The first decade of the 21st century witnessed a series of highly charged public debates at the intersection of science, technology and society. These debates were characterized by widely divergent views on the role of science and technology in contemporary life. From one vantage, science promised to deliver improvements in collective well-being: better health, cleaner energy, improved knowledge of ourselves. But from another perspective, developments in science and technology provoked widespread anxiety and uncertainty: Would synthetic genomics lead to the creation of deadly new pathogens? Did genetically modified organisms pose invisible threats to the environment or to human health? Were developments in neuroscience and psychopharmacology undermining traditional notions of human agency and reason?
While public officials routinely sought scientific advice in settling policy debates, they often seemed skeptical of its findings – whether about climate change or about guidelines for breast cancer screening. In many cases, economic interests, scientific advice and ethical reflection pointed in divergent and seemingly incommensurable directions. Given the promise of continued scientific and technical innovation, on the one hand, and pervasive public anxiety on the other, these tensions are likely to intensify over the coming decade. And in an era of rapid globalization, such debates will extend across political and cultural borders.
The Science, Technology and Society initiative at USC seeks to develop novel approaches to these contemporary challenges. The initiative will foster individual and collaborative inquiry into the production of scientific knowledge and into the societal impact of technological innovation. The Research Cluster has several components, including graduate training, a postdoctoral fellowship, and an annual research workshop. Over the period from 2010 - 2013, the Research Cluster will focus on three themes: (1) Contested universality: the extension of scientific knowledge and its limits; (2) Transformations of life: the human sciences from the early modern to the molecular age; and (3) Technological futures, past and present.
|STS Research Cluster, 2010 - 2013: Activities Report|
|Daniela Bleichmar’s Latest Book Now Available|
|Daniela Bleichmar’s new book, Visible Empire: Botanical Expeditions and Visual Culture in the Hispanic Enlightenment is now available from the University of Chicago Press.
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|STS Announces Summer Research Fellowships|
|We’re pleased to announce the following USC graduate students have been awarded STS Summer Research Fellowships. Yasuhito Abe (Communications); Nadya Bair (Art History); Justin Clark (History); Celeste Menchaca (American Studies and Ethnicity).
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