Studies of Science, Technology & Sustainability: Building a Research Agenda

Project: Research project

Project Details


Studies of Science, Technology & Sustainability: Building a Research Agenda Studies of Science, Technology & Sustainability: Building a Research Agenda The transition of the US and the globe toward greater sustainability has emerged as one of the central policy challenges of the 21st century. This proposal requests funding for a workshop to examine how research in the field of science and technology studies (STS) can help contribute to US and global efforts to move toward greater sustainability. The proposed workshop would follow on and help further advance the objectives of a recent meeting sponsored by the National Science Foundation at Columbia University. The Columbia meeting highlighted the need for NSF and other funding agencies to begin to develop an ambitious agenda for the field of sustainability research. We propose to develop an important and timely piece of the sustainability agenda: namely, social and humanistic studies of the dynamics relationships among science, technology, and society. The proposed workshop would be held at the National Science Foundation in early fall 2008 and would consist of two days of thematic panels, plenary speakers, and open discussions. The workshop would be diverse, drawing on research on a wide range of subfields within STS and neighboring fields of scholarly inquiry, including history of technology, environmental history, environmental sociology, sociology of technology, social studies of science and knowledge, anthropology of development, science and technology policy, environmental ethics and philosophy, philosophy of technology, and many others. These fields have already contributed substantially to our knowledge of sustainability and the environment and are poised to contribute even more substantially. Intellectual Merits: The workshop would significantly advance the field of science and technology studies as it relates to sustainability. It would be designed: (1) to assess and highlight the current contributions of STS to understanding the sustainability challenge and possible solutions; (2) to develop a roadmap of future STS research priorities that would enhance the fields contributions to achieving a sustainability transition; (3) to begin to form a network of sustainability-oriented STS scholars that could guide and promote research on this topic within the STS community; and (4) to begin to identify strategies for connecting STS research on sustainability to research on sustainability policy, especially in the arena of science and technology policy. Broader Impacts: Establishing a strong agenda for STS research on sustainability would contribute significantly to advancing sustainability research and solutions. STS research would offer important insights in areas that have been identified as key to meeting the challenges of sustainability, includinge the social dynamics of technological system change; knowledge systems for sustainable development; and environment, livelihoods, and the reduction of human vulnerability and insecurity. Ideally, the workshop would lead to the identification of new research opportunities and new research networks that would contribute to advancing US and international sustainability goals. Studies of Science, Technology & Sustainability: Building a Research Agenda The original NSF award funded a workshop, Science, Technology, and Sustainability: Building a Research Agenda, held at the National Science Foundation on Sept. 8-9, 2008. Funding for this supplemental award will be used to support a series of small, follow-on meetings and workshops that extend discussions and network-building activities begun at the original workshop and that further develop ideas and plans conceptualized at the original workshop. In particular, these follow-on efforts will focus on the creation of a vision and concrete implementation plans for research and educational infrastructure that can significantly enhance (a) the capacity of STS, as a field, to conduct research on subjects of importance to enhancing sustainability; (b) the formation of a strong community of scholars in this area of research whose interactions will strongly impact the quality of research in the field; and (c) the capacity of the field to train young researchers to pursue research of the highest quality. The need for infrastructural support for research and education was clearly articulated by participants at the meeting. In terms of research, participants were frustrated by the lack of systematic support for the kinds of long-term, collaborative research programs that would address fundamental uncertainties in knowledge about the relationships among science, technology & sustainability. Participants also saw a need for new support for studies of international and global aspects of sustainability, for systematic efforts to link research in the humanistic and social studies of STS to sustainability practice in science, engineering, business, law, design, and other professional fields, and for advanced cyberinfrastructure to enhance opportunities for collaborative, interdisciplinary and crossinstitutional research teams. Participants also saw the need for novel educational infrastructure, including the development of national training institutes and professional and graduate degree programs to support the training of highly skilled researchers as well as professional practitioners prepared to put research to use toward enhancing sustainable outcomes in society. Also identified was the need to substantially enhance the diversity of this field of research by strengthening the pipeline of students from diverse backgrounds into educational programs. Finally, participants saw a strong need to provide graduate students and early career researchers with international research and educational experiences to help ensure the creation of a research workforce that has the knowledge and skills necessary to collaborate with international partners to address the global dimensions of sustainability challenges.
Effective start/end date9/1/088/31/10


  • National Science Foundation (NSF): $76,909.00


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