Barbara Herr Harthorn


Contact Phone

(805) 893-3350

Office Location

HSSB 2074 (Anthropology)
HSSB 2059 (Anthropology Lab)


Sociocultural Anthropology (medical anthropology, psychological anthropology, risk and perception, environmental and health inequality, science, technology and society, gender, race and new technologies, public engagement/deliberation, immigration and health, mixed methods for social research, collaborative interdisciplinary research)


BA, Anthropology, Bryn Mawr College, Bryn Mawr, PA

PhD, Anthropology, UCLA

NIMH Postdoctoral training, Social Psychology, UCSB


I am a medical and psychological anthropologist, and also hold affiliated faculty appointments in the departments of Feminist Studies and Sociology, and the Interdepartmental PhD Emphasis in Environment & Society. My current research broadly examines culture and health, technological risk and perception, and responsible development and innovation. I served from 2005-2017 as Director and lead Principal Investigator of the NSF national center, the Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center: Center for Nanotechnology in Society at UCSB (CNS-UCSB), and have served since 2008 as a researcher and executive committee member in the NSF and EPA-funded national center, the UC Center for Environmental Implications of Nanotechnology (UC CEIN) at UCLA. I received my B.A. with Honors in Anthropology from Bryn Mawr College, and my M.A. and Ph.D. in Anthropology, training primarily in the SocioBehavioral Group, now Center for Culture and Health, in the School of Medicine at UCLA. Following completion of the PhD, I completed 3 years of postdoctoral training in Social Psychology at UCSB with NIMH support.


Beginning in 2004, I have led an international, interdisciplinary team of researchers using mixed quantitative and qualitative social science research methods to study risk and benefit perceptions regarding new technologies among diverse expert, industry and public stakeholders in the US and abroad. Technologies of focus have included nanotechnologies (for energy, health), new technologies for unconventional oil and gas extraction ('fracking'), and, most recently, synthetic biology/gene editing and synthetic cells. My publications include The Social Life of Nanotechnology (2012, Routledge, with John Mohr) and Risk, Culture & Health Inequality: Shifting Perceptions of Danger and Blame (2003, Greenwood/Praeger, with Laury Oaks) and numerous chapters, reports, and articles in risk analysis, social science, science and technology studies, science policy, environmental science, and nanoscience journals. I have provided expert testimony on science and society issues to the US Congressional National Nanotechnology Caucus, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), the National Academies of Science (NAS), and to the leaders of the US National Nanotechnology Initiative, as well as serving as a US delegate to US-EC meetings on responsible development of converging technologies. I was a founding board member of the international Society for the Study of Nanoscience and Emerging Technologies (S.NET) and was elected to Fellowship in the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2008.

In particular, my nanotechnology in society research in the past 15 years has focused on diverse people's ideas about perceived environmental and health risk, as they attach to new technologies, with an emphasis on understanding how social location and past experiences of inequality affect the way people make sense of both the promises and potential pitfalls of new technologies. My past work has focused on the social production of health inequality among California farmworkers, on the preparedness of primary care physicians in the US to serve as gatekeepers to mental health services, and on the role of gender in the production and treatment of illness in rural Fiji.



My projects in the past 16 years (2004-2020) have included:

  • Public and expert perceptions of synthetic cells. This project grew out of my participation in a NSF Ideas Lab on Building Synthetic Cells in Feb 2019.  In collaboratrion with colleagues at University of British Columbia in Vancouver, I am a PI on 2 NSF Collaborative Grants funded in Sept 2019, one on constructing a Synthetic Neuron and Neuronal System, and the other on building a Proteocell. Project collaborators include synthetic cell scientists and engineers at 11 other leading US research institutions. The work is funded through 2023 and 2022 and includes qualitative research on public and expert risk and benefit perceptions and quantitative  surveys of representative US publics.

  • Public and expert perceptions of synthetic biology/gene editing. In collaboration with colleagues at University of British Columbia, this project is pursuing a series of qualitative and quantitative studies of gene editing technologies, an issue of rapidly rising concern and debate in the US and around the globe.

  • Public deliberation and engagement on issues concerning responsible development and innovation of new nanotechnologies, and unconventional oil and gas technologies:  in this work we have conducted a series of deliberative workshops (that are focus-group like in format, although far more intensive, lasting 1/2 to a full day) about nanotechnologies for health and energy (US & UK 2007), gender and risk perception about nanotechnologies for health and energy (US 2009), and unconventional oil and gas (US & UK 2014). This research is primarily qualitative, based on depth narrative analysis of dialogue from the workshops. Results have been presented to national and international governance organizations and entities, industry leaders, science and engineering experts, and wider publics.

  • Public perceptions of the risks and benefits of new nanotechnologies being developed across an array of applications and industries--in this work we conducted a series of surveys of large representative samples of US publics, focusing on trust, affect, and vulnerability as factors in risk perception, exploring benefit perception in a number of novel ways enabled by a long period of very low public awareness about nanotechnologies, and examining particular applications and their interactions with emergent perceptions. Environmental risk perception was a particular focus of a series of surveys and studies.
  • Industry leaders' risk perceptions and workplace safety--we conducted 2 surveys of the international nanomaterials industry (2006, 2009-10) based on extensive phone interviews.
  • Expert perceptions--we've also conducted an extensive set of interviews of nanoscientists and engineers, and a large-scale survey of scientists, toxicologists and regulators about potential and known risks of manufactured nanomaterials and the US regulatory system's capacities to provide adequate oversight.
  • NGOs--we've surveyed the global activities of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and civil society organizations (CSOs) in response to perceived risks posed by engineered nanomaterials and their nano-enabled products to health, environment, consumer product safety, and society more broadly.

Prior research projects include:

  • Farmworker health--from 1994-2005 I conducted a series of studies of Latina/o farmworker health in California looking in particular at historical and contemporary treatment of immigrants with TB, maternal health, and exposure to agricultural chemicals
  • Primary care physicians as gatekeepers to mental health care--this project (1984-1988) studied California physicians in a range of treatment settings to assess and intervene with their knowledge and diagnostic practices about patients presenting with mental health problems
  • Gender and affective disorder--my dissertation research in a small rural in the South Pacific island nation of Fiji (1979-1983) examined gendered patterns of health, illness and treatment, particularly focused on anxiety and depression



Books, Edited Volumes

Harthorn, BH and JW Mohr, eds. (2012) The Social Life of Nanotechnology, foreword by John Seely Brown. New York: Routledge.

Pidgeon, N, Harthorn, BH, & T Satterfield, Eds. (2011) Nanotechnology Risk Perceptions and Communication: Emerging Technologies, Emerging Challenges. Risk Analysis (special issue on Nanotechnology Risk Perception), 31(11), 1694–1783. doi: 10.1111/j.1539-6924.2011.01738.x

Harthorn, BH and L. Oaks, eds. Risk, Culture, and Health Inequality: Shifting Perceptions of Danger and Blame, foreword by Dorothy Nelkin. New York: Greenwood/Praeger.


Selected Recent Articles

Harthorn, BH. In press. Review of Neda Atanasoski & Kalindi Vora, Surrogate Humanity: Race, Robots, and the Politics of Technological Futures. 2019, Duke Univ Press, 256 pp. American Ethnologist 47(3) (expected Aug 2020).

Harthorn, BH, L. Halcomb, T. Partridge, M. Thomas, C. Enders, & N. Pidgeon. 2019. Health Risk Perception and Shale Development in the UK and US. Health, Risk & Society. doi 10.1080/13698575.2019.1601685

Partridge, T., M. Thomas, N. Pidgeon, BH Harthorn (corresponding author). 2019. Disturbed Earth: Conceptions of the deep underground in shale extraction deliberations in the US and UK. Environmental Values 28: 641-663.

Satterfield, T, M. Collins, BH Harthorn. (2019). Perceiving resilience: Understanding people's intuitions about the qualities of air, water, and soil. Ecology & Society 23(4):47

Partridge, T, M Thomas, N Pidgeon, BH Harthorn (corresponding author). (2018). Urgency in energy justice: Contestation and time in prospective shale extraction in the United States and United Kingdom. Energy Research and Social Sciences 42:138-146.

Thomas, M., N.Pidgeon, T. Partridge, BH Harthorn. (2018). Using role-play to explore energy perceptions in the US and UK. Energy Research and Social Sciences 45 (Nov): 363-373.

Thomas, M, Partridge, T., Harthorn, BH, Pidgeon, N (2017) Deliberating the perceived risks, benefits, and societal implications of shale gas and oil extraction by hydraulic fracturing in the US and UK. Nature Energy 2, Published online 10 April, 17054  doi:10.1038/nenergy.2017.54

Partridge, T, Thomas, M, Harthorn, BH* (corresponding author), Pidgeon N, Hasell, A., Stevenson, L,, & Enders, C.. Seeing futures now: Emergent US and UK views on shale development, climate change and energy systems. Global Environmental Change 42 (Jan 2017):1-12. Available online 16 November 2016

Thomas, M, Pidgeon, N, Partridge, T, Evensen, D, Hasell, A, Enders, C, Harthorn, BH & Bradshaw, M.  (2017) Public perceptions of hydraulic fracturing for shale gas and oil in the United States and Canada. WIREs Climate Change Published Online: Feb 09 2017 DOI: 10.1002/WCC.450.

Beaudrie, C., T Satterfield, M Kandlikar, and BH Harthorn. (2014) Scientists vs. Regulators: Precaution, Novelty & Regulatory Oversight as Predictors of Perceived Risks of Engineered Nanomaterials. PLoS One 9(9): e106365. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0106365.

Beaudrie, C., T Satterfield, M Kandlikar, and BH Harthorn. (2013) Expert views on regulatory preparedness for managing the risks of nanotechnologies. PLoS One 8(11): 380250. Nov 11, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0080250

Engeman, CD, L Baumgartner, BM Carr, AM Fish, JD Meyerhofer, TA Satterfield, PA Holden & BH Harthorn* (*corresp. author).  (2013) The hierarchy of environmental, health, and safety practices in the US nanotechnology workplace. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene 10(9): 487-495. doi: 10.1080/15459624.2013.818231

Roco, MC, WS Bainbridge, B Tonn, and G Whitesides, Eds. (2013) BH Harthorn, Contributor. Convergence of Knowledge, Technology and Society. New York: Springer.

Satterfield, TA,  J Conti, BH Harthorn, N Pidgeon and A Pitts. (2012) Understanding shifting perceptions of nanotechnologies and their implications for policy dialogues about emerging technologies. Science and Public Policy. First published online November 18, 2012 doi:10.1093/scipol/scs084

Engeman, CD, L Baumgartner, BM Carr, AM Fish, JD Meyerhofer, TA Satterfield, PA Holden & BH Harthorn* (*corresponding author).  (2012) Governance implications of nanomaterials companies’ inconsistent risk perceptions and safety practices. Journal of Nanoparticle Research, 14(749), 1-12. doi: 10.1007/s11051-012-0749-0

Rogers, J, C Shearer & BH Harthorn. (2011) Debating Nano/Bio technological alteration of food: Public deliberation and cultural logics. Special issue on food, Environment and Society: Advances in Research 2(1): 149-169. doi:10.3167/ares.2011.020109

Pidgeon, N, BH Harthorn & TA Satterfield, Eds. (2011) Nanotechnology Risk Perceptions and Communication: Emerging Technologies, Emerging Challenges. Risk Analysis (special issue on Nanotechnology Risk Perception), 31(11), 1694–1783. doi: 10.1111/j.1539-6924.2011.01738.x

Pidgeon, N, BH Harthorn & TA Satterfield.  (2011) Nanotechnology Risk Perceptions and Communication: Emerging Technologies, Emerging Challenges. Risk Analysis, 31(11), 1694–1700. doi: 10.1111/j.1539-6924.2011.01738.x

Roco, MC, BH Harthorn, D Guston & P Shapira. (2011) Innovative and responsible governance of nanotechnology for societal development. Journal of Nanoparticle Research 13(9), 3557-3590. doi: 10.1007/s11051-011-0454-4

Conti, J, TA Satterfield & BH Harthorn. (2011) Vulnerability and social justice as factors in emergent US nanotechnology risk perceptions. Risk Analysis [published online March 2011 DOI: 10.1111/j.1539-6924.2011.01608.x]


Selected Recent Book Chapters

Harthorn, BH, T. Satterfield, N Pidgeon. In Press (2020). Nanotoxicology and risk perception among public and elite groups. In Nanotoxicology, ed. J. Lead, ch. 8. Springer.

Barbara Herr Harthorn, Terre Satterfield, Nick Pidgeon Pidgeon, N, Thomas, M, Partridge, T,  Evensen, D, Harthorn, BH. (2017). Hydraulic Fracturing: Is It a New Energy Transition? In Risk Conundrums: Solving Unsolvable Problems, Kasperson Roger, Ed.,

Pidgeon, N, Harthorn, BH, Satterfield, T, & Demski, C (2017). Cross-National Comparative Communication and Deliberation about the Risks of Nanotechnologies. In KH Jamieson, D Scheufele, and D Kahan (Eds.), Oxford Handbook on the Science of Science Communication, pp 141-156. Oxford University Press.

Harthorn, BH. (2017). Nanotechnologies in Societal Context: Social, Ethical, and Governance Issues. In Bharat Bhushan, Ed., Springer Handbook of Nanotechnology, Fourth Edition, ch. 44. Switzerland: Springer.

Harthorn, BH. (2017). Nanotechnology. In BS Turner (Ed.), The Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Social Theory. Wiley-Blackwell.

Harthorn, Barbara Herr, Pidgeon, Nick & Satterfield, Terre. (2016) CNS Synthesis Report on IRG 3: Understanding Nanotechnologies’ Risks and Benefits: Emergence, Expertise & Upstream Participation, pp. 1-56. Santa Barbara, CA: CNS-UCSB. Available for download at:

Fastman, B, Metzger, M, & Harthorn, BH. (2016) Forging New Connections between Nanoscience and Society in the UCSB Center for Nanotechnology in Society Science & Engineering Fellows Program. In K Winkelmann & B Bhushan (Eds), Global Perspectives of Nanoscience and Engineering Education (pp.375-393). Switzerland: Springer. doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-31833-2_14

Harthorn, BH. (2016). Unifying ethical concepts. In William Bainbridge, William Sims & Mihail Roco (Eds.), Handbook of Science and Technology Convergence, ch. 54. Switzerland: Springer International. Switzerland: Springer International Publishing. ISBN-13: 978-3319070513 ISBN-10: 3319070517. Online publication 2015 DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-04133-2_54-1

Harthorn, Barbara Herr. (2016). Techno-benefits and social risks. In Lenore Manderson, Anita Hardon & Elizabeth Cartwright (Eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Medical Anthropology, ch. 13. London: Routledge.

Randles, S, J Youtie, D Guston, BH Harthorn, C Newfield, P Shapira, F Wickson, A Rip, R von Schomberg, R. and N Pidgeon. (2013) A Trans-Atlantic conversation on responsible innovation and responsible governance. In van Lenet, H. et al (eds) Little by Little; Expansions of Nanoscience and Emerging Technologies. IOS Press, 169-180.

Shearer, C, J Rogers-Brown, K Bryant, R Cranfill, & BH Harthorn (2013) Power and Vulnerability: Re-contextualizing 'low risk' views of environmental and health hazards. In S. Maret (Ed.), Research in Social Problems and Public Policy, Vol 21, William R. Freudenburg, a Life in Social Research (pp. 235-257). Bingley, UK: Emerald Group Publishing Limited.

Harthorn, BH, & J Mohr (2012) Introduction: The social scientific view of nanotechnologies. In BH Harthorn and J Mohr (Eds.), The Social Life of Nanotechnology, pp. 1-15. New York: Routledge.

Rogers-Brown, J, C Shearer, BH Harthorn, & T Martin. (2012) Different uses, different responses: Exploring emergent cultural values through public deliberation. In BH Harthorn and J Mohr (Eds.), The Social Life of Nanotechnology, pp. 195-222. New York: Routledge.

Harthorn, BH, J Rogers, C Shearer, & T Martin. (2012) Debating Nanoethics: U.S. public perceptions of nanotechnology applications for energy and the environment. In D Scott & B Francis (Eds.), Debating Science: Deliberation, Values, and the Common Good (2nd ed., pp. 227-249). New York: Prometheus Books.

Harthorn, BH, C Shearer, & J Rogers. (2012) Risk perception, public participation, and sustainable global development of nanotechnologies. In R Parker & RP Appelbaum (Eds.), Emerging Economies, Emerging Technologies: Can Emerging Technologies Make a Difference in Development? pp. 188-197. New York: Routledge.

Harthorn, BH, C Shearer, & J Rogers. (2011) Exploring ambivalence: Techno-enthusiasm and skepticism in US nanotech deliberations.  In Quantum Engagements: Social Reflections of Nanoscience and Emerging Technologies, Eds. TB. Zülsdorf, C Coenen, A Ferrari, U Fiedeler, C Milburn, & M Wienroth, pp. 75-89.  Amsterdam: IOS Press.

Harthorn, BH. (2011) Methodological challenges posed by emergent nanotechnologies and cultural values. In The Handbook of Emergent Technologies and Social Research, Ed. SN Hesse-Biber, pp. 65-88. New York: Oxford University Press.

Roco, M, BH Harthorn, D Guston, & P Shapira. (2011) Innovative and responsible governance of nanotechnology for societal development. In M Roco & MC Hersam (Eds.), Nanotechnology Research Directions for Societal Needs in 2020 (pp. 561-618). Boston and Berlin: Springer.



Since joining the Department of Anthropology in 2013, I have offered the following courses:


ANTH 104: Risk & Inequality (Spring 2014, Fall 2015)

ANTH 138: The Anthropology of Environmental Health (Spring 2019)

ANTH 157L: Medical Anthropology (Winter 2015, Spring, 2018, Fall 2018)


ANTH 219: Anthropology of Risk (Spring 2015)

ANTH 240B: Research Design & Writing in Sociocultural Anthropology (Winter 2014, Winter 2016, Winter 2018, Fall 2019)

ANTH 250BH: Ecofeminism (Fall, 2017)

ANTH 250BH: Anthropology of Science, Technology and Society (Spring, 2020)