CNS Adds Four New Seed Grantees

The Center for Nanotechnology in Society at UCSB, a National Science Foundation (NSF) national center that advances understanding of the relationships between technological innovation and societal change, announces the award of four new faculty seed grants under the second-year program Seed Grants on Societal Issues for New Technologies. The aim of this program is to generate new research and/or engagement projects that will involve new faculty participants in, and further the mission of the CNS. The four Seed Grant recipients were awarded direct funds up to $60,000 for 12-month projects. The second round awardees and projects are:

Driving Development: the Lithium Trade in Bolivia, Argentina and Chile

Javiera Barandiarán , Assistant Professor – Global & International Studies, UCSB

In the high Andes between these countries are found the world’s largest lithium reserves. This project investigates how Bolivia, Argentina and Chile are participating in the creation and deployment of an emerging technology: lithium batteries, used in electric vehicles, laptops, mobile phones, MP3s, and energy storage for solar power plants. This project will contribute to CNS IRG2 research on Latin American development.

Theorizing the Underlying Cognitive Mechanisms of Upstream Public Deliberation: Neuroscience, Identity Formations & Unconscious Bias

Edwina Barvosa, Associate Professor – Chicano Studies and Feminist Studies

CNS IRG3 research shows that public deliberation can be an effective means for the critical consideration of science governance policies. This research extends our knowledge of public deliberation by theorizing the underlying cognitive mechanisms operating in carefully staged deliberation practices. Scrutinizing these mechanisms may further reveal how public deliberation can serve to disrupt unconscious bias—a factor increasingly recognized as an obstacle to just and evidence-based policymaking in science governance and beyond.

Democratization of Creativity and the Growth of Inequality in 19th-Century America: Explaining the Origins of America's 21st-Century Economy

John Majewski, Professor – Department of History

A large part of this book-length project documents the processes which first produced widespread economic creativity and technological change.  The explosion in patenting before the Civil War, for example, is a complicated story, involving the rise of markets and economic incentives, the expansion of public education, the dissemination of knowledge through libraries and other civic institutions, and the growth of “habits of mind” that emphasized curiosity and valorized innovation. This seed grant will contribute to CNS IRG 1 on the history of innovation.

Does the US Nanotechnology Sector Suffer a Skills Gap?

Aashish Mehta, Professor – Global & International Studies

This project will investigate whether there is an unmet demand for highly skilled STEM workers in the nanotechnology sector, and, if so, what the missing skills are. This will help to shed light on the existence of a skills gap, and also on why technology professionals and social scientists disagree about this. Existing nationally representative datasets do not provide adequate information to answer these questions because they do not provide detailed measures of the skills workers possess, where/how they acquired them, or what skills employers are looking for. This project will contribute to IRG 2 on workplace effects of emerging technologies.