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Leonardi wins National Science Foundation early career award

Paul Leonardi has been awarded the prestigious Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award from the National Science Foundation. Over the course of five years, he will receive $425,000 to conduct research into the role of computer-based simulations in managerial and policy-making decisions.

The CAREER awards support junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations.

Leonardi is an assistant professor and Allen K. and Johnnie Cordell Breed Junior Chair of Design in the departments of Communication Studies in the School of Communication, Industrial Engineering and Management Sciences in the McCormick School of Engineering, and Management and Organizations in the Kellogg School of Management. He is an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Industry Studies Fellow. He received his PhD from Stanford University in 2007.

Issued through the NSF’s Division of Social and Economic Sciences, Leonardi’s CAREER award was given to his project titled “The Role of Advanced Simulation Technologies in Innovation Processes.”

The project will employ ethnographic methods to compare representations and understandings of simulation products, patterns in acceptance and use among technical and non-technical users, and associated changes in organizations’ formal and informal influence structures in the work of scientists, engineers, managers and policymakers in three different disciplines: automotive engineering, atmospheric research, and urban planning.

“The goal of this research is to understand how computer simulations affect important social policies,” Leonardi said. “Professionals in a wide variety of occupations use computer simulations to make predictions — of the weather, of urban sprawl, of how fuel efficient cars can be — and managers use the results of these simulations to persuade policymakers to enact important changes. It seems responsible to understand how, when, and why these computer simulations act as communication devices if we are to make good policies. I’m very grateful and honored that NSF has agreed to sponsor this research.”

Leonardi is only the second faculty member from the School of Communication to receive a CAREER grant from the NSF. In 2010, Darren Gergle, assistant professor in the Department of Communication Studies, was the first.

“My colleagues and I are thrilled that NSF has recognized Leonardi’s work with a CAREER award,” said Barbara O’Keefe, dean of the School of Communication. “He is doing groundbreaking research on global teams and their use of simulation and collaboration technologies, and this new award will help to advance and showcase his work.”