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Award Abstract #1230794

Postdoctoral Fellowship: Constructing Spaceship Earth: UN Scientists and the Cold War Origins of Sustainable Development

Divn Of Social and Economic Sciences
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Initial Amendment Date: July 22, 2012
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Latest Amendment Date: July 22, 2012
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Award Number: 1230794
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Award Instrument: Standard Grant
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Program Manager: Linda Layne
SES Divn Of Social and Economic Sciences
SBE Direct For Social, Behav & Economic Scie
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Start Date: January 1, 2013
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End Date: December 31, 2013 (Estimated)
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Awarded Amount to Date: $75,000.00
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Investigator(s): Philippa Levine philippa@austin.utexas.edu (Principal Investigator)
Perrin Selcer (Co-Principal Investigator)
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Sponsor: University of Texas at Austin
101 E. 27th Street, Suite 5.300
Austin, TX 78712-1532 (512)471-6424
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Program Reference Code(s): 1353
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Program Element Code(s): 7603


This study investigates a key problem in the field of science and technology studies: how and why transnational expert communities create global scientific knowledge, and with what consequences. To do so, the study examines how the idea of global sustainable development became a vital concern for scientists, activists, and politicians during the quarter-century following World War II. Based on multinational archival research, including records at the United Nations (UN), it investigates international social and environmental scientific projects coordinated by UN agencies to analyze the development of a transnational community of experts united by shared values, norms, and practices that came to be known as sustainable development. By studying scientific projects affiliated with UN agencies, the key role of technical experts in the transition from an imperial to an international world order is illuminated. The study enriches understanding of the reciprocal relationship between values and science, demonstrating that for post-war internationalist scientists, the objective of basic research was to cultivate a world community of shared values. More broadly, this research contributes social and historical understanding of how expertise and democracy can be reconciled during periods of globalization.

The study trains a postdoctoral researcher, creates new course materials, and create academic publications that illuminates the postwar origins of the divide between a transnational community of experts that seeks solutions to local and national problems in further political and economic global integration, and publics who often feel alienated by the apparently irresistible forces of globalization.


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