Nicole C. Nelson is an assistant professor of science and technology studies in the Department of Medical History and Bioethics at the University of Wisconsin–Madison (UW Madison). Her research examines scientists’ assumptions about the natural world and how these assumptions shape scientific practice. Her recent book, Model Behavior: Animal Experiments, Complexity, and the Genetics of Psychiatric Disorders (University of Chicago Press, 2018), explores how animal behavior geneticists’ beliefs about complexity are reflected in their research with mouse models of anxiety and alcoholism.
During her fellowship year, Nelson is beginning a new project on the “reproducibility crisis,” a recent phenomenon where scientists have found many supposedly stable findings to be difficult to replicate on subsequent investigation. Using a combination of historical and ethnographic methods, she will map out the origins of this crisis and examine how scientists’ assumptions about stability and variation shape their perceptions of this crisis. More broadly, she aims to contribute to both scholarly and public discussions on notions of scientific fact, connecting scientists’ concerns about reproducibility with current discussions about post-truth politics.
Nelson earned her doctorate in science and technology studies at Cornell University and was a postdoctoral research fellow at McGill University. She was the founding director of the Health and the Humanities certificate program at UW Madison and currently serves as a collaborating editor at the journal Social Studies of Science.