Daniel Kleinman

Professor Emeritus

Education: Ph.D., 1992, University of Wisconsin

Professor Kleinman’s Curriculum Vitae

He now is a Professor of Sociology and Associate Provost for Graduate Affairs at Boston University.


Science, Higher Education and the 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 that 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.

Since 2003, my work in this area has moved in a number of different directions. In collaboration with Steven Vallas at Northeastern University, 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.

More recently, with Robert Osley-Thomas, I have explored the commercialization of higher education in the United States across fifty years, using a newly developed textual analytic technique. Among other things, our research suggests that the commercialization of US higher education is a complicated, uneven, contradictory, contested, and multifaceted process. Our work shows that the extent to which commercial identities and practices are viewed as legitimate in universities settings, varies, among other things, across time, by institutional type, and by an actor’s social position. In addition, we find that different types of commercial codes and practices prompt different levels of opposition.

Finally, in a collaboration with an interdisciplinary group of scholars, I have been studying the changing organization of academic science in terms of collaboration across disciplinary boundaries and the border between industry and academia. This work focuses on a single public-private interdisciplinary research institute, where we have collected ethnographic and interview data.

Examples of my work in this area:

Kleinman, Daniel Lee and Robert Osley Thomas. 2014. “Uneven Commercialization: Contradiction and Conflict in the Identity and Practices of American Universities.” Minerva. 52(1): 1-26.

Ignorance and Expertise: A second strand of my work in recent years focuses on the social production of ignorance and the politics of expertise through a study of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), a malady associated with the widespread death of honey bees. Honey bees pollinate much of the food we eat and thus understanding and taming CCD is crucial to consumers and farmers and has significant effects on agri-chemical companies and government regulators. In this work, my collaborator Sainath Suryanarayanan and I consider how the distinctive knowledge-making cultures of the major stakeholders in the controversy over CCD and the interactions between them shape the current debate over CCD, what we know and what we do not, who is viewed as an expert and who is not. Our analysis has allowed us to contribute to debates in Science and Technology Studies about expertise and the politics of knowledge and also to add our voices to public discussion. We have recently completed a book entitled Vanishing Bees: Science, Politics and Honey Bee Health (Rutgers University Press).

A sample of my work in this area:

Kleinman, Daniel Lee and Sainath Suryanarayanan. 2013. “Dying Bees and the Social Production of Ignorance.” Science, Technology, and Human Values. 38:4: 492-517

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.

In the early part of the decade I 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 in: Public Understanding of Science, the Bulletin of Science, Technology, and Society, and Science as Culture.

More recently, in this area, my collaboration on Colony Collapse Disorder with Sainath Suryanarayanan has involved attempting to develop a new form of collaboration among beekeepers, farmers, scientists, and others that can facilitate productive collaboration and allow the stakeholders to develop scientific research that can capture complexity and provide data of use to stakeholders and policymakers.

A sample of my work in this area:

Kleinman, Daniel Lee, Jason Delborne, and Ashley Anderson. 2009. “Engaging Citizens: The High Cost of Citizen Engagement in High Technology.” Public Understanding of Science. First Online.

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.

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 comprehending 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. The most recent volume of Controversies in Science and Technology was published by Oxford University Press in 2014 (http://ukcatalogue.oup.com/product/9780199383771.do).

A sample of my work in this area:

Kleinman and Suryanarayanan. “Honey Bees Under Threat,” The Guardian, May 8, 2013. http://www.theguardian.com/science/political-science/2013/may/08/honey-bees-threat-political-pollinator-crisis

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. I have addressed these issues in a wide array of work, including Impure Cultures: University Biology and the World of Commerce (2003) and “The Social Construction of Technology: Structural Considerations” (2002, with Hans Klein). More recently, I have contributed to these debates in collaborative papers that have appeared in Theory and Society (“Science and Neoliberal Globalization: A Political Sociological Approach,” 2011, with Kelly Moore, David Hess and Scott Frickel) and Social Studies of Science (“Be(e)coming Experts: The Controversy over Insecticides in the Honey Bee Colony Collapse Disorder,” 2013, with Sainath Suryanarayanan).

A sample of my work in this area:
Moore, Kelly, Daniel Lee Kleinman, David Hess, and Scott Frickel. 2011. “Science and Neoliberal Globalization: A Political Sociological Approach.” Theory and Society 40: 505-532.