Patricia Stapleton, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Year of PhD: 2012

Country: United States (Massachusetts)

About Me:

Patricia Stapleton is a comparative political science and public policy scholar. She holds a PhD and MPhil in Political Science from the CUNY Graduate Center, as well as an MA in French Literature from Rutgers University. Her research interests include the regulation of biotechnology, both in food production and assisted reproductive technologies, and her work focuses on risk assessment, management, and communication in the context of these biotechnological advancements. Additionally, she researches risk regulation and community resilience in response to major crises, specifically natural disasters. She has published in the European Journal of Risk Regulation and Politics and the Life Sciences. Her most recent work includes co-authored work on how politcal scientists can approach studying cross-border reproductive care in World Medical and Health Policy. Stapleton has also published pedagogical work, including an interdisciplinary teaching module - Major Storms and Community Resilience - as part of the InTeGrate, an NSF-funded program focused on bringing sustainability education into college classrooms to help students learn about Earth through the lens of grand societal challenges - and research on knowledge surveys as assessment tools for simulations.

Research Interests

Environmental Policy

European Politics

Health Politics and Policy

Public Policy

Biotechnology Regulation

Food Safety

Food Security

Risk Regulation


Emerging Technologies

Countries of Interest


United States

My Research:

At its core, my research agenda centers on the question of how governments regulate science, technology, and public health. Among my main interests is the regulation of new scientific advancements, especially developments in the field of biotechnology. A significant part of my work over the past few years has emphasized the debates over the effects of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) on public health and whether GMOs provide a pathway to environmental sustainability or to environmental degradation. I have also developed research projects that examine biotechnology risk regulation in the field of reproductive medicine. Current projects include studies on genetic testing and engineering procedures, namely preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) and CRISPR. The main focus of this work is the piecemeal regulatory approach in United States, and the ethical and legal challenges that arise from the lack of clear and comprehensive federal regulations.


Journal Articles:

(2018) Cross‐Border Reproductive Care: Two Lenses in Political Science, World Medical & Health Policy

Cross‐border reproductive care (CBRC)—when patients travel outside their country to seek assisted reproductive services—is a booming industry. Globalization facilitates the increase in CBRC by reducing transportation costs, removing language barriers, and liberalizing the reproductive services market. Yet global and domestic regulatory responses are failing to keep pace, raising ethical, economic, political, and social issues. Political science has been slow to contribute to our understanding of CBRC politics and policies. This article first establishes the gap in existing CBRC research, before presenting how political scientists can respond in two specific areas: 1) the role of globalization health governance in relation to CBRC and 2) the political implications and potentials of “medical necessity” in shaping patient motivations for seeking—as well as their ultimate access to—CBRC. New research in these areas will aid policymakers in recognizing the context in which they must develop CBRC regulations.

(2018) Knowledge Surveys as an Assessment Tool of Simulation Course Outcomes, Journal of Political Science Education

One challenge faced by instructors incorporating simulations and games into political science courses is how to assess learning outcomes from non-“traditional,” pedagogical methods. Positive or anticipated simulation outcomes do not necessarily indicate positive learning outcomes for students. And, using more traditional methods of assessment (quizzes, exams, research papers, etc.) may not align well with the intended outcomes and work related to the simulation. This article presents a range of assignments used to assess learning outcomes for GOV 1320: Topics in International Politics, an introductory international relations course at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. The course employs International Relations in Action: A World Politics Simulation in half of the class sessions as a method to engage students with the course material. In order to assess whether participation in the simulation and completion of the related assignments result in positive learning outcomes for students, I have included knowledge surveys as one assessment tool. In this article, I review frameworks for simulation development and assessment, as well as the existing literature on the usage and “success” of using knowledge surveys as an assessment tool. In addition, I present the intended outcomes of GOV 1320 in general and of the simulation specifically, and the assignments and activities used to assess student learning outcomes. Finally, I examine the use of knowledge surveys in the course. Because knowledge surveys rely on self-reported levels of confidence on course material, the article also includes a comparison of students’ understanding of their knowledge to the actual outcomes as measured by course grades.

(2016) From Mad Cows to GMOs: The Side Effects of Modernization, European Journal of Risk Regulation

Ulrich Beck's Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity provides a lens through which we can analyze contemporary debates over risk regulation of agricultural biotechnology. This article establishes the political and cultural context into which genetically modified organisms (GMOs) were introduced in the European Union, by reviewing the HIV-contaminated blood scandal, mad cow crisis, and dioxin contamination episode. These public health and food safety scandals exemplify the side effects of modernization as outlined by Beck. Beck also predicted the development of a solidarity arising from the public's anxiety over the global distribution of modernization's risks. The impact of these cases on risk regulation illustrates the political and social reaction to the invisible, global risks of late modernity. The subsequent response to this reaction in European risk regulation further demonstrates the tension between a globalizing market and public anxiety in risk society.

(2015) The Affordable Care Act and assisted reproductive technology use, Politics and the Life Sciences

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has prompted numerous gender and sexuality controversies. We describe and analyze those involving assisted reproductive technologies (ART). ART in the United States has been regulated in piecemeal fashion, with oversight primarily by individual states. While leaving state authority largely intact, the ACA federalized key practices by establishing essential health benefits (EHBs) that regulate insurance markets and prohibit insurance-coverage denials based on pre-existing conditions. Whatever their intentions, the ACA’s drafters thus put infertility in a subtly provocative new light clinically, financially, normatively, politically, and culturally. With particular attention to normative and political dynamics embedded in plausible regulatory trajectories, we review—and attempt to preview—the ACA’s effects on infertility-related delivery of health services, on ART utilization, and on reproductive medicine as a factor in American society.

Books Written:

(2015) Biopolitics and Utopia: An Interdisciplinary Reader, Palgrave Macmillan

This interdisciplinary reader offers a fascinating exploration of the intersection of biopolitics and utopia by employing a range of theoretical approaches. Each essay provides a unique application of the two concepts to topics spanning the social sciences and humanities.

Media Appearances:

Newspaper Quotes:

(2018) Worcester Business Journal

Article on how advancements in using CRISPR in experiments on human embryos raises ethical questions.

(2018) Boston Business Journal

Article about several top news stories, including a report on a scientific breakthrough using CRISPR.

(2018) Diversity in Action

Article on higher education professionals who are working to develop and implement programs that foster and support diversity and inclusion efforts at universities.

(2017) MarketWatch

Article on why companies are paying for IVF for their workers, but don't talk about it.

Blog Posts:

(2017) The Conversation

Post about public and media reaction to advancements in CRISPR technology compared to the initial reaction to in-vitro fertilization and the first "test tube" baby.


(2018) Worcester Telegram & Gazette

Op-ed on why the American public should develop interest in CRISPR as an emerging technology.

(2018) ECO Magazine

Article providing an overview of the InTeGrate teaching module on natural hazards, societal risk, and resilience.

(2017) Worcester Telegram & Gazette

Op-ed on how policy makers and politicians should discuss climate change, particularly in communities where residents may deny climate change is occurring.