CSPO People


John Nelson

Doctoral Student, Arizona State University

Faculty Group: School for the Future of Innovation in Society


John Nelson is a doctoral student and National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow in Arizona State University’s School for the Future of Innovation in Society. His research interests include the practice of anticipatory governance, the design of public-facing research institutions, and the functioning of expertise and knowledge in pluralistic democracy. He has designed or implemented deliberative public forums for assessment of solar geoengineering research and of autonomous vehicles; and is presently involved with a three-year project to develop policy prescriptions regarding human genome editing based on robust practices of expert foresight and public engagement. In parallel, he is pursuing a public value study of the design and outcomes of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy.

Nelson’s academic background includes training in moral philosophy, risk and complexity, the sociology and philosophy of science and technology, and the history of U.S. science policy. As an undergraduate, Nelson worked as a research assistant on projects studying the construction of scientific authority in medical grey markets; social infrastructure for grassroots solar microgrid development; policymaking around big data and use of big data to inform public policy; and creative pedagogy and public engagement. He has worked on educational or provocative games, interactive installations, and in one case, a game show designed to foster public or policymaker dialogue about the future of the American Dream, the role of technology in culture, and transformational sustainability scenario visioning and back-casting skills.

Nelson is broadly interested in the democratic governance of socio-technical change; modes of knowledge-making and knowledge use under high uncertainty and value dissonance; and the construction and propagation of modal narratives around wicked problems. He hopes his work can help influence the development of scientific knowledge and technological innovation to more broadly, inclusively, and equitably support plural public constituencies and values, and help to foster empathetic communication and cooperation around complex and controversial political issues.

2 PublicationsView All Publications

Selin, C., Lambert, L., Morain, S., Nelson, J. P., Barlevy, D., Farooque, M., Manley, H., & Scott, C. T. 2023. "Researching the future: scenarios to explore the future of human genome editing." BMC Medical Ethics, 24(1): Article 72.

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Kaplan, Leah, John Nelson, David Tomblin, Mahmud Farooque, Jason Lloyd, Mark Neff, Bjørn Bedsted, and Dan Sarewitz 2019. Cooling a Warming Planet? Public Forums on Climate Intervention Research.

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