Program on Science, Technology and Society at Harvard

Harvard Kennedy School of Government | Harvard University
Hilton Simmet

Hilton Simmet

hilton_simmet (at)

Hilton Simmet is a Ph.D. candidate in Public Policy and a Research Associate in the Program on Science, Technology and Society (STS) at Harvard Kennedy School. His research examines how analytic tools in economics, political science, and other quantitative social science fields construct narratives of social progress that guide public policies aiming to “solve” problems of development and inequality. Drawing on the politics of knowledge in STS, his work confronts conventional accounts of democracy in political theory to unlock alternatives for human flourishing in an expert-ruled 21st century.

His current research addresses how policymakers’ numerical measures of income inequality fell out of sync with populist public narratives of injustice. His dissertation will compare three approaches to studying inequality—randomized control trials (RCTs), big data & machine learning, and citizen engagement—at research centers in the U.S., France and India. He will consider these research paradigms in light of how they do or do not translate background categories of social difference—race, religion, gender, caste and class—into public policy problems.

Hilton’s comparative work draws on his prior experience researching environmental and innovation policies in several cities and countries, including Dakar (Senegal), Berlin (Germany) and Bangalore (India), in part for the National Science Foundation project “Traveling Imaginaries: A Comparative Study of Three Models of Innovation in Transnational Implementation,” as well as the “Transformations to Sustainability (T2S)” project with the Belmont Forum. He is also working concurrently on an edited book project with Cambridge University Press on quantification and transparency in political science, as well as a sole-authored work considering political thought outside of the Western canon, including thinkers from the global South such as Rabindranath Tagore and Léopold Sédar Senghor.

Hilton holds an M.A. in Political Science from Yale University, an A.B. from Harvard College, and was a 2014-2015 Fulbright scholar in Senegal.




Simmet H (2018) Lighting a dark continent: Imaginaries of energy transition in Senegal. Energy Research and Social Science. Vol. 40, pp. 71-81.

Jasanoff S and Simmet H (2017) No funeral bells: Public reason in a ‘post-truth’ age. Social Studies of Science. Vol. 47(5), pp. 751-770.