Originally published in Graduate School of Public and International Affairs



Lisa S. Nelson

Associate Professor
3219 Posvar


  • PhD, Political Science, University of Wisconsin, Madison, 1999
  • JD, University of Wisconsin, Madison, 1996
  • MA, Political Science, University of Wisconsin, Madison, 1991
  • BA, Political Science, University of Wisconsin, Madison, 1989


Lisa Nelson holds a PhD and J.D. from the University of Wisconsin‐Madison and specializes in the field of science, technology, and society. She was a co‐principal investigator on a National Science Foundation grant to explore the societal perceptions of biometric technology.  This research is published in America Identified: Biometric Technology and Society (MIT, 2011). She has also written several articles in journals including I/S: A Journal of Law and Policy for the Information Society, Public Administration Review, and the University of Chicago Policy Review.  She has also been the recipient of a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur grant. She is currently an associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, a Fellow at the Philosophy of Science Center, and an affiliated faculty member of the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.  From 2011-2013 she was appointed to Department of Homeland Security’s Data Privacy and Integrity Committee.  Her current research explores social networking technologies and digilantism and considers fundamental questions about information ethics and its enforcement on the Internet in an open society, providing a historical, theoretical, cultural, and legal discussion of vigilantism on the new “frontier” of the digital age, considering the domestic and international implications.

Teaching and Research Areas

Law and politics, criminal justice, constitutional law, jurisprudence, American judicial process, political theory, law and literature, law and philosophy, philosophy of science, biometrics.

Select Publications and Funded Research

  • Forthcoming publication: Social Media and Morality: Losing Our Self Control? (Cambridge University Press, May 2018)  
  • America Identified: Biometric Technology and Society (MIT Press, 2010)
  • ITR Collaborative Research Award, National Science Foundation, 2003-2008
  • "Radiant Trust: Privacy, Trust and Technology" project funded by the Office of National Risk Assessment, 2006-Ongoing.
  • "Normative Dimensions of Paternalism and Security," I/S: A Journal of Law and Policy for the Information Society (2006).
  • "Constructing Policy: Protections, Privacy and Biometrics," Privacy and Identity: The Promise and Perils of a Technological Age. Kluwer Press, 2005.
  • "Making Policy: Biometrics, Privacy and Autonomy," University of Chicago Policy Review (2004).
  • "Biometrics and Privacy: Society, Perceptions, and Legal Doctrine," National Science Foundation grant funded by Information Technology Research, 2003-Present.
  • Center for Identification Research (CITER) Award Recipient, 2002.
  • Department of Defense Award, 2002.
  • Advisory Group, Radiant Trust technology, 2002.

Consultancies, Public Service, and Awards/Honors

  • 2009 GSPIA Teaching Award
  • College of General Studies Student Choice Award, 2007
  • Legal Expert, InSite Institute, Carnegie Mellon University
  • Rand Corporation Consultant
  • Senior Research Analysis West Virginia University Radiant Trust Center for Excellence
  • GSPIA Faculty Honor Roll, 2003
  • GSPIA Teaching Award, 2001
  • Outstanding Service, Above and Beyond the Call of Duty, to the Students of the University of Pittsburgh, 2001
  • Excellence for the Future Award, 1996
  • John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Scholar, 1993-1994
  • Columbia University Council for Educational Exchange Russian Research Abroad Scholarship, St. Petersburg, Russia, 1993


  • Liberty and Security in the Age of Information and the War on Terror

Other Faculty and Academic Administration Positions

  • Affiliated Assistant Professor, University of Pittsburgh School of Law
  • Fellow, Center for the Philosophy of Science, University of Pittsburgh

Ford Institute for Human Security
3930 Wesley W. Posvar Hall, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15260