Sheila Jasanoff

Sheila Jasanoff

Fellow: Awarded 2010

Field of Study: Geography and Environmental Studies

Competition: US & Canada


One of the foremost researchers in science and technology studies, Sheila Jasanoff specializes in cross-cultural analyses of the relations between science and technology and law, politics, and culture in democratic societies. Educated in mathematics (Radcliffe College, A.B., 1963), linguistics (M.A., University of Bonn; Ph.D., Harvard University, 1973), and law (J.D., Harvard Law School, 1976), she is uniquely qualified to undertake such studies.

After receiving her law degree, she practiced environmental law for two years before accepting a postdoctoral fellowship in Cornell University’s Program on Science, Technology and Society (STS). Soon appointed to a faculty position, she received tenure as an Associate Professor in 1987. Within four years, she had established the Department of Science and Technology Studies, offering both A.B. and Ph.D. programs, and served as its chair for seven years. By the time she left Cornell, in 1998, its Science and Technology Studies program was considered one of the world leaders in this field.

While at Cornell, environment-related developments continued to interest her, and she published several works examining how reason and culture shape each other, and how the resulting practices and procedures differ from nation to nation. Among these publications are The Fifth Branch: Science Advisers as Policymakers (1990), which established the legitimacy of science policy as a field of research and became a standard reference work on expert science advisory committees; Science at the Bar: Law, Science, and Technology in America (1995), which won the American Political Science Association’s Don K. Price Award; Handbook of Science and Technology Studies (1995), another now-standard work, which she coedited with G. Markle, J. Petersen, and T. Pinch; and such articles as the much cited and reprinted “Technologies of Humility: Citizen Participation in Governing Science,” in Minerva (2003).

When she joined the faculty at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government as a full professor in 1998, the university had no established program in science and technology studies; in 2002 she began the Program on Science, Technology, and Society there. That same year she was named the Pforzheimer Professor of Science and Technology Studies, a chair she still holds. Under her direction, the program now offers pre- and postdoctoral students research, teaching, and training opportunities, partly through a new graduate minor that she helped create.

Always eager to encourage wider participation in science and technology studies and to raise the field’s visibility and impact, she founded in 2002 the Science and Democracy Network, which, as she describes it, “nurtures the growing community of younger STS scholars” and “encourages international networking, strengthens theoretical and methodological approaches for studying science policy, and promotes the responsible governance of science and technology.”

Sheila Jasanoff has continued her impressive record of publications while at Harvard. She edited the STS section of the International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences (2001); States of Knowledge: The Co-Production of Science and Social Order (2004), for which she wrote the introduction, conclusion, and one chapter; and, with Marybeth Long Martello, Earthly Politics: Local and Global in Environmental Governance (2004), to which she also contributed a chapter and cowrote the introduction and conclusion. The most recent book by Jasanoff and her fellows at Harvard is her edited volume Reframing Rights: Bioconstitutionalism in The Genetic Age (2011). In addition she authored the monograph Designs on Nature: Science and Democracy in Europe and the United States (2005). During her Guggenheim Fellowship term, she continued work on another book, tentatively titled The Imagined Earth: Nature, Culture, Environment.

Jasanoff has been a visiting scholar at Wolfson College, Oxford; a visiting professor of sociology at Kyoto University; a Fellow at the Wissenschaftszentrum, Berlin; and the Karl W. Deutsch Guest Professor at the Sciences Center, Berlin; the Leverhulme Visiting Professor at the University of Cambridge; an Honorary Visiting Professor at the University of Sussex; and a Distinguished Visiting Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her research has been consistently supported by grants from the National Science Foundation and other funders.

She is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and served as President of the Society for Social Studies of Science, from which she received the J.D. Bernal Award. Her work has also been recognized by the Distinguished Achievement award of the Society for Risk Analysis, an honorary doctorate from the University of Twente in the Netherlands; the Austrian Government’s Ehrenkreuz (Cross of Honor) for services to the arts and sciences; and the George Sarton chair of Ghent University.