Professor Abby Kinchy

Abby Kinchy is a Professor in the Department of Science and Technology Studies at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, USA. She has worked at Rensselaer since receiving her doctorate is in Sociology and Rural Sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2007.

Broadly speaking, Professor Kinchy’s research illuminates the politics of science and explores changing forms of public participation in the making of science and technology. Topically, her research focuses on agriculture and the environment, with recent studies centring on questions about the mining and fossil fuel industries. She is the author of two books: Seeds, Science, and Struggle: The Global Politics of Transgenic Crops (MIT Press, 2012) and Science by the People: Participation, Power, and the Politics of Environmental Knowledge (Rutgers University Press, August 2019, with co-author Aya Kimura). A major theme of her research is “citizen science,” or the myriad ways that publics engage in scientific research to address environmental challenges.

Throughout her career, Professor Kinchy has played an important role in shaping the field of interdisciplinary scholarship on science, technology, and the environment. She has served as an elected council member of the Society for Social Studies of Science (4S) as well as the Science, Knowledge, and Technology section of the American Sociological Association. She is currently on the editorial boards of Engaging Science, Technology, and Society and the Critical Environments series at the University of California Press. As one of the few sociologists who has closely studied the rapid development of shale oil and gas reserves in North America over the last decade, Professor Kinchy provides intellectual leadership to the international “STS Underground” network. This research network aims to investigate mining, burial, and subterranean exploration from an STS (science, technology, and society) perspective.

The purpose of Professor Kinchy’s residence at Durham University is to develop a collaborative research grant with Jessica Lehman in the Geography Department, while helping to advance that department’s interests in community-based and participatory research. The title of the project with Dr Lehman is “Fuelling Adaptation: The Science and Politics of Climate Vulnerability in Centres of Fossil Fuel Extraction.” This research examines the lived connections between fossil fuel extraction and climate impacts, aiming to illuminate how people near sites of coal, oil, and natural gas production think about, prepare for, and adapt to climate disasters. How do the impacts of climate change and resource extraction intersect, and how do local planners, social service providers, scientific advisors, and political leaders understand these interactions?

In addition to this collaborative project, Professor Kinchy will conduct research for a book project about the “residues” of the global lead industry. This study, funded by the US National Science Foundation, explores sites of soil contamination in the United States, England, Australia, and Chile.