PUBPOL 481.001: Science, Technology, and Public Policy

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Winter 2017
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How should science and technology be used to solve social and policy problems? What values and assumptions underlie our current understandings of science and technology? Should only experts be involved in science and technology policymaking, or should lay people have a voice? How should policymakers deal with the risks and uncertainties that come from science and emerging technologies (such as biotechnology, nanotechnology, geoengineering)? Though hands-on exercises, organized debate, active participation, and short papers, students will explore these questions while developing skills to analyze and engage with complex science and technology policy issues. This discussion-based course will bring an interdisciplinary perspective to bear on the most pressing science and technology policy challenges of the day, including the regulation of gene-editing technologies and autonomous vehicles, the Flint water crisis, and the deliberate release of genetically modified mosquitos to fight the Zika virus. We will explore both how science and technology are influenced by politics and public policy and how science and technology are used in the policymaking process. This course is intended for upper-level undergraduate students from science, engineering, the humanities, social sciences, and the professional schools. No scientific or technical background is necessary.