Faculty Feature

Meet Dr. Scott Brennen, the new Senior Policy Associate in the Center on Science & Technology Policy.

In November, we had the pleasure of welcoming Dr. Scott Babwah Brennen to our team. He will be serving alongside Matt Perault as the Senior Policy Associate for the Center on Science & Technology Policy. His journey into the world of science and technology policy uniquely positions him to serve in this role. We’ve asked him a few questions about why he came to Duke, and what he hopes to accomplish through the Center.

Scott Brennen
Scott was the key-note speaker of the workshop of the European Science-Media Hub on 6th February
picture : Emilie GOMEZ © European Union 2019 – Source : EP

Can you tell us a bit about your career path before coming to work at Duke?

I have taken a somewhat unusual path to science & technology policy. While completing an undergraduate degree in Chemistry at Grinnell College, I read Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions and realized that I was more interested in studying science and technology than in being a scientist. After serving as a high school chemistry teacher in Mozambique with the Peace Corps, I was a park fellow at the Hussman School of Journalism and Media at UNC. At UNC, I completed an MA and then a PhD in Media and Communication, focusing on science communication and science and technology studies. In addition to working on a range of topics from the commercialization of the space sector, to the design of mobile health apps and the history of science journalism, my dissertation traced changes in the production and circulation of public communication about science through an in-depth look at communication concerning direct detection of dark matter experiments.


“I have taken a somewhat unusual path to science & technology policy…”

When I finished my doctorate, I took a position as a post-doctoral research fellow at the University of Oxford, where I led research for the Oxford Martin Programme on Misinformation, Science, and Media. This collaborative project among the Reuters Institute for the Study of journalism, the Oxford Internet Institute, and the Oxford Martin School investigated online misinformation about science, technology, and health. In my time at Oxford, I authored a series of policy-oriented reports and academic articles including on the public discussion of AI, science and technology reporting, news coverage of cultured meat, and misinformation concerning COVID-19.


What role will you be playing within the Center on Science & Technology Policy?

As senior policy associate, I’ll be working closely with Matt on a range of projects and initiatives. Most importantly, I’ll be leading on a series of science and technology policy-related research projects, including examinations of the Facebook and Google ban on political advertising during the final days of the 2020 election, and the recent rise of right-wing social platforms. I will also continue research I began at Oxford on AI imaginaries and misinformation about science and technology. I will facilitate opportunities for policy engagement in the US and abroad, coordinate a series of events and workshops at the Center, meet and network with other science and tech policy researchers and analysts at Duke and across the Triangle, and teach courses on science & tech policy.


“Since it began, the Center on Science and Technology Policy has been doing thoughtful, timely, and important work on some of the most pressing public problems we face…”

What excites you about the work you’ll be doing with the Center?

Since it began, the Center on Science and Technology Policy has been doing thoughtful, timely, and important work on some of the most pressing public problems we face. Joining the Center allows me to leverage my expertise as a communication scholar and my experience researching and writing about misinformation and the public communication of science and technology. At the same time, being part of the Center allows me to join the rich community of scholars studying issues in science and technology policy at Duke.


What goals do you have for the Center moving forward?

We intend that the Center continues to offer timely and actionable insight into the most critical issues in science and technology policy. It is more important than ever that we have empirically based research and thoughtful insight into the many issues surrounding the regulation of science and technology and that we translate that research into actionable policy tools. We also hope the Center can help bridge and connect the important science and technology policy-related work and events happening at Duke. Similarly, as an academic located policy institute, we believe the Center is well-positioned to convene and mediate between academia, industry, government, and social organizations, facilitating dialogue and helping to generate new insights and ideas. Finally, as part of Science & Society, the Center on Science and Technology Policy has a mission to be a champion for just, ethical, and socially-minded technological development and regulation.


We are thrilled to have Scott on board with us and look forward to updating you on the work he does through the Center. To get in touch with Scott, you can find his contact information here.


Learn More about the Center on Science & Technology Policy

For more information on the Center on Science & Technology Policy, please visit our website.