Shobita Parthasarathy is Professor of Public Policy and Women's Studies, and Director of the Science, Technology, and Public Policy Program, at the University of Michigan. She studies the governance of emerging science and technology as well as the politics of evidence and expertise in policymaking, in comparative and international perspective.
She is the author of numerous articles and two books. Her second book, Patent Politics: Life Forms, Markets, and the Public Interest in the United States and Europe, (University of Chicago Press, 2017) compares recent controversies over life form patents in the United States and Europe and demonstrates how political culture, ideology, and history shape patent systems in fundamental ways. It won the 2018 Robert K. Merton Prize from the American Sociological Association's Science, Knowledge, and Technology section. Her first book, Building Genetic Medicine: Breast Cancer, Technology, and the Comparative Politics of Health Care (MIT Press, 2007), compared the development of genetic testing for breast cancer in the United States and Britain. Findings from this book helped to inform the 2013 US Supreme Court case over gene patents.
Her new project has two dimensions. The first aims to develop a better understanding of efforts to use science and technology to alleviate poverty and inequality, with a focus on India. The second explores the global politics of knowledge regarding these efforts, in an effort to understand why and how certain approaches to technology and poverty tend to dominate discussions and recommendations by international institutions. She is a Faculty Affiliate in UM's Science, Technology, and Society program. She sits on the Governing Council of the Science and Democracy Network and previously served on the Council of the Society for the Social Studies of Science.
To support her research, Prof. Parthasarathy has received fellowships and grants from the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Max Planck Institute for Intellectual Property, Competition, and Tax Law (Germany), the American Bar Foundation, the Wellcome Trust (UK), the National Science Foundation, and various programs at the University of Michigan.
Prof. Parthasarathy is committed to bringing academic insights into practice and policy. In this spirit, she teaches graduate and undergraduate students across a wide variety of fields, including public policy, the natural and physical sciences, and engineering. She has written for The New York Times, Nature, and The Conversation, and has been interviewed by PBS, The New Scientist, the San Diego Union Tribune, and German ARD Radio among other outlets. She is a fellow of the Center for Democracy and Technology and has advised the American Civil Liberties Union; US Government Accountability Office; European Patent Office; Dutch Medical Biotechnology Commission; Secretary's Advisory Committee on Genetics, Health, and Society (US Department of Health and Human Services); Austrian Genome Research Programme; Policy Committee of the University of Michigan's Consortium for Stem Cell Therapies; and individual members of the US Congress. Until recently, she sat on the Board of Directors of Breast Cancer Action, a health justice advocacy group.
Earlier in her career, Prof. Parthasarathy held postdoctoral fellowships at Northwestern University, the University of California—Los Angeles, and University of Cambridge. She has also worked for the National Academy of Sciences, RAND, Center for Science in the Public Interest, and the White House Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments. She holds Masters and PhD degrees in Science and Technology Studies from Cornell University and a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology from the University of Chicago.
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