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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), Scott Sagan (Political Science), Rebecca Slayton (Science, Technology and Society), Fred Turner (Communication), John Willinsky (Education)

Lecturers: John Downer, Rebecca Slayton

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), Martin Hellman (Electrical Engineering, Emeritus), Sarah Jain (Anthropology), Clifford Nass (Communication), Brad Osgood (Electrical Engineering), Jessica Riskin (History, on leave), 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: http://sts.stanford.edu

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 in society. These circumstances require education befitting the complex sociotechnical character of the contemporary era.

Science, Technology, and Society (STS) is a program devoted to understanding the natures, consequences, origins, and shaping of technological and scientific activities in modern and contemporary societies. 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
  5. To satisfy requirements for majors in STS
  6. To satisfy requirements for a minor in STS

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 provides 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.

STS is an interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary program. STS 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 courses promoting such learning, Program majors add structured sets of pertinent disciplinary courses in the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and engineering. Every STS major completes a capstone project in her or his final year, either an Honors Thesis or a Senior Paper. The capstone project is an integrative research endeavor incorporating prior STS coursework. 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 humanistic, social scientific, and engineering disciplines, and for doctoral work in STS and related academic areas.

LEARNING OUTCOMES

The program expects undergraduate majors to be able to demonstrate the following learning outcomes. These learning outcomes are used in evaluating students and the department's undergraduate program. These outcomes are evaluated through course work and by assessing each student's senior paper, a 20-to-30-page research product that uses STS concepts and primary evidence to analyze an STS-relevant question, reach a conclusion, and discuss the limitations and significance of the research. Students are expected to demonstrate:

  1. knowledge of core concepts, approaches, and issues of the STS field.
  2. ability to use STS intellectual resources to analyze and illuminate issues of science and technology in society.
  3. ability to critically evaluate and effectively utilize scholarship and empirical evidence in the field of STS.
  4. ability to clearly and persuasively communicate about STS issues to a general audience, orally and in writing.

Undergraduate Programs in Science, Technology, and Society

Degree programs in STS are 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 basic 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 issue areas of science and technology in society.

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