Integrated Search Menu

John Nelson

Grad Research Assistant
Graduate Assistant/Associate, DTPHX Campus, Mailcode 3720
Student Information:
Graduate Student
Human and Social Dimensions of Science and Technology
College of Global Futures


JP Nelson is a doctoral student and National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow in the Human and Social Dimensions of Science and Technology program in ASU's School for the Future of Innovation in Society.  His broad research interests include alignment of scientific research and technological development with societal needs and values; the role of expertise and scientific knowledge in democracy; and the evolution of expert practice on different classes of human problems.  His prior research has focused on participatory and anticipatory governance of emerging technologies, including solar geoengineering, autonomous vehicles, and human genome editing.  A grab bag of side projects includes a study of goal definition and reporting in the U.S. Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency--Energy, design of exercises and engagements to build anticipatory capacities in publics and policymakers, and a study of the ways in which astronomers talk about alien life.

Nelson's academic background includes training in moral philosophy, risk and complexity, the sociology and philosophy of science and technology, and the history of U.S. science policy.  As an undergraduate, Nelson worked as a research assistant on projects studying the construction of scientific authority in medical grey markets; social infrastructure for grassroots solar microgrid development; policymaking around big data and use of big data to inform public policy; and creative pedagogy and public engagement.  He has worked on educational or provocative games, interactive installations, and in one case, a game show designed to foster public or policymaker dialogue about the future of the American Dream, the role of technology in culture, and transformational sustainability scenario visioning and backcasting.

Nelson is broadly interested in the democratic governance of socio-technical change; modes of knowledge-making and knowledge use under high uncertainty and value dissonance; and the construction and propagation of modal narratives around wicked problems.  He hopes his work can help influence the development of scientific knowledge and technological innovation to more broadly, inclusively, and equitably support plural public constituencies and values, and help to foster empathetic communication and cooperation around complex and controversial political issues.


BS Innovation in Society, Highest Honors
Summa Cum Laude
Certificate:  Ethics
Honors Thesis:  Liminal Space:  Reflexive Roleplaying under Sociotechnical Uncertainty
Arizona State University, Tempe (AZ)

Research Interests: 

Public values in science; structure of research institutions; responsible research and innovation; anticipatory governance of emerging technologies; democracy in knowledge infrastructures


Kaplan, L., Nelson, J., Tomblin, D., Farooque, M., Sarewitz, D., Bedsted, B., Neff, M., and Lloyd, J. (2019). Exploring Democratic Governance of Geoengineering Research Through Public and Stakeholder Engagement. Consortium for Science, Policy & Outcomes, Washington, DC.

Nelson, J.P. (2020 [published online 2019]).  Mythic forecasts:  Researcher portrayals of extraterrestrial life discovery.  International Journal of Astrobiology 19(1), pp. 16-24.

Muldoon, A., Krum, L., Williams, P., Becker, B., Nelson, J.P., Pritchett, A., Brafman, D., & Frow, E. (2019).  Characterizing direct-to-consumer stem cell businesses in the Southwest US.  Stem Cell Reports 13(2), pp. 247-253.

Nelson, J.P. (July 5, 2018).  There won't be a single moment when we "discover" alien life.  Slate [online].  Retrieved from

Honors / Awards: 

National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship (Spring 2019)

Outstanding Graduate Award, School for the Future of Innovation in Society, Arizona State University (Spring 2018)

Moeur Award, Arizona State University (Spring 2018)

Barrett Honors College graduate with highest honors (Aug. 2014-May 2018)

Undergraduate Charter Award for Excellence, School for the Future of Innovation in Society, Arizona State University (Spring 2018)

Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi member (May 2017-May 2019)

Dean’s List, School for the Future of Innovation in Society, Arizona State University (Spring 2017; Fall 2017; Spring 2018)

Dean’s List, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Arizona State University (Fall 2014; Spring 2015; Fall 2015)

PAC-12 First Team All-Academic Award (Spring 2015; Fall 2015)

New American University Scholarship (full out-of-state undergraduate tuition) under National Merit Finalist program, Arizona State University (Aug. 2014-May 2018)


Editorial Assistant

Journal of Responsible Innovation

Graduate Faculties / Mentoring History: 

Graduate Fellowship Application Mentor, National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship

Arizona State University Office of National Scholarship Advising

Work History: 

School for the Future of Innovation in Society, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ

National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow (June 2019-present)

  • Presently performing public value-oriented qualitative analysis of creation, justification, and evaluation of the United States Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency—Energy research program
  • Performing literature review, data collection, and data analysis on “Participatory Governance of Emerging Technologies—Human Genome Editing,” a National of Institutes of Health-funded collaboration between SFIS and the Baylor College of Medicine aiming to develop policy recommendations regarding human genome editing based upon expert scenario development and robust public engagement.

Graduate Research Associate under Consortium for Science, Policy, & Outcomes Director Dr. Daniel Sarewitz and Associate Director Dr. Mahmud Farooque (May 2018-August 2019)

  • Performed workshop design, content development, event facilitation, data analysis, and publication drafting for “Exploring Democratic Governance of Solar Geoengineering Research,” an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation-funded project to study U.S. public views on geoengineering research.  Project aimed to bring underrepresented stakeholder groups into science policymaking processes and engaged 170 Phoenix and Boston residents in two seven-hour deliberations on the future of solar radiation management research.
  • Performed event facilitation and data analysis for “Our Driverless Futures,” a Charles Koch Foundation-funded project to study U.S. public views on the development and implementation of driverless vehicles.
  • Performed support work for HSD 517:  Uncertainty and Decision-Making (graduate science policy course); designed and implemented creative exercise on sources of epistemic uncertainty in scientific knowledge in class

Research Assistant to Dr. Michael Bennett (May-Sept. 2017)

  • Performed research on the legal right of publicity

Research Assistant to Dr. Darshan Karwat (May-Sept. 2017)

  • Studied current state of lay-audience resources for solar microgrid construction and opportunities to develop additional support resources

Research Assistant to Dr. Lauren Withycombe Keeler (May-Sept. 2017)

  • Designed and implemented AudaCITY, a game designed to teach strategic sustainability scenario visioning and value-oriented futures thinking skills to municipal executives

Co-Chair, 2021 STGlobal Organizing Committee

Planning, Consortium, and Content Committee Member for 2020 STGlobal Conference

  • Developed and implemented content, programming, and communications for a two-day, graduate-student-run science and technology studies and policy conference.

Grant Application Reviewer for 2019 Changemaker Central Community Action Grant, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ

Graduate Fellowship Mentor at Office of National Scholarship Advising, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ (National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, 2019-2020 cycle)

  • Advised ASU graduate fellowship applicants on strategy, organization, and writing for the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship

Intern at Center for the Study of Futures, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ (January 2017-May 2018)

  • Performed public science policy and creative civic discourse engagements (see “Presentations and Events”).  Engagement exercises are designed to foster value-oriented futures thinking and civil civic discourse among stakeholders alienated from policymaking processes.