present a fundamental problem, the problem of the post: what come after? What is the latest and greatest technology this month becomes passé the next: Affymetrix SNP chip 6.0 today, Ion Torrent’s Ion chip tomorrow. Getting caught with the wrong set of machines, on the wrong platform, is a constant concern. Nothing endures; all is in-formation.

Without endurance, Hannah Arendt argued fifty years ago in The Human Condition, the world loses common objects. Without common objects nothing sticks around long enough for democratic deliberation or knowledge-making. Informed decisions become things of the past. The proverbial table around which we gather to deliberate and understand are lost along with the objects that used to sit on the table. We now live in this postgenomic condition, after objects, after democracy, in-formation. How can we know and how can we govern in this state? The talk draws upon a decade of fieldwork focused on meaning-making and governance practices in genomics in order to consider this question that lies at the heart of the postgenomic condition.

Monday, February 10, 2014 | 3:30 – 5:00| Laurel Heights Campus, Room 474, UCSF

Interview with Science & Justice appears in the Danish Daily Information

Last June (2013), members of the Science & Justice Research Center were interviewed by former UCSC EAP (Education Abroad Program) student Bue Thastum.  While the original interview appeared in the Danish Daily Information, below is the translated article.


Should research create a better world?

Science can have other forms of social relevance than just economic. At the University of California Santa Cruz a young research center is trying to create interdisciplinary dialogues on how to practice science and engineering in ways that contribute to a more just world.

The debate regarding the role of research in society has often stood between two different positions. On the one hand voices that speak of the importance of maintaining independent basic research, on the other hand, those who want research that’s more directly connected to society. In the Danish debate the latter, however, has typically been in a rather narrow economic sense – emblematic summarized in former Minister of Science Helge Sander’s (V) slogan of the movement from research to invoice. A political ambition that, as it was recently demonstrated in a report from the think tank DEA, didn’t actually turn out as hoped anyway.

But the way science relates to society can also be on other broader levels than merely economy. An example is the young research center Science and Justice at the University of California Santa Cruz who, based on the fact that science and engineering plays a huge role in shaping our lives and society, are working to create cross-disciplinary conversations about how it can be done in a way that contributes to the creation of a better, more just world.

The group, which has existed since 2006 but only formally became a research center last year, is particularly unique in the way it manages to bring together students and researchers across the gap between the natural sciences, social sciences and humanities in its seminars and educational programs.

More than fraud

The center is housed in two humbly furnished rooms on the campus of the university. In one of those, assistant director Jake Metcalf bids welcome and explains that one of the intellectual approaches of the center is a discussion of what research ethics means.

“The understanding of what it means to practice science ethically has been too shallow,” Jake Metcalf says.

He has a PhD in philosophy himself and has amongst other things done research on applied ethics in the life sciences. He believes that part of the problem is the way science students are being educated.

“Most of the science ethics teaching is based on a model named Responsible Conduct of Research,” Metcalf explains.

Academic integrity, avoidance of plagiarism and informed consent from research subjects are typical topics. All this is of course essential, he admits:

“But one of the premises for Science and Justice is that this is not enough. It does not tell you much about the social good that can be achieved by doing science in one way or the other. So we try to create a space to think about what ethics may be beyond the Responsible Conduct of Research.”

One of the ways that space more specifically takes shape is in form of the events the group is organizing, in which they try to get speakers from different disciplines to come together around a common issue, and hopefully bring perspectives that can mutually enrich one another.

Anxiety of politics

Shortly before the summer holidays, for example, there is an event on airborne pesticide drifts and social justice. It’s Tuesday afternoon in one of the new glass-clad buildings in the scientific part of the campus. On the wall hangs a poster with the human genome, and in two rows around a U-formation of tables an audience counting anthropologists as well molecular biologists is seated.

One speaker is an environmental sociologist and has studied bureaucratic and political processes surrounding the regulation of pesticides in the United States, another is a representative of an NGO that teaches poor residents from rural areas to document pesticide drifts from nearby farms, and a third is the biologist Tyrone Hayes, who discovered how the pesticide Atrazine creates hormonal disorders in frogs and subsequently, under great media attention, has thrown himself into a prolonged and spectacular public campaign against the company that manufactures the pesticide.

A central theme in both the presentations and the subsequent discussion is the role scientific evidence plays in facilitating political change.

The NGO representative explains how being able to use scientifically robust methods has helped lay people to push for political change. Conversely, the two other speakers describe a widespread culture amongst scientist of not being interested in engaging in political processes. As the company behind Atrazine tried to discredit Hayes, he found about 60 other scientists in the world, all of which dealt with the effects of Atrazine, but when the US Environmental Protection Agency held a hearing on the pesticide, no one showed up.

Apart from the seminars, Science and Justice’s main activity right now is the training program for graduate students.

The program is being offered across all the divisions of the university and is thus concretely putting future physicists, sociologists, engineers and political scientists in the same room. The background for this is that justice, as Science and Justice understands it, is not something you can define once and for all, and hence not necessarily something that can be kept within the boundaries of a single discipline either.

Kate Richerson is a PhD student in Biology and one of the students who has completed the program. She says that it especially has given her a sense of the complexity of the social life scientific studies gets after having been completed. Many scientists have good intentions, but they lack that understanding if they really want to create a better world.

“There is a tendency that it just gets taken for granted that science can help,” says Kate Richerson, “but the work you’re doing often gets to have its own life, when you put it out into the world.”

A life that’s exactly influenced by economy, social relations or culture, and thus one that other disciplines could help provide a more nuanced image of.

Interdisciplinary diplomats

The hope of the program is that the students by gaining an understanding of each other’s language, and by building up a sense of comfort in talking together across disciplinary boundaries, eventually will be better to see possibilities for collaboration.

But it’s not the ambition of Science and Justice to get the students to put their professional identities behind them, says Andrew Mathews, who until the summer was the director of the center.

“It is about building the ability to become diplomats across disciplinary differences,” Andrew Mathews says.

“I actually think ‘interdisciplinary’ is a meaningless word. Everyone says they are, but what does it mean? Instead, it is about providing opportunity for people from different disciplines to have conversations about things that matter to them. That’s our goal. And from there, maybe new research questions can emerge. ”


Thastum, Bue. “Should Research Create a Better World.” Danish Daily Information. Sept. 2013. n. pag. Web. 26 Sept. 2013.

Jenny Reardon, Director of the SJRC, gives lecture in Clarke Forum Meanings of Race Series at Dickinson College

The opening decade of this millennium witnessed genome scientists, policy makers, critical race theorists and world leaders proclaiming the anti-racist democratic potential of human genomics. These views stand in stark contrast to the 1990s concern that genomics might create new forms of racism. This lecture explores this shift, both why it happened and what it reveals about emerging challenges for understanding issues of race and racism in the genomic age.

This event is sponsored by the Clarke Forum for Contemporary Issues and co-sponsored by the Departments of American Studies, Anthropology, and Spanish & Portuguese. This program is also part of the Clarke Forum’s semester theme, The Meanings of Race.

Video of lecture

UCSC Science and Justice Program Receives National Attention

UCSC Science and Justice Program Receives National Attention
By Kara Guzman

Santa Cruz Sentinel

POSTED: 08/20/2013 05:53:05 PM PDT

SANTA CRUZ — An interdisciplinary team of professors and graduate students from UC Santa Cruz’s Science & Justice Training Program have been recognized on the national stage for their work to integrate ethical training into scientific fields.

The team recently published an article in Public Library of Science Biology, a national peer-reviewed science journal, about the need to create institutional space for the exploration of the links between science and questions of ethics and justice, and how they were able to achieve that at UCSC.

The training program, which teaches both science and humanities graduate students to integrate ethical questions into their work, is the first of its kind, according to co-director Jenny Reardon. One of the program’s goals is to inspire the growth of this type of work on a national level, said Reardon.

“We live in a world where science and technology are a part of everybody’s lives,” said Reardon, who is an associate professor in sociology and faculty affiliate in UCSC’s Center for Biomolecular Science and Engineering. “What we wanted to do was build a space where scientists and engineers could come together with social scientists and humanists around areas of common concern.”

Reardon listed topics such as dam construction, fish stock management and genomics as areas where people beyond just scientists are needed to answer broader political and justice questions.

A subtle yet significant shift has occurred in the principles of the National Science Foundation, a federal agency that funds approximately 20 percent of federally supported university research, and the agency now seeks to fund research that explicitly engages the public and benefits society, according to the article.

This shift has resulted in an effort at the national level to increase science ethics education, according to assistant program director Jake Metcalf. Traditionally science ethics education is built around responsible conduct of research, or “don’t cheat, don’t steal, don’t lie,” said Metcalf.

“We’re trying to expand that to say we can develop better forms of knowledge when we actually have space and funding and time to recognize the interdisciplinary nature of the problems that scientists and engineers encounter,” said Metcalf.

Along with coursework that teaches graduate students how to identify intersections between science and ethics, such as in genomics or climate change, the program offers a working group and research center, which provide an institutionalized space to explore these intersections.

Science & Justice fellow Tiffany Wise-West, a civil engineer who is completing a Ph.D. in environmental studies, said that the program helped her think beyond just engineering, and brought the social implications of her work to the foreground.

“It’s added a new dimension,” said Wise-West. “I had not thought in that way before.”

A key part of the program is encouraging scientists to step away from the “publish or perish” pressure and take the time to reflect on these broader issues. Reardon said she sees a long-standing competitive culture within the scientific community that encourages sacrificing personal time to quickly churn out scholarly articles.

“That’s why I think these questions of justice are important,” said Reardon. “It encourages us to think about what life is about, what is the good life and what is the place of knowledge and knowledge production.”

Science and Justice Training Program explores ethics of scientific research

Science and Justice Training Program explores ethics of scientific research

Founders and participants outline program in ‘PLOS Biology’

By Guy Lasnier

Jenny Reardon is an associate professor of sociology and co-director of the Science and Justice Training Program. Co-director Karen Barad is professor of feminist studies and history of consciousness.

A subtle but significant shift in how national science policy makers regard the outcomes of scientific research has created opportunities for innovative programs such as the Science and Justice Training Program (SJTP) at UC Santa Cruz.

The interdisciplinary program, within UCSC’s Science and Justice Research Center, trains graduate students to explore the effects and impacts of their research on society. Writing recently in a scientific journal, members of the training program, co-directed by Jenny Reardon, associate professor of sociology, and Karen Barad, professor of feminist studies, outline the UCSC effort that was founded in 2010 with a National Science Foundation grant.

The article “Experiments in Collaboration: Interdisciplinary Graduate Education in Science and Justice” appears on the community page of the July 30 issue of PLOS Biology.

“In a world increasingly shaped by science and technology, the SJTP aims to offer one pathway for science and engineering to connect to social issues and public concerns in a more practical, substantive, and thoughtful way,” the authors write.

Although policy changes over the past 20 years have led to an increased awareness of the impact of science on society, little direction is provided on how to proceed. That has created “an unexpected and underexploited benefit,” the authors write. “Where there is a mandate with little guidance, there is also an opportunity to innovate.”

At UCSC that means increased ethics education requirements for graduate students and a training program to deliver it. It means scientists and engineers working with colleagues in the humanities, arts, and social sciences.

As an example, the authors cite two physics students working on solar greenhouse technology for industrial applications. They had hoped their technology also would be useful to and embraced by small-scale organic farmers.

However, after interviewing farmers using techniques learned in an SJTP research methods seminar, they learned the farmers wanted nothing to do with high-tech approaches. This prompted the researchers to rethink who might benefit from their work.

The goal is “not to turn scientists into social scientists or humanities scholars or vice versa,” the authors write. “Rather, it is to create opportunities for graduate students and other SJTP members to gather around common objects and concerns (e.g., a greenhouse, climate change, or the use of racial categories in biomedical research.”

Also contributing to the article were Jacob Metcalf, a postdoctoral fellow for the training program; along with graduate student fellows Ian Carbone, Martha Kenney, Jennifer Liss Ohayon, Derek Padilla, Miriam Olivera, Kate Richerson, and Tiffany Wise-West.