Building Capacity for Action-Oriented Research in Arizona’s Helium Extraction Boom: A Capabilities Model for Social Learning in Engaged STS

  • Kirk Jalbert Arizona State University
  • Katherine Ball Arizona State University
  • Noa Bruhis
  • Sakshi Hegde
  • Lisa Test No Fracking AZ


Northeast Arizona’s Holbrook Basin is an epicenter in the rush to secure new helium deposits in the U.S. While the helium boom has revealed unease amongst residents, significant knowledge and procedural gaps have prevented the public from making sense of the industry and its potential impacts. These gaps are produced by the opacity of critical minerals extraction, long-term regulatory neglect, and lack of commitments to public participation in environmental governance. However, we suggest that engaged STS scholarship can meaningfully assist at-risk communities in navigating these complexities. This is illustrated in a series of workshops developed by STS researchers and residents for the purpose of building local capacity for independent research and knowledge production. We detail the mutual affordances of these workshops and offer a potentially replicable framework: The Capabilities Model for Social Learning in Engaged STS. We conclude by arguing that this model is a useful lens for examining how STS critical thinking can be leveraged in collaborative research to pursue long-term social change.

Author Biographies

Kirk Jalbert, Arizona State University

Assistant Professor

School for the Future of Innovation in Society

Katherine Ball, Arizona State University

Doctoral Student

School for the Future of Innovation in Society


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