Department of Community and Environmental Sociology, University of Wisconsin Madison

Daniel Kleinman

330 Agricultural Hall
1450 Linden Drive
Madison, WI 53706

(608) 265-3289

Office Hours: By appointment


Ph.D., 1992, University Of Wisconsin

Fall 2011 Classes:

Research Areas:

The Knowledge Economy

A central strand of my research since the mid-1990s, my work in this area began with an ethnographic study of a biology laboratory. My aim was to understand how the daily practices of people in the laboratory were affected by the commercialization of university science. This research led to my book, Impure Cultures: University Science and the World of Commerce (2003). In the volume, I argue that in understanding the character of the university in the age of the new knowledge economy it is a mistake to focus on formal university-industry relations and egregious violations of academic norms. Instead, we need to understand the informal and indirect effects of the culture of commerce on the daily practices of academic science.

Another path of this research is a collaboration in which I have been engaged for a number of years with Steven Vallas at Northeastern University. Vallas and I developed the concept of "asymmetrical convergence." The idea here is that the norms and practices of commerce are increasingly found in university settings, while the norms and practices of academia can be found in high technology industry. We argue that the "convergence" of these domains is "asymmetrical" because it is ultimately shaped by the logic of capital. Our work on asymmetrical convergence has been published in: two edited collections, Theory and Society, and Socio-Economic Review.

An example of my work in this area:

Politics of Science Policy

In some ways, this category encompasses my earliest area of investigation. My first book, Politics on the Endless Frontier: Postwar Research Policy in the United States (1995), explores the genesis of the federal research policy establishment in the United States after World War II and the simultaneous rise of a science elite in the US.

More recently, in collaboration with Abby Kinchy and other collaborators, I have studied the factors that shape the nature of the regulation of agricultural biotechnology, focusing especially on the conditions under which "social regulation" is seriously contemplated. Examining these issues, I have investigated policymaking in the United States, the European Union, the international arena, and, in less detail, several other countries. Our published work on this topic has appeared in: Sociological Quarterly, Science as Culture, and Agriculture and Human Values.

I have also considered broader science policy issues, including science policy during the Bush administration and the left's commitment to the "precautionary principle." A paper with Kinchy on Bush's science policy and the left's response appeared in Dissent.

A sample of my work in this area:

Science, Technology, and Democracy

A concern with the role of average citizens in determining policy on highly technical matters sits in the background of much of my research. I began to address this issue directly during the so-called "science wars" of the 1990s, when I wrote a piece for the Chronicle of Higher Education. Subsequently, I edited a collection of essays that addresses the theoretical issues and practical mechanics of the place of expertise and elite decision-making in a democracy. The volume is entitled Science, Technology, and Democracy.

More recently, I have had a direct role in the development of several experiments that promoted lay citizen involvement in carefully and systematically contemplating a current science policy issue. The first of these was in the spring of 2005. In collaboration with Maria Powell, and with the help of students in an undergraduate course I taught, I organized a consensus conference on nanotechnology. Drawing on a model developed in Denmark and utilized widely throughout the world, we organized a multi-day forum involving a diverse group of citizens from the Madison, Wisconsin area who studied and debated issues surrounding the funding, development and regulation of nanotechnology. Following our consensus conference, Powell and I wrote an analysis of the initiative. With Powell and other collaborators, I have written about a 2008 consensus conference-type initiative. Our essays in this area have appeared (or are forthcoming in: Public Understanding of Science ,the Bulletin of Science, Technology, and Society, and Science as Culture.

A sample of my work in this area:

Beyond the Academy

There is little question that the topics I explore in my research affect people well beyond the academy. As a consequence, I have tried to address non-scholars in much of my work. I have written a host of op-ed pieces on topics of relevance to the Madison-community. I have also written on policy matters of national relevance, including the science policies of George Bush (see above).

In my view, science literacy requires much more than understanding that the earth circles the sun, the components of atoms or the elements that make up oxygen. It demands understanding the values underlying debates in and about science and technology and the institutional landscapes on which science is done and technology is developed. In keeping with this belief, I have written a book about some very prominent debates in science and technology of broad public relevance. The volume is entitled Science and Technology in Society: From Biotechnology to the Internet (2005). In addition, with Jo Handelsman, I am the co-editor of a series of books that explore several sides of topical science and technology-related debates. Volume one in this series is called Controversies in Science and Technology: From Maize to Menopause. Volume two, will be published shortly, and is entitled Controversies in Science and Technology: From Climate to Chromosomes. Volume three is due out in 2010.

A sample of my work in this area:

Theory in Science and Technology Studies

Much of my work directly or indirectly aims to engage questions of theory in science and technology studies. My scholarship draws on concepts from political sociology, organizational studies, and political economy in an effort to rethink questions of power, boundaries, and structure and agency in technoscience. These kinds of issues are most directly and explicitly addressed in: Impure Cultures: University Biology and the World of Commerce (2003), "Untangling Context: Understanding a University Laboratory in the Commercial World" (1998), "The Social Construction of Technology: Structural Considerations" (2002, with Hans Klein), "Boundaries in Science Policymaking: Bovine Growth Hormone in the European Union" (2003, with Abby Kinchy).

In recent years, a body of compelling scholarship broadly consistent with my thinking on these issues has developed. Scott Frickel and Kelly Moore bring together some of this work in their The New Political Sociology of Science.

A sample of my work in this area: