Course List (NCR Campus)

STS 5205: Main Themes in the History of Science (core course)

Instructor: Janet Abbate
Tuesdays 7:00–9:45pm, NVC Falls Church

Was there really such a thing as the Scientific Revolution? What are the historical links between science and religion, technology, or politics? How have the knowledge-producing practices we call “science” varied across cultures and time periods, and how have individuals established an identity as scientists in different social contexts? This seminar is designed to provide you with the basic outlines of the history of Western science and to introduce key STS theories, approaches, and resources for historical research. We will survey some of the main schools of thought about the development of Western science and how have they been challenged. We will discuss issues such as the nature (or nonexistence) of scientific revolutions, the meaning of objectivity, scientific practices and institutions, and the influence of gender and race on scientific thought. The course will begin with ancient and medieval Science, focus in depth on the Scientific Revolution, and continue through the twentieth century.

STS/NSEG/SPIA 5284: Nuclear Nonproliferation, Safeguards, and Security (elective; anchor course for the Graduate Certificate in Nuclear Science, Technology, and Policy)
Instructors: Sonja Schmid and Mark Pierson
Wednesdays 7:00–9:45pm, NVC Falls Church and Blacksburg (Zoom)

Nuclear energy is at a crossroads: on the one hand, control regimes to contain the spread of nuclear weapons are being refined, while there are still countries seeking to acquire these weapons. On the other hand, we see a revival of nuclear energy as a low-carbon source of energy in some parts of the world, and simultaneously decisions to phase out nuclear energy as not worth the risk of beyond-design accidents. More than ever, then, effective communication is needed between the communities involved: nuclear scientists and engineers, energy strategists, regulators, policy-makers, the nonproliferation community, and the general public. This course offers the next generation of nuclear engineers and science and technology policy scholars a solid introduction to the main features of our global nuclear nonproliferation regime. The seminar combines an overview of technical questions, historical developments, and policy challenges relating to nuclear energy and proliferation, using current case studies. Topics include origins of the nuclear nonproliferation regime, technical basics of the nuclear fuel cycle, international safeguards, and the threat of nuclear terrorism. Graduate students from all disciplines are welcome, particularly those from technical disciplines, STS, and international policy studies. There will be one instructor each in Blacksburg and in the National Capital Region.

 

STS 5024: Introduction to Science and Technology Studies (required)                           
Instructors: Sonja Schmid and Matthew Wisnioski
Thursdays, 7:00–9:45 pm, Blacksburg & NVC Falls Church (Zoom)

This seminar introduces graduate students to the field of STS and some of its major ideas and texts. We will discuss how STS differs from other fields and the advantages and limits of our unique interdisciplinary approach. Drawing on anthropological, historical, philosophical, and sociological methods, we will explore topics such as the foundations of scientific knowledge; science as a source of social power and authority; understanding technological systems; race, gender, and postcolonial perspectives; and public engagement with science and technology. You will become familiar with some of the major questions and theories that have been debated by STS scholars and learn how the focus of the field has changed over time. Weekly exercises in critical reading, written commentary, and discussion leading will help you learn how to think and communicate like an STS scholar.

STS 6664: Advanced Topics in Science and Technology Policy: The Socio-Politics of Biosecurity (elective)                                                                                                           
Instructor: Rebecca Hester                                                                                                 
Tuesdays 7:00–9:45pm, Blacksburg & NVC Falls Church

Biosecurity is commonly defined as a strategic and integrated approach to analyzing and managing risks to human, animal and plant life and health and associated risks for the environment. Often defined in juxtaposition to biosafety (managing risks within the laboratory), biosecurity seems like a straightforward idea. Yet, neither the “bio” nor the concept of security at work on this definition is as straightforward as it seems. Critical scholarship on biosecurity sees it as an effort to manage or control unruly biological matter, ranging from microbes and viruses to invasive plants, animals and even humans. For these scholars, biosecurity is as an already formulated convention that links national identity with the securitization of daily governance. Core to this approach are the spatial processes of categorization and boundary-making.

This course will draw broadly from the field of critical biosecurity studies to explore the socio-politics of biological risks and dangers in an interconnected world. Issues to be explored include the social construction of biological risk and danger; controversies between health, security and community expertise, with a focus on whose knowledge counts; viral geopolitics and the governance of mobile and invasive species; the relationship between efforts to ensure biosecurity and increased bio-insecurity and vulnerability; Biosecurity and genetic engineering; Biosurveillance and anticipatory efforts to manage biological futures. 

Required readings:

  • Lakoff, A., & Collier, S. J. (Eds.). (2008). Biosecurity Interventions: Global Health and Security in Question. Columbia University Press.
  • Chen, N. N. (2014). Bioinsecurity and Vulnerability. SAR Press.
  • Fishel, S. R. (2017). The Microbial State: Global Thriving and the Body Politic. U of Minnesota Press.

 

STS 6534: Advanced Topics: History and Social Studies of Computing (elective)
Instructor: Anne Fitzpatrick
Wednesdays 7:00–9:45pm, NVC Falls Church

No other technology has had as much an impact on humanity as computing.  This course will explore computing both as human and machine from a historical context forward to present day major information technology policy issues. We’ll trace computing’s evolution from early manual devices to punched cards, scientific supercomputing and the contemporary explosion of data-oriented computing. A broad exploration of the roots and evolution of information technology (IT) and the computer is critical for those working and living in our increasingly digitized society.  In a globalized world, information technology is shaping not only domestic issues and culture, but also global politics and supply chains.

In this interdisciplinary course we will explore some original works of John von Neumann and other computing luminaries, and more recent scholarly studies about computer hardware, national defense, artificial intelligence, quantum computing, women in computing, IT supply chain security, the race for Exascale, and the near-term future of computing in context of the projected end of Moore’s law. 

Theoretical and practical aspects of the public's role in the development, application, and oversight of scientific and technological advances.

Intellectual and institutional history of the field. Key theories, methods, and domains of study. Relation among perspectives from contributing disciplines, and emerging interdisciplinary trends. Emphasis on both solid grounding through classic texts, and discussion of emergent research areas.

Theoretical and methodological issues addressed in the interdisciplinary social study of contemporary science and technology. 5105: social studies of science; 5106: social studies of technology. I

Theoretical and methodological issues addressed in the interdisciplinary social study of contemporary science and technology. 5105: social studies of science; 5106: social studies of technology. II

Methods and concepts in the history of science and technology. 5205: research methods, interpretive approaches, and contemporary issues in the history of science; 5206: research methods, interpretive approaches, and contemporary issues in the history of technology. I

Methods and concepts in the history of science and technology. 5205: research methods, interpretive approaches, and contemporary issues in the history of science; 5206: research methods, interpretive approaches, and contemporary issues in the history of technology. II

Technical essentials, policy analysis, theoretical perspectives of nuclear energy and nuclear nonprofileration. Fundamentals of the nuclear fuel cycle, management of international safeguards, threat of nuclear terrorism, and challenges for global nuclear industry. Pre: Graduate standing.

Problems, literature, and schools in the philosophy of science and technology. 5305: explanation and confirmation; 5306: theory change. I

Problems, literature, and schools in the philosophy of science and technology. 5305: explanation and confirmation; 5306: theory change. II

Examines policy developments and practices that move beyond the conceptual divisions and policy operations begun during the 1970s, which largely divided the more natural science- based environmental sciences from social science-based environmental based studies. Mixes the insights of life science, physical science, social science, applied humanities, and public policy into a cohesive conceptual and operational approach to environmental protection in the 21st century. Graduate standing.

Variable topics in science and technology studies such as role of values in science and technology, risk assessment, and past and present relations of religion to science and technology. May be repeated to a maximum of 6 hours. I

Identification and analysis of ethical issues arising in basic and applied biological, medical, environmental, ecological, and energy studies.

Examines research designs and practices that uncover historical relationships between knowledge contents and social dimensions of science, technology, and medicine. Includes archival research, archaeology of instruments and physical spaces, interviewing for knowledge content, logical and conceptual analysis, participant observation, questionnaires, and proposal preparation.

Strategies for science and technology policy; science education; scientific and technical information for societal uses; government and public policy; resource allocation; economy and global exchanges of science and technology; approaches to policy evaluation.

Variable topics in history of science, technology, and medicine after 1800, such as the atomic age; space science; science, technology, and institutions; scientific and technological medicine; and environmental history. May be repeated with a different topic for a maximum of 6 credits.

Explores a variety of social factors, past and present, that have affected the way we make, use, and think about computers and the Internet. Begins with the origins of the Internet and the people who shape this technology, from military strategists to hackers. Examines the ways diverse groups interact and build communities online and how cultural norms about race and gender shape the ways we participate in the world of computing. Graduate standing required.

Philosophers of science from 1650 to 1900 with particular attention to the historical development of views about the methods of induction and hypothesis and accounts of theory testing.

Variable topics in advanced philosophy of science, including major theories of scientific explanation and their criticisms; philosophical foundations of statistics; naturalized philosophy of science. May be repeated for credit, with permission and different content, for a maximum of 12 hours.

Variable topics in cultural studies of science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and health. May include theories of language and science, popular and public knowledges, cultural performances around science and technology, conceptions of health and the body, cultures of quantification, technology and identity, hierarchies and diversity in science and technology, and cross-cultural comparisons. May be repeated with different content up to a maximum of 12 credits.

Social-scientific perspectives in energy policy. National and international topics and controversies such as fossil fuel resources, climate change, energy security, and the debate over nuclear power. Comparison of international perspectives. Challenges involved with management and regulation of large technological systems, the politics of expertise at the intersection of global climate change and energy security, and the changing character of our global energy infrstructure. Pre: Graduate standing.

Conceptual perspectives on social and cultural studies of risk. Qualitative theories and tools for analyzing a wide range of risks in contemporary culture. Definitions of risk as opposed to concepts such as danger, hazard, and uncertainty. Perception of risk and selective bias in risk perception. Efficiency, objectivity, and morality as factors influencing risk assessment and risk management, and affective definitions of safety and reliability. Role of expertise, trust, and communication in risk regulation. Democratic policy instruments to facilitate stable, legitimate decisions about what risks to take or avoid in contemporary societies. Pre: Graduate Standing.

Variable topics in technology studies, including development and structure of knowledge in technology and engineering, social construction of technology, knowledge and power in technology, gender and technology, engineering in society, human/nonhuman relations in technology. May be repeated with a different topic for a maximum of 6 credits. I,II

Variable topics in science and technology policy. Includes advanced study of science, technology, and economy; science, technology, and power; strategies for research and development policy --public and private sector; transfer of technology; technological forecasting; government regulation and responses; science policy assumptions and challenges, specialist knowledge and expertise; state and academic knowledge production; issues of race, class, gender, and national identity in policy work. May be repeated with a different topic for a maximum of 6 credits.

Variable topics in alternate perspectives. Includes science from scientists' perspectives, indigenous knowledge forms, alternative medicine, New Age science, cyborg theorizing, heterodox perspectives. May be repeated with a different topic for a maximum of 6 credits.

Variable topics in social studies of science, technology, and medicine, including studies of disciplines, institutions, boundaries, discourses, knowledges, and practices. May be repeated with a different topic for a maximum of 6 credits.