Nelson Series: Citizen Science– Gwen Ottinger, Drexel University

October 26, 2017 Add to Calendar

7–8:30 p.m.


Shanahan Center, Auditorium
320 E. Foothill Blvd.
Claremont, CA 91711


"From Sensing to Sense-Making: The Next Frontier of Citizen Science”

Communities concerned about air quality have a growing variety of low-cost ways to find out what they’re breathing. Innovation in sensor technology, however, has outpaced our ability to make sense of the data new sensors produce. Gwen Ottinger’s current project takes up the problem of sense-making, collaborating with residents of communities adjacent to San Francisco Bay Area oil refineries to develop tools for accessing, annotating and visualizing data from real time ambient air toxics monitors. Combining political theory with practical insights from the development of, Ottinger argues that scientists and engineers are needed not only to invent new sensors but also to invent, in collaboration with communities, new conceptual frameworks that give meaning to sensor data.

Ottinger became interested in science and technology studies (STS) as an undergraduate engineering student in Georgia. As a graduate student in an interdisciplinary environmental studies program, she pursued questions about the human, political and environmental dimensions of science and technology. That led Ottinger to research the intersection of STS and environmental justice studies, focusing on social inequality in the distribution of environmental hazards and decision-making power.

At Drexel University, she teaches classes in science and technology policy, environmental politics and citizen science. Her research group, the Fair Tech Collective, welcomes students from all levels and backgrounds who are interested in mobilizing science and technology to empower environmental justice communities and uses an apprenticeship model: Students learn by doing alongside more experienced researchers. Ottinger’s book Refining Expertise: How Responsible Engineers Subvert Environmental Justice Challenges was awarded the 2015 Rachel Carson prize for being a work of social or political relevance by the Society for Social Studies of Science (4S). She has also received a CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation and serves as an elected member of the 4S Council and on editorial boards of Energy Research and Social Science and Citizen Science: Theory and Practice. Ottinger has been quoted in Grid Magazine, Public Source and by the National Public Radio affiliate WHYY, as well as other publications focusing on energy, design, science and the environment.

Admission to this public lecture series is complimentary. Unless otherwise specified, events are held in the auditorium of the R. Michael Shanahan Center for Teaching and Learning at Harvey Mudd College located at 320 E. Foothill Blvd., Claremont. A dessert reception follows each lecture.

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