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Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

Abby Kinchy of Rensselaer To Discuss Social Perspectives on Hydraulic Fracturing at AAAS Annual Meeting

February 14, 2011

Abby Kinchy of Rensselaer To Discuss Social Perspectives on Hydraulic Fracturing at AAAS Annual Meeting

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Professor To Present “Fractious Citizens: Sociological Perspectives on the Hydraulic Fracturing Controversy”

A drilling rig in northeastern Pennsylvania. Photo Credit: Abby Kinchy

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Assistant Professor Abby Kinchy will discuss local perspectives on shale gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale region of New York and Pennsylvania on Feb. 20 during the 2011 American Association for the Advancement of Science Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C.

Kinchy, a sociologist and assistant professor of science and technology studies, researches social conflicts surrounding potentially controversial scientific innovations, such as genetically engineered food and new technologies to extract natural gas from previously inaccessible sources. Kinchy will present on Sunday, Feb 20, from 9 to 9:30 a.m. in room 147B of the Washington Convention Center during the symposium titled “Fractures Developing: The Science, Policy, and Perception of Shale Gas Development.”

“As fossil fuels are becoming scarce, natural gas from ‘unconventional’ sources like the Marcellus Shale has been promoted as a promising new source of domestic energy. My research looks at what gas development looks like from the perspective of people who live in the rural communities where it is happening,” Kinchy said.

Before turning to the topic of natural gas drilling, Kinchy’s research focused on the politics of genetically modified food and historical opposition to the atomic bomb. Examples of Kinchy’s published work include “Anti-genetic engineering activism and scientized politics in the case of ‘contaminated’ Mexican maize,” in the most recent  issue of Agriculture & Human Values; “Epistemic Boomerang: Expert Policy Advice as Leverage in the Campaign Against Transgenic Maize in Mexico,” which appears in the June 2010 edition of Mobilization; “African Americans in the Atomic Age: Post-War Perspectives on Science, Technology and the Bomb, 1945-1960,” published in the April 2009 issue of Technology & Culture; and “Local Variation or Global Convergence in Agricultural Biotechnology Policy? A Comparative Analysis,” co-written by Kinchy, Daniel Lee Kleinman, and Robyn Autry in the June 2009 issue of Science and Public Policy.

While much of the debate about hydraulic fracturing has focused on the environmental or health hazards it might pose (the United States Environmental Protection Agency has begun an ambitious study to investigate this topic), Kinchy will discuss the social, economic, and cultural, issues at the heart of the conflict.

Kinchy, whose work is supported by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), will be joined in the seminar by John P. Martin of NYSERDA  and Anthony W. Gorody, of Universal Geoscience Consulting Inc. To learn more about Kinchy and her work, visit her website at

Contact: Mary L. Martialay
Phone: (518) 276-2146