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Department of Science and Technology Studies

Cornell University Cornell University Cornell University Science and Technology Studies

Rebecca Slayton




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Viewing Eclipse Circa 1930


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Rebecca Slayton

Assistant Professor

R. Slaytonemail:
fax: 607-255-6044
room: 320 Morrill Hall and 130C Uris Hall

Office Hours, Fall 2016:
M 11:15 - 12:15, 320 Morrill Hall
R 1:30 - 2:30, 130C Uris Hall
or by appointment


Ph.D., Chemical and Chemical Biology, Harvard University
M.A., Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Harvard University
B.S., Chemistry, Westmont College

Research Focus

Professor Rebecca Slayton’s research examines how distinctive kinds of experts assess the promise and risks of new technology, and how their arguments gain influence in distinctive organizational and political contexts. She is author of Arguments that Count: Physics, Computing, and Missile Defense, 1949-2012 (MIT Press: 2013). Arguments that Count compares how two different ways of framing complex technology—physics and computer science—lead to very different understandings of the risks associated with weapons systems. It also shows how computer scientists established a disciplinary repertoire—quantitative rules, codified knowledge, and other tools for assessment—that enabled them to construct authoritative arguments about complex software, and to make those analyses “stick” in the political process. 

Professor Slayton is currently working on three interrelated research projects. The first project examines how efforts to manage the risk of a cyberattack on the U.S. electrical grid are being organized within and across utilities, industry groups, state utility commissions, and federal regulatory agencies. Second, Professor Slayton is researching the history of efforts to quantify computer and network security.  A third project focuses on contemporary efforts by strategic thinkers to learn about cybersecurity through analogies to nuclear strategy.

Recent Courses Taught

  • Fall 2015 - (STS 6031) Cyber Conflict, Technopolitics and Trust
    T: 2:30-4:25, 4 credits

  • Fall 2015 - (BSOC/STS 2011) What is Science? An Introduction to the Social Studies of Science and Technology
    MW: 2:30-3:20, 3 credits

  • Spring 2015 - (STS 3031) Making Things Nuclear
    MWF: 11:15-12:05, 4 credits

  • Spring 2015 - (STS 6031) Cyber Conflict, Technopolitics and Trust
    T: 12:20-2:15, 4 credits

  • Fall 2014 - (BSOC/STS 2011) What is Science?
    MW: 10:10-11:00, 3 or 4 credits