CSPO People

Other CSPO Affiliates

Gwen Ottinger

Drexel University Center for Science, Technology, and Society


I became interested in science and technology studies (STS) as an undergraduate engineering student. When my flight performance professor off-handedly mentioned fuel dumping, I immediately wanted to know: Dumping on whom? With what consequences? And who gets to decide whether that’s okay? As a graduate student, I pursued questions about the human, political, and environmental dimensions of science and technology in an interdisciplinary environmental studies program, and came to situate my research at the intersection of STS and environmental justice (EJ) studies, which focus on social inequality in the distribution of environmental hazards and decision-making power.

In my work, my overarching goals are to:

  • Analyze the environmental justice implications of current modes of scientific research, technological innovations, and relations of expertise; and
  • Envision and implement more environmentally just forms of science, technology, and expertise.

Because I want to use scholarly understandings help make change in the world, I see teaching students about social justice, collaborating with engineers and scientists, and setting up projects in which social movement activists are valued participants as essential components of achieving my goals.

My current project, funded by a CAREER award from the National Science Foundation, follows the development of technologies used to measure air toxics levels in communities adjacent to oil refineries, from user-friendly “bucket” air samplers to high-tech real-time air monitors.  It examines the ethical claims that have been associated with bucket activism–and how those may be shifting as more sophisticated technologies, requiring closer collaboration with experts from industry and regulatory agencies, become more common.  As part of the project, I will work with activists to develop tools to tell better stories with voluminous air data, and to develop a community-based engineering ethics course.


1 PublicationView All Publications

Gutkind, Lee, Guston, David and Ottinger, Gwen. 2012. "To Think, To Write, To Publish." The Cairo Review of Global Affairs, 5.

Download PDF