Engaged, embedded, enjoined: science and technology studies in the National Science Foundation

Sci Eng Ethics. 2011 Dec;17(4):823-38. doi: 10.1007/s11948-011-9307-x. Epub 2011 Oct 13.


Engaged scholarship is an intellectual movement sweeping across higher education, not only in the social and behavioral sciences but also in fields of natural science and engineering. It is predicated on the idea that major advances in knowledge will transpire when scholars, while pursuing their research interests, also consider addressing the core problems confronting society. For a workable engaged agenda in science and technology studies, one that informs scholarship as well as shapes practice and policy, the traditional terms of engagement must be renegotiated to be more open and mutual than has historically characterized the nature of inquiry in this field. At the same time, it is essential to protect individual privacy and preserve government confidentiality. Yet there is a scientific possibility for and benefit to introducing more collaborative and deliberative research approaches between scholar and subject in ways that will not violate these first-order ethics. To make the case, this article discusses the possibilities and perils of engaged science and technology scholarship by drawing on our own recent experiences to conduct and apply STS research while embedded in the National Science Foundation. Brief accounts of these experiences reveal the opportunities as well as the challenges of engaged scholarship. They also provide lessons for those fellow travelers who might follow the authors to this or other like host organizations with ambitions of increasing fundamental knowledge about and applying research to the policies, programs, and decisions of the scientific enterprise.

MeSH terms

  • Behavioral Sciences
  • Community Participation*
  • Confidentiality
  • Cooperative Behavior*
  • Engineering
  • Ethics, Research*
  • Financing, Government*
  • Foundations
  • Humans
  • Knowledge
  • Natural Science Disciplines
  • Privacy
  • Science*
  • Social Sciences*
  • Technology*
  • United States