The Center for Science and Democracy launched its Strengthening Science Advocacy Working Group community in January 2020. This interdisciplinary working group of scholars aims to learn more about civic engagement, advocacy, and activism within the scientific community and develop insights that can inform organizing efforts. The group will work with organizations within the scientific community to share findings from new and existing research.
What we do
The working group has developed an organizing strategy brief that draws recommendations for activists from existing literature on movement building, persistence, and political influence as well as from the experiences of organizers, communities, and scientists. This brief also reviews the challenges that scientists may face in advocacy and movement building and opportunities that they can seize to strengthen and diversify science advocacy.
The group is also engaged in ongoing research aimed at understanding how scientists can inform policy making and increase their policy influence. This research includes surveys, interviews, focus groups, and ethnographic work.
The working group is working to support scientists and organizations during the pandemic and Black Lives Matter uprising through a series of media pieces, including guest posts on the UCS blog. These posts draw from a variety of perspectives and uses a social science lens to spotlight and analyze existing science advocacy efforts, discuss equity issues, and share information about resources that scientists can use for their advocacy work.
- 10 Things That the Scholarly Community Can Do to Stand in Solidarity
- “Fattening” the Curve: Funding Equitable Scientific Research After the Pandemic
- Social Distance and Social Movements During COVID-19
- On Racial Justice, Statements Are Not Enough
Who we are
The Strengthening Science Advocacy Working Group consists of an interdisciplinary group of scholars from the fields of Political Science, Sociology, Public Policy, Engineering, Native Studies, Health Science, and History. Get to know some of our members below. To learn more about our work, contact the group’s convener, UCS CSD Kendall Fellow Fernando Tormos-Aponte.
Working Group members
Barbara Allen is a Professor in the Department of Science, Technology, and Society at Virginia Tech’s Washington, DC area location in Falls Church, VA. Her research explores the dynamics of citizens and scientists working together to produce science for environmental and regulatory change in polluted or distressed regions in the US and Europe. She is author of over 40 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters and has written or edited three books, including Uneasy Alchemy: Citizens and Experts in Louisiana Chemical Corridor Disputes (MIT Press 2003) and Dynamics of Disaster: Lessons on Risk, Response, and Recovery (with Rachel Dowty, Routledge 2011).
Professor Allen’s research has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the Social Science Research Council and the French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety. Her most recent project brought together residents and scientists in France’s largest industrial region to collaboratively produce a participatory epidemiology study. This catalyzed citizens and labors unions to collectively file a criminal endangerment complaint against industry and the state, the first ever in France. This project has been featured in the New York Times, Le Parisien, Le Figaro, Le Marseillaise, and Charlie Hebdo among others.
Allen received her Ph.D. from the Department of Science and Technology Studies at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. She also holds an M.S. in Architectural Technology from Columbia University and a B.S. in Civil and Environmental Engineering from the University of Colorado at Boulder.
Phil Brown is University Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Health Science at Northeastern University, where he directs the Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute and its PFAS Project Lab, which has grants from NSF to study social policy and activism concerning PFAS, and from NIEHS to study children’s immune responses to PFAS and community response to contamination, and to develop a nationwide report-back and information exchange. He directs an NIEHS T-32 training program, “Transdisciplinary Training at the Intersection of Environmental Health and Social Science,” heads the Community Outreach and Translation Core of Northeastern’s Children’s Environmental Health Center (Center for Research on Early Childhood Exposure and Development in Puerto Rico/CRECE) and both the Research Translation Core and Community Engagement Core of Northeastern’s Superfund Research Program (Puerto Rico Testsite to Explore Contamination Threats/PROTECT). He is a past member of NIEHS Council. His books include No Safe Place: Toxic Waste, Leukemia, and Community Action; Toxic Exposures: Contested Illnesses and the Environmental Health Movement; and Contested Illnesses: Citizens, Science and Health Social Movements.
Shannon is an environmental health advocate, community science champion and enthusiastic about the potential for open systems and technology to support the creation of a more just and equitable future. She has spent the last 20 years working with environment and public health groups to address declining freshwater resources, coastal land loss and building monitoring programs with communities living adjacent to industrial facilities. Shannon is a Shuttleworth Foundation Fellow leading the Open Environmental Data Project, co-founder of Public Lab and Executive Director from 2010-20, an organizer of the Gathering for Open Science Hardware, and previous Chair of both the U.S. EPA National Advisory Council on Environmental Policy and Technology and the Citizen Science Association. She is an Ashoka Fellow, a senior fellow of the Environmental Leadership Program, and is a previous Fellow at both the Harvard Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society and Loyola University Environmental Communications Institute.
Jennifer Earl is a Professor of Sociology and (by courtesy) Government and Public Policy at the University of Arizona. She is Director Emeritus of the Center for Information Technology and Society and Director Emeritus of the Technology and Society PhD Emphasis, both at University of California, Santa Barbara. Her research focuses on social movements, information technologies, and the sociology of law, with research emphases on Internet activism, social movement repression, and legal change. She is the recipient of a National Science Foundation CAREER Award for research from 2006-2011 on Web activism. She is also a member of the MacArthur Research Network on Youth and Participatory Politics. She has published widely, including an MIT Press book, co-authored with Katrina Kimport, entitled Digitally Enabled Social Change, which examines how the use of Internet affordances are reshaping the basic dynamics of protest online and was awarded an Honorable Mention for the Communication and Information Technologies Section of the American Sociological Association’s Book Award in 2013. She was inducted in 2016 to the Sociological Research Association, an honorary association for sociological researchers. She is also the winner of a career achievement award from the Communication, Information Technologies, and Media Sociology Section of the American Sociological Association, the recipient of a university-award for excellence in undergraduate research mentoring in 2010-2011, and the recipient of a university-wide award for the most outstanding assistant professor on her campus in 2005-2006. She has received over 1.25 million in grant funding post-PhD.
Dana R. Fisher is a Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Maryland. Her research explores democracy, civic participation, activism and environmental policymaking with recent studies focusing on the youth climate movement and the American Resistance. She has authored over sixty peer-reviewed research papers and book chapters and has written six books, including National Governance and the Global Climate Change Regime (Rowman and Littlefield Press 2004), Activism, Inc. (Stanford University Press 2006), Urban Environmental Stewardship and Civic Engagement (with Erika S. Svendsen and James Connolly, Routledge Press 2015), and American Resistance (Columbia University Press 2019).
Professor Fisher has appeared on CNN, MSNBC, PBS Newshour, and various programs on BBC and National Public Radio. She has written about her work for the Washington Post, TIME, the American Prospect, and other outlets. She has presented her work to federal agencies, foundations, and other organizations, including the National Science Foundation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine. Fisher is currently serving as a Contributing Author for Working Group 3 of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's Sixth Assessment Review (IPCC AR6) writing about citizen engagement.
Fisher received her Ph.D. and Master of Science degrees from the Department of Sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her undergraduate degree is in East Asian Studies and Environmental Studies from Princeton University.
Rose Hendricks is a social scientist leading a network of science societies who support researchers’ public and civic engagement efforts. Through this work, she aims to contribute to a culture shift in the scientific enterprise toward one in which researchers are equipped, empowered, and encouraged to engage with diverse public audiences about science. She has served in volunteer leadership positions with the Science Communication Trainers Network and ComSciCon. She has also conducted research on public thinking and effective communication about a range of science issues for progressive policy change with the FrameWorks Institute. Rose earned a PhD in Cognitive Science from UC San Diego.
Scott Frickel is Professor of Sociology and the Institute for the Study of Environment and Society at Brown University. He holds a Ph.D. from University of Wisconsin-Madison (2000). Before coming to Brown he held faculty appointments at Tulane University and Washington State University, where he was the Boeing Distinguished Professor of Environmental Sociology. His research and teaching interests center on the intersections of nature, knowledge, and politics.
A growing feature of his current research involves developing new approaches for identifying and measuring socio-environmental change and developing theories to explain those patterns. He also studies the organization of expert activism, inequality in science and technology and chemical “residues” as cultural, material, and political objects. All three topics are subjects of current book projects.
Professor Frickel is the author of five books, mostly recently with James R. Elliott, Sites Unseen: Uncovering Hidden Hazards in American Cities (Russell Sage Foundation and ASA Rose Series in Sociology, 2018) and an edited volume, with Matthew Albert and Barbara Prainsack, Investigating Interdisciplinary Collaboration: Theory and Practice across Disciplines (Rutgers University Press, 2016).
He is founding editor of the Nature, Society and Culture book series published by Rutgers University Press.
Norah MacKendrick is Associate Professor of Sociology Rutgers University where she studies and teaches social inequalities, risk, consumer culture, and gender. MacKendrick’s research examines the intersections of risk, individualization, and modern motherhood. She is the author of Better Safe Than Sorry: How Consumers Navigate Exposure to Everyday Toxics. Her work has been published in Gender & Society, Sociological Forum, Signs: the Journal of Women in Culture and Society, Journal of Consumer Culture. MacKendrick's research on environmental health and motherhood has been covered by The Washington Post, The Guardian, National Public Radio and Orb Media.
David S. Meyer is professor of sociology, political science, and urban affairs & public policy at the University of California, Irvine. He is author or editor of nine books, most recently (with Sidney Tarrow), The Resistance: The Dawn of the Anti-Trump Opposition Movement. He has also written many articles and book chapters on social movements and social change, mostly in the United States. He is the 2017 recipient of the John D. McCarthy Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Scholarship of Social Movements and Collective Behavior. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from Boston University, and an undergraduate degree in literature from Hampshire College.
Blog post: Who Do You Trust?: Mobilization, Polarization and the Erosion of Public Expertise
Kelly Moore is Associate Professor of Sociology at Loyola University Chicago. She studies the relationship between militarization, science, and politics. Her current research project is Securitizing the Body, which investigates the militarized affects, machineries, and practices that circulate in US exercise science and activities, and their role in shaping raced and gendered bodies. She is the author of Disrupting Science: Scientists, Social Movements and the Politics of the Military, 1945-1975 (Princeton University Press, 2008), winner of the 2009 Charles Tilly Prize from the American Sociological Association section on Collective Behavior and Social Movements and the 2011 Robert K. Merton Prize from the American Sociological Association Section on Science, Knowledge and Technology, and co-editor of The New Political Sociology of Science (2006). Her work has appeared in sociological and cross-disciplinary journals, including Theory and Society, American Journal of Sociology, Geoforum, The Scholar and the Feminist, Qualitative Sociology, and Research in the Sociology of Organizations. She has served as Co-director of the National Science Foundation Science, Technology and Society Program, as Chair of the American Sociological Association Section on Science, Knowledge and Technology, and on the Council of the Society for Social Studies of Science. She is completing a book, with Scott Frickel, called Science, Inequality and Social Justice.
Jacob O'Connor is a PhD candidate in the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Washington. Their research in the Baker Lab involves developing methods and testing hypotheses about how to improve the drug-like nature of peptide macrocycles. They use the Rosetta protein design software to design macrocycles that incorporate structural hypothesis of membrane permeability and high-affinity target binding. He also works to share that research with the public as a Pacific Science Center Communication Fellow and as a director on the board of Engage. After graduating Jacob plans to pursue a career in science policy.
Cecilio Ortiz Garcia
Dr. Cecilio Ortiz Garcia holds a PhD in Public Policy and Administration from the School of Public Affairs of the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions at Arizona State University. He is currently a Hubert Humphrey Distinguished Visiting Professor at Macalester College in St. Paul Minnesota. He is a tenured Professor of Political Science at the University of Puerto Rico Mayaguez Campus and his areas of expertise include Energy Policy and Governance in Puerto Rico, Sustainable Transitions Management in Developing Nations and Public Participation in Energy and Environmental Decision Making. His current research concentrates on the governance of critical infrastructure transformations, particularly sustainable energy transitions and its relationship with community resilience, as well as the role of Higher Education Institutions (HEI) in local and national Extreme Operating Environments (EOE). He is the Founder of the University of Puerto Rico’s National Institute of Energy and Island Sustainability, recognized after Hurricane Maria by the Department of Energy as “the foundation in which to firmly establish Puerto Rico as a Center for Excellence on distributed grid operations , and could also provide both the supply of interdisciplinary engineers and policymakers Puerto Rico will need and the expertise other island and remote grid systems will need in their transition to a distributed, resilient electric sector.” Dr. Ortiz is also the creator of the RISE-PR, a Post-Hurricane Maria effort to develop a collaborative interuniversity multi sectoral convergence platform for innovation in pre and post extreme event interventions. In November 2019 he co founded the RISE Network, a network of over 100 universities and over 500 affiliates dedicated to developing a new paradigm for universities’ role in enhancing community resilience at all levels.
Dr. Ortiz García is a former Senior Fellow on Resilience at the National Council for Science and the Environment in Washington DC, and currently serves as Distinguished Research Fellow at the Global Resiliency Institute at Northeastern University in Boston.
Dr. John N. Parker is a program director at the US National Science Foundation, where he manages its funding programs in Science and Technology Studies and Ethical and Responsible Research. He is an expert in the sociology of science, creativity, and emotions. He has published on these topics in journals such as American Sociological Review, Social Psychology Quarterly, and Sociological Theory. He will join University of Oslo’s Department of Sociology and Geography in January 2021.
Marla Perez Lugo
Dr. Marla Perez Lugo is an environmental sociologist and professor at the Department of Social Sciences, University of Puerto Rico Mayaguez Campus. Her areas of interest are energy governance, environmental justice, vulnerability to natural hazards and the science of team science. Her research has been published in professional journals such as Sociological Inquiry, The Professional Geographer and Organizations and the Environment. Also, her extensive applied research work has impacted various local government agencies as well as the federal government through workshop design, membership in the EPA's National Advisory Committee and the National Institute for Environmental Health and Sciences Council, and testimony offered in Congress. Dr. Perez Lugo is a co-founder of the University of Puerto Rico's National Institute for Energy and Island Sustainability and The RISE Network. Former Senior Fellow at the National Council for Science and the Environment, she is now serving as a Senior Research Fellow at Northeastern University's Global Resilience Institute and Hubert Humphrey Distinguished Visiting Professor at Macalester College.
Lester Spence, Professor of Political Science and Africana Studies at Johns Hopkins University, an award winning scholar, author, and teacher, has published two books (Stare in the Darkness: Hip-hop and the Limits of Black Politics, winner of the 2012 W. E. B. Du Bois Distinguished Book Award, and Knocking the Hustle: Against the Neoliberal Turn in Black Politics, winner of both the Baltimore City Paper and Baltimore Magazine 2016 Best Nonfiction Book Awards and was named to The Atlantic’s 2016 “Best Books We Missed” list), one co-edited journal, over a dozen academic articles and several dozen essays and think pieces in a range of publications including The American Journal of Political Science, Political Research Quarterly, The New York Times, Jacobin, Salon, and The Boston Review. He is currently at work on two book-length projects examining the contemporary AIDS crisis in black communities, and the growing role of police in major American cities.
Kim TallBear is Associate Professor, Faculty of Native Studies, University of Alberta, and Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Peoples, Technoscience & Environment. She is also a Pierre Elliot Trudeau Foundation Fellow. Dr. TallBear is the author of Native American DNA: Tribal Belonging and the False Promise of Genetic Science. Building on her research on the role of technoscience in settler colonialism, Dr. TallBear also studies the colonization of Indigenous sexuality. She is a regular commentator in US, Canadian, and UK media outlets on issues related to Indigenous peoples, science, and technology as well as Indigenous sexualities. She is a regular panelist on the weekly podcast, Media Indigena. She is a citizen of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate in South Dakota.
Dana Williamson, MPH, is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Behavioral Sciences/Health Education at the Rollins School of Public Health-Emory University, where she also completed her master’s level training; and is a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Policy Research Scholar. She has a diverse public health experience that entails extensive involvement in community outreach & development, has worked as a health communications specialist with the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, a project director implementing multiple NIH-funded culturally-sensitive interventions, and the lead program evaluator with the U.S. EPA’s Environmental Justice training Academy. Her research has maintained a core theme of a health disparities lens, crucial in addressing key questions about society, inequities, health consequences, and lack of resources. She is particularly interested in community mobilization as a response to environmental stress and racism, how community mobilization can serve as a buffer for environmental stressors, and how communities maintain a sense of resilience despite varying exposures and lack of resources. Williamson’s doctoral work focuses on capacity building approaches to address environmental justice concerns, with an emphasis on program evaluation and the identification of successful community change strategies and policy-related outcomes. Her most recent related work has been published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, A Scoping Review of Capacity-building Efforts to Address Environmental Justice Concerns.
A sincere thanks to the scholars on our advisory board who we consult as needed for their expertise.
Daniel P Aldrich is Director of the Security and Resilience Studies Program and Professor in political science and public policy at Northeastern University in Boston. Aldrich has published five books including Building Resilience and Black Wave, more than 55 peer-reviewed articles, and written op-eds for the New York Times, CNN, HuffPost, and many other media outlets. He has spent more than 5 years in India, Japan, and Africa carrying out fieldwork and his work has been funded by the Fulbright Foundation, the Abe Foundation, and the Japan Foundation, among other institutions. He Tweets at @danielpaldrich
Hahrie Han, the inaugural director of the SNF Agora Institute, specializes in the study of civic and political participation, collective action, and organizing. She focuses particularly on the role that civic associations play in mobilizing participation in politics and building power for social and political change. Prior to her position at the Institute, she served as the Anton Vonk Professor of Political Science and Environmental Politics at the University of California, Santa Barbara. From 2005-2015, she was an Associate Professor of Political Science at Wellesley College and a Robert Wood Johnson Health Policy Scholar at Harvard University from 2009-2011.
Her most recent book, How Organizations Develop Activists: Civic Associations and Leadership in the 21st Century (Oxford University Press 2014) examines the strategies that the most effective civic associations use to engage activists and develop leaders in health and environmental politics. Another book, Groundbreakers: How Obama’s 2.2 Million Volunteers Transformed Campaigning in America (co-authored with Elizabeth McKenna, Oxford Univ. Press 2014) describes the strategies the 2008 and 2012 Obama campaign used to engage so many grassroots activists in communities across America. Her first book, Moved to Action: Motivation, Participation, and Inequality in American Politics (Stanford University Press, 2009) examined the ways in which people become motivated to participate in politics, looking particularly at means of engaging underprivileged populations in political action. Hahrie’s work on participation, movement-building, civic associations, primary elections, and congressional polarization has been published in outlets including American Political Science Review, American Sociological Review, American Journal of Sociology, Perspectives on Politics, British Journal of Political Science, Legislative Studies Quarterly, Political Behavior, and elsewhere. Her work was awarded the 2013 Outstanding Academic Publication on Membership Organizations Award by the Institute for Nonprofit Research, Education, and Engagement.
Hahrie has also been involved in numerous efforts to make academic work relevant to the world of practice, including (most recently) participating in the Social Science Research Council Anxieties of Democracy Participation Working Group; co-chairing the Research Council of the PICO National Network, serving on the advisory board of organizations like research4impact, the Climate Advocacy Lab, Citizens Climate Lobby, and the DEMOS Integrated Race and Class Narrative Project; serving as the Co-Chair of the Civic Engagement Working Group at the Scholars Strategy Network; co-founding and co-directing the Project on Public Leadership and Action at Wellesley College, and participating on the steering committee of the Gettysburg Project. Through her research, she partners with a wide range of civic and political organizations interested in organizing, movement-building, and building power for social change in the United States, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and elsewhere. In all of this work, she seeks to develop the leadership of younger scholars and practitioners, especially women and people of color.
She also acted as co-convenor of a Policy Advisory Committee for the 2008 Obama campaign and served as Chair of the Advisory Committee to the EAC Agency Review Team on the Obama-Biden Transition Team and also as National Issues and Policy Advisor to Senator Bill Bradley’s presidential campaign in 1999-2000. She received her Ph.D. in American Politics from Stanford University in 2005 and her B.A. in American History and Literature from Harvard University in 1997. She was a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow from 2002-2005 and received Stanford University’s Centennial Teaching Award in 2002 and Wellesley College’s Apgar Award for Innovative Teaching in 2006.
She is the daughter of Korean immigrants, grew up in Houston, Texas, and now lives in Baltimore, MD.
Aya H. Kimura is a sociologist working in the field of Science and Technology Studies, feminist political ecology, and agrofood studies. She completed her MA in environmental studies at Yale University and her Ph.D. in sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her books include Radiation Brain Moms and Citizen Scientists: The Gender Politics of Food Contamination after Fukushima (Duke University Press 2016: recipient of the Rachel Carson Book Award from the Society for Social Studies of Science), Hidden Hunger: Gender and Politics of Smarter Foods (Cornell University Press 2013: recipient of the Outstanding Scholarly Award from the Rural Sociological Society), and Food and Power: Visioning Food Democracy in Hawai‘i (University of Hawaii Press, coeditor). Her new book is Science by the People: Participation, Power, and the Politics of Environmental Knowledge (2019, Rutgers University Press, co-authored with Abby Kinchy).
Sigrid Schmalzer is professor of history at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Her research on the history of science in socialist China has produced two award-winning academic books along with a children’s picture book. Her research on the history of science activism has resulted in an NSF-funded conference on the history of the organization Science for the People (SftP), an edited volume of documents produced by SftP, and an associated website. She has helped organize the revitalization of SftP and is a leader in the Western Massachusetts chapter. She also serves as vice-president of the Massachusetts Society of Professors, the labor union for faculty and librarians at UMass Amherst.
S. Laurel Weldon (University of Pittsburgh, 1999) is Distinguished SFU Full Professor of Political Science at Simon Fraser University in Canada. She was previously Distinguished Professor of Political Science and Director of the Purdue Policy Research Institute (PPRI) at Purdue University in Indiana, USA. In 2015, Weldon held the O’Brien Residential Fellowship in the Center for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism at McGill University, Canada. She is founding co-editor of the journal Politics, Groups and Identities, and together with a team of eleven others, will take up the editorship of the American Political Science Review in Summer 2020. At Purdue University, she was founding Director of the Center for Research on Diversity and Inclusion (2012-2015), interim Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs (2013-2014) and (very briefly) Acting Provost (2014). Professor Weldon’s work focuses on the role of social movements in influencing public policy; on violence against women; representation and public policy; women, work and poverty; and on comparative and international research that is global in scope. Weldon has won numerous awards, including, most recently, the Best Book Award from the Human Rights Section of the International Studies Association for her 2018 book The Logics of Gender Justice co-authored with Mala Htun. She has consulted for international organizations such the UN and the World Bank as well as national, state, local and Indigenous governments.