Funding from the U.S. National Science Foundation and Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Supports Research Led by Ph.D. Candidate Danielle Bovenberg
Technology Management, a Department within UC Santa Barbara’s College of Engineering dedicated to research and education that informs and empowers our technology-driven world of work, has been awarded over $300,000 in grants from the U.S. National Science Foundation and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Funding will support research on the role of scientific support staff in the creation and dissemination of knowledge across core facilities. Technology Management Ph.D. Candidate Danielle Bovenberg will lead the research overseen by principal investigator Stephen R. Barley, Professor of Technology Management. Bovenberg’s research aims to understand the contributions that people in specialized technical staff roles make to science.
Since the 1980s, government agencies, firms, and industrial associations have founded and funded numerous “core facilities” – institutions that provide scientists in academia and industry access to instruments crucial for scientific research but too expensive for most universities and firms to provide for themselves. The National Science Foundation has been especially active in supporting core facilities, and the Sloan Foundation has also funded research on the creation and dissemination of scientific knowledge.
“Core facilities, which are run by full-time staff who are experts in the instruments and the processes to which the facilities provide access, are critical for scientific progress and technological innovation in nanotechnology, high-energy physics, biotechnology, and other fields,” said Stephen Barley. “Although anecdotal evidence suggests that the staff at core facilities are crucial to the creation and dissemination of scientific and technological knowledge, Bovenberg’s research is the first study to examine staff’s contributions to scientific and technological innovation.”
As scientists increasingly rely on complex instrumentation to conduct their research, support staff have become crucial to science. Often highly specialized and experienced, support staff maintain the equipment and help scientists translate their research idea into empirical reality. However, public understanding of scientific advancement tends to prominently feature the work of prototypical researchers, like professors and industry scientists, and tends to understate (or overlook) the contributions of people in staff roles. Likewise, current research has very few empirical accounts of how everyday science is done by staff interacting with researchers, especially in cases where staff members work with many different researchers over the course of their careers.
“My hope is that understanding the unique role that staff play at one type of core facility – nanofabrication facilities – will help us better understand the contributions of staff in science more generally,” said Danielle Bovenberg. “I’m hoping that by recognizing the variety of expertise and knowledge that it takes to get science done, we might ultimately reward it better, too. As a scholar of management and innovation, I also hope to contribute to what scholars know about the kinds of social interactions and expertise that drive innovation at today's research frontiers. As an empirical researcher, I am excited to document the work of the occupations that use their technical expertise to build bridges within and across scientific disciplines and who, in so doing, create and disseminate scientific and technical knowledge key to addressing many of today’s challenges – from climate change to public health risks.”
The U.S. National Science Foundation Science of Science: Discovery, Communication and Impact (SoS:DCI) program is designed to advance theory and knowledge about increasing the public value of scientific activity. Science of Science draws from multiple disciplinary and field perspectives to advance theory and research about scientific discovery, communication, and impact. The SoS:DCI program, which expands upon the former Science of Science and Innovation Policy (SciSIP) program, funds research that builds theoretical and empirical understanding of the social science of science.
The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation is a not-for-profit, mission-driven grantmaking institution dedicated to improving the welfare of all through the advancement of scientific knowledge. Established in 1934 by Alfred Pritchard Sloan Jr., then-President and Chief Executive Officer of the General Motors Corporation, the Foundation makes grants in four broad areas: direct support of research in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and economics; initiatives to increase the quality, equity, diversity, and inclusiveness of scientific institutions and the science workforce; projects to develop or leverage technology to empower research; and efforts to enhance and deepen public engagement with science and scientists.