Publication Date


Date of Final Oral Examination (Defense)

June 2021

Type of Culminating Activity


Degree Title

Doctor of Philosophy in Public Policy and Administration


Public Administration

Major Advisor

Jen D. Schneider, Ph.D.


David Tomblin, Ph.D.


Stephanie Witt, Ph.D.


This dissertation analyzes three participatory technology assessment (pTA) projects conducted within United States federal agencies between 2014 and 2018. The field of Science and Technology Studies (STS) argues that a lack of public participation in addressing issues of science and technology in society has produced undemocratic processes of decision-making with outcomes insensitive to the daily lives of the public. There has been little work in STS, however, examining what the political pressures and administrative challenges are to improving public participation in U.S. agency decision-making processes. Following a three-essay format, this dissertation aims to fill this gap. Drawing on qualitative interviews with key personnel, and bringing STS, policy studies, and public administration scholarship into conversation, this dissertation argues for the significance of “policy entrepreneurs” who from within U.S. agencies advocate for pTA and navigate the political controls on innovative forms of participation. The first essay explores how the political culture and administrative structures of the American federal bureaucracy shape the bureaucratic contexts of public participation in science and technology decision-making. The second essay is an in-depth case study of the role political controls and policy entrepreneurs played in adopting, designing, and implementing pTA in NASA’s Asteroid Initiative. The third essay is a comparative analysis of how eight political and administrative conditions informed pTA design and implementation for NASA’s Asteroid Initiative, DOE’s consent-based nuclear waste siting program, and NOAA’s Environmental Literacy Program. The results of this dissertation highlight how important the political and administrative contexts of federal government programs are to understanding how pTA is designed and implemented in agency science and technology decision-making processes, and the key role agency policy entrepreneurs play in facilitating pTA through these political and administrative contexts. This research can aid STS scholars and practitioners better anticipate and mitigate the barriers to embedding innovative forms of public participation in U.S. federal government science and technology program design and decision-making processes.