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This archived information is dated to the 2009-10 academic year only and may no longer be current.

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Science, Technology, and Society

Emeriti: James Adams (Management Science and Engineering, Mechanical Engineering), Alex Inkeles (Sociology), Walter Vincenti (Aeronautics and Astronautics)

Director: Robert McGinn (Management Science and Engineering; Science, Technology and Society)

Program Committee: Stephen Barley (Management Science and Engineering), Mark Granovetter (Sociology), Hank Greely (Law), Ursula K. Heise (English), Brad Osgood (Electrical Engineering), Eric Roberts (Computer Science), Rebecca Slayton (Science, Technology and Society), Fred Turner (Communication), John Willinsky (Education)

Lecturers: Rebecca Slayton, Patrick Windham

Affiliated Faculty and Staff: Stephen Barley (Management Science and Engineering), Barton Bernstein (History), Scott Bukatman (Art and Art History), Thomas Byers (Management Science and Engineering), Jean-Pierre Dupuy (French), Hank Greely (Law), Ursula K. Heise (English), Sarah Jain (Anthropology, on leave), Clifford Nass (Communication), Brad Osgood (Electrical Engineering), Jessica Riskin (History), Eric Roberts (Computer Science), Scott Sagan (Political Science), Michael Shanks (Classics, Anthropology), Fred Turner (Communication), John Willinsky (Education), Gavin Wright (Economics)

Mail Code: 94305-2120

Phone: (650) 723-2565

Web Site:

Courses offered by the Program in Science, Technology, and Society are listed under the subject code STS on the Stanford Bulletin's ExploreCourses web site.

Technology and science are activities of central importance in contemporary life, intimately bound up with society's evolving character, problems, and potentials. If scientific and technological pursuits are to further enhance human well-being, they and their effects on society and the individual must be better understood by non-technical professionals and ordinary citizens as well as by engineers and scientists. Issues of professional ethics and social responsibility confront technical practitioners. At the same time, lawyers, public officials, civil servants, and business people are increasingly called upon to make decisions requiring a basic understanding of science and technology and their ethical, social, and environmental consequences. Ordinary citizens, moreover, are being asked with increasing frequency to pass judgment on controversial matters of public policy related to science and technology. These circumstances require education befitting the complex sociotechnical character of the contemporary era.

Science, Technology, and Society (STS) is an interdisciplinary program devoted to understanding the natures, consequences, and shaping of technological and scientific activities in modern and contemporary societies. Achieving this understanding requires critical analysis of the interplay of science and technology with human values and world views, political and economic forces, and cultural and environmental factors. Hence, students in STS courses study science and technology in society from a variety of perspectives in the humanities and social sciences. To provide a basic understanding of technology and science, STS majors are also required to achieve either literacy (B.A.) or a solid grasp of fundamentals (B.S.) in some area of engineering or science.

STS courses may be used, individually or in groups, for purposes such as:

  1. To satisfy University General Education Requirements (GER)
  2. To satisfy the Technology in Society requirement of the School of Engineering
  3. To comprise parts of student-designed concentrations required for majors in fields such as Human Biology and Public Policy
  4. To satisfy the requirements of the STS honors program complementing any major (see below)
  5. To satisfy requirements for majors in STS (see below)
  6. To satisfy requirements for a minor in STS (see below)

STS courses are particularly valuable for undergraduates planning further study in graduate professional schools (for example, in business, education, engineering, law, journalism, or medicine) and for students wishing to relate the specialized knowledge of their major fields to broad technology and science-related aspects of modern society and culture.

Undergraduate Mission Statement

The mission of the Science, Technology and Society (STS) Program is to provide Stanford undergraduates with intellectually stimulating education that will prepare them for life in the contemporary era, one in which science and technology are pervasive and potent forces for transformative social change. To that end, STS courses explore the evolving natures and interrelationship of science and technology, influences of science and technology on different kinds of societies, how societies manage and otherwise shape their scientific and technological endeavors and products, and ethical, social, cultural, and policy issues raised by scientific and technological innovations in contemporary societies. STS faculty believe that probing study of this vital subject matter is the basis for an innovative form of liberal arts and pre-professional education, one that helps STS students fulfill their future civic and professional roles in an informed, responsible manner.

The STS Program is interdisciplinary in nature; its students learn to critically analyze the interplay of science and technology with human values and world views, political and economic forces, and cultural and environmental systems. To a set of core STS interdisciplinary courses promoting such learning, Program majors add structured sets of pertinent disciplinary courses in the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and engineering. The Program prepares its majors for successful careers in business, law, medicine, education, engineering, public policy, and public service, for masters-level work in selected social scientific and engineering disciplines, and for doctoral work in STS and STS-related academic areas.

Undergraduate Programs in Science, Technology, and Society

Degree programs in STS are interdisciplinary curricula devoted to understanding the nature and significance of technology and science in modern society. Majors analyze phenomena of science and technology in society from ethical, aesthetic, historical, economic, and sociological perspectives. In addition, students pursuing the B.A. degree study a technical field in sufficient depth to obtain a grasp of concepts and methods, and complete a structured concentration on a theme, issue, problem, or area of personal interest related to science and technology in society. Those seeking the B.S. degree complete at least 50 structured units in technology, science, and/or mathematics. The particular technical courses chosen reflect the student's special interest in science and technology in society.

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