I'm Director of the Program on Science, Technology & Society (STS) and a Senior Research Scholar at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford. I also co-direct the Stanford Existential Risks Initiative with Prof. Steve Luby.

I'm Professor of Information and History (Emeritus) at the University of Michigan, where I worked for almost 20 years in the School of Information, the Dept. of History, and the STS Program. I taught previously at Stanford from 1992-1998 in various capacities, mainly in the Science, Technology & Society Program that I now direct.

I study the history, politics, and culture of information infrastructures, especially climate knowledge systems. My books include A Vast Machine: Computer Models, Climate Data, and the Politics of Global Warming (MIT Press, 2010), The Closed World: Computers and the Politics of Discourse in Cold War America (MIT Press, 1996), and Changing the Atmosphere: Expert Knowledge and Environmental Governance (MIT Press, 2001, co-edited with Clark Miller). I'm academic editor of the MIT Press book series Infrastructures.

From 2018-2021, I served as one of 234 Lead Authors for the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Working Group I (Physical Sciences), released in August 2021.

Academic Appointments

  • Senior Lecturer, Inter-Departmental Programs
  • Sr Research Scholar, Center for International Security and Cooperation

Administrative Appointments

  • Director, Program in Science, Technology & Society (2019 - Present)

Honors & Awards

  • Distinguished Faculty Fellow in Sustainability, Graham Institute, University of Michigan (2016-17)
  • Senior Fellow, Michigan Society of Fellows (2016-17)
  • Resident Fellow, Institute for Advanced Study in Media Cultures of Computer Simulation, Leuphana University (2015)
  • Louis J. Battan Author's Award, American Meteorological Society (2013)
  • Computer History Museum Book Prize, Society for the History of Technology (2011)
  • Carnegie Scholar, Carnegie Corporation of New York (2003-04)
  • Guggenheim Fellow, John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation (2003-04)

Program Affiliations

  • Modern Thought and Literature
  • Program in History & Philosophy of Science
  • Science, Technology and Society

Professional Education

  • PhD, University of California, Santa Cruz, History of Consciousness (1988)
  • BA, Wesleyan University, Language and Mind (1980)

2023-24 Courses

Stanford Advisees

All Publications

  • Digitalization and the Anthropocene ANNUAL REVIEW OF ENVIRONMENT AND RESOURCES Creutzig, F., Acemoglu, D., Bai, X., Edwards, P. N., Hintz, M., Kaack, L. H., Kilkis, S., Kunkel, S., Luers, A., Milojevic-Dupont, N., Rejeski, D., Renn, J., Rolnick, D., Rosol, C., Russ, D., Turnbull, T., Verdolini, E., Wagner, F., Wilson, C., Zekar, A., Zumwald, M. 2022; 47: 479-509
  • Infrastructure studies meet platform studies in the age of Google and Facebook NEW MEDIA & SOCIETY Plantin, J., Lagoze, C., Edwards, P. N., Sandvig, C. 2018; 20 (1): 293–310
  • Producing "one vast index'': Google Book Search as an algorithmic system BIG DATA & SOCIETY Chalmers, M. K., Edwards, P. N. 2017; 4 (2)
  • Knowledge infrastructures for the Anthropocene ANTHROPOCENE REVIEW Edwards, P. N. 2017; 4 (1): 34–43
  • Big Data Is the Answer ... But What Is the Question? OSIRIS Strasser, B. J., Edwards, P. N. 2017; 32 (1): 328–45

    View details for DOI 10.1086/694223

    View details for Web of Science ID 000414243200016

  • Downscaling From global to local in the climate knowledge infrastructure INFRASTRUCTURES AND SOCIAL COMPLEXITY: A COMPANION Edwards, P. N., Harvey, P., Jensen, C. B., Morita, A. 2017: 339–51
  • Entangled histories: Climate science and nuclear weapons research BULLETIN OF THE ATOMIC SCIENTISTS Edwards, P. N. 2012; 68 (4): 28–40
  • AHR Conversation: Historical Perspectives on the Circulation of Information AMERICAN HISTORICAL REVIEW Edwards, P. N., Gitelman, L., Hecht, G., Johns, A., Larkin, B., Safier, N. 2011; 116 (5): 1392–1435
  • Science friction: Data, metadata, and collaboration SOCIAL STUDIES OF SCIENCE Edwards, P. N., Mayernik, M. S., Batcheller, A. L., Bowker, G. C., Borgman, C. L. 2011; 41 (5): 667–90


    When scientists from two or more disciplines work together on related problems, they often face what we call 'science friction'. As science becomes more data-driven, collaborative, and interdisciplinary, demand increases for interoperability among data, tools, and services. Metadata--usually viewed simply as 'data about data', describing objects such as books, journal articles, or datasets--serve key roles in interoperability. Yet we find that metadata may be a source of friction between scientific collaborators, impeding data sharing. We propose an alternative view of metadata, focusing on its role in an ephemeral process of scientific communication, rather than as an enduring outcome or product. We report examples of highly useful, yet ad hoc, incomplete, loosely structured, and mutable, descriptions of data found in our ethnographic studies of several large projects in the environmental sciences. Based on this evidence, we argue that while metadata products can be powerful resources, usually they must be supplemented with metadata processes. Metadata-as-process suggests the very large role of the ad hoc, the incomplete, and the unfinished in everyday scientific work.

    View details for DOI 10.1177/0306312711413314

    View details for Web of Science ID 000294837400003

    View details for PubMedID 22164720

  • History and the Technopolitics of Identity: The Case of Apartheid South Africa JOURNAL OF SOUTHERN AFRICAN STUDIES Edwards, P. N., Hecht, G. 2010; 36 (3): 619-639
  • Meteorology as infrastructural globalism OSIRIS Edwards, P. N. 2006; 21: 229–50

    View details for DOI 10.1086/507143

    View details for Web of Science ID 000240031800011

  • Three institutional pathways to envision the future of the IPCC NATURE CLIMATE CHANGE Asayama, S., De Pryck, K., Beck, S., Cointe, B., Edwards, P. N., Guillemot, H., Gustafsson, K. M., Hartz, F., Hughes, H., Lahn, B., Leclerc, O., Lidskog, R., Livingston, J. E., Lorenzoni, I., MacDonald, J., Mahony, M., Miguel, J., Monteiro, M., O'Reilly, J., Pearce, W., Petersen, A., Siebenhuner, B., Skodvin, T., Standring, A., Sundqvist, G., Taddei, R., van Bavel, B., Vardy, M., Yamineva, Y., Hulme, M. 2023
  • Systematic review of marine environmental DNA metabarcoding studies: toward best practices for data usability and accessibility. PeerJ Shea, M. M., Kuppermann, J., Rogers, M. P., Smith, D. S., Edwards, P., Boehm, A. B. 2023; 11: e14993


    The emerging field of environmental DNA (eDNA) research lacks universal guidelines for ensuring data produced are FAIR-findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable-despite growing awareness of the importance of such practices. In order to better understand these data usability challenges, we systematically reviewed 60 peer reviewed articles conducting a specific subset of eDNA research: metabarcoding studies in marine environments. For each article, we characterized approximately 90 features across several categories: general article attributes and topics, methodological choices, types of metadata included, and availability and storage of sequence data. Analyzing these characteristics, we identified several barriers to data accessibility, including a lack of common context and vocabulary across the articles, missing metadata, supplementary information limitations, and a concentration of both sample collection and analysis in the United States. While some of these barriers require significant effort to address, we also found many instances where small choices made by authors and journals could have an outsized influence on the discoverability and reusability of data. Promisingly, articles also showed consistency and creativity in data storage choices as well as a strong trend toward open access publishing. Our analysis underscores the need to think critically about data accessibility and usability as marine eDNA metabarcoding studies, and eDNA projects more broadly, continue to proliferate.

    View details for DOI 10.7717/peerj.14993

    View details for PubMedID 36992947

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC10042160

  • Institutions, Infrastructures, and Innovation COMPUTER Edwards, P. N., King, J. 2021; 54 (1): 103–9
  • Infrastructuration: On Habits, Norms, and Routines as Elements of Infrastructure Thinking Infrastructures Edwards, P. N. Emerald Publishing. 2019: 355–66
  • Re-integrating scholarly infrastructure: The ambiguous role of data sharing platforms BIG DATA & SOCIETY Plantin, J., Lagoze, C., Edwards, P. N. 2018; 5 (1)
  • Scientific Babel: How Science Was Done before and after Global English (Book Review) AMERICAN HISTORICAL REVIEW Book Review Authored by: Edwards, P. N. 2016; 121 (5): 1636–37
  • An Archive for the Future: Paul N. Edwards on Technology, Historiography, Self, and World INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF COMMUNICATION Monea, A., Edwards, P. N. 2016; 10: 3174–85
  • Should I Stay or Should I Go? Alternative Infrastructures in Scholarly Publishing INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF COMMUNICATION Lagoze, C., Edwards, P., Sandvig, C., Plantin, J. 2015; 9: 1052–71
  • Climate Change: Science and Software Introduction IEEE SOFTWARE Easterbrook, S. M., Edwards, P. N., Balaji, V., Budich, R. 2011; 28 (6): 32–35
  • History of climate modeling WILEY INTERDISCIPLINARY REVIEWS-CLIMATE CHANGE Edwards, P. N. 2011; 2 (1): 128–39

    View details for DOI 10.1002/wcc.95

    View details for Web of Science ID 000291739500011

  • The Technopolitics of Cold War Toward a Transregional Perspective ESSAYS ON TWENTIETH-CENTURY HISTORY Hecht, G., Edwards, P. N., Adas, M. 2010: 271–314
  • Introduction: An Agenda for Infrastructure Studies JOURNAL OF THE ASSOCIATION FOR INFORMATION SYSTEMS Edwards, P. N., Bowker, G. C., Jackson, S. J., Williams, R. 2009; 10 (5): 364–74
  • Revolutionary secrets - Technology's role in the South African anti-apartheid movement SOCIAL SCIENCE COMPUTER REVIEW Garrett, R., Edwards, P. N. 2007; 25 (1): 13–26
  • "A vast machine": Standards as social technology SCIENCE Edwards, P. N. 2004; 304 (5672): 827–28

    View details for DOI 10.1126/science.1099290

    View details for Web of Science ID 000221243000026

    View details for PubMedID 15131292