Science & Technology

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Science, technology and society (STS) is the study of how social, political, and cultural values affect scientific research and technological innovation, and how these, in turn, affect society, politics and culture. STS scholars are interested in a variety of problems including the relationships between scientific and technological innovations and society, and the directions and risks of science and technology. More than two dozen universities worldwide offer bachelor’s degrees in STS. About half of these also offer Doctoral or Masters degrees.

Science studies, a branch of the sociology of scientific knowledge that places scientific controversies in their social context.

History of technology, that examines technology in its social and historical context. Starting in the 1960s, some historians questioned technological determinism, a doctrine that can induce public passivity to technologic and scientific ‘natural’ development. At the same time, some historians began to develop similarly contextual approaches to the history of medicine.

History and philosophy of science (1960s). After the publication of Thomas Kuhn’s well-known The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962), which attributed changes in scientific theories to changes in underlying intellectual paradigms, programs were founded at the University of California, Berkeley and elsewhere that brought historians of science and philosophers together in unified programs.

During the 1970s and 1980s, leading universities in the US, UK, and Europe began drawing these various components together in new, interdisciplinary programs. For example, in the 1970s, Cornell University developed a new program that united science studies and policy-oriented scholars with historians and philosophers of science and technology. Each of these programs developed unique identities due to variation in the components that were drawn together, as well as their location within the various universities. For example, the University of Virginia’s STS program united scholars drawn from a variety of fields (with particular strength in the history of technology); however, the program’s teaching responsibilities—it is located within an engineering school and teaches ethics to undergraduate engineering students—means that all of its faculty share a strong interest in engineering ethics.

MacKenzie and Wajcman primed the pump by publishing a collection of articles attesting to the influence of society on technological design. In a seminal article, Trevor Pinch and Wiebe Bijker attached all the legitimacy of the Sociology of Scientific Knowledge to this development by showing how the sociology of technology could proceed along precisely the theoretical and methodological lines established by the sociology of scientific knowledge. This was the intellectual foundation of the field they called the social construction of technology.

Founded in 1975, the Society for Social Studies of Science, initially provided scholarly communication facilities—including a journal (Science, Technology, and Human Values) and annual meetings—that were mainly attended by science studies scholars, but the society has since grown into the most important professional association of science and technology studies scholars worldwide. The Society for Social Studies of Science members also include government and industry officials concerned with research and development as well as science and technology policy; scientists and engineers who wish to better understand the social embeddedness of their professional practice; and citizens concerned about the impact of science and technology in their lives. Proposals have been made to add the word “technology” to the association’s name, thereby reflecting its stature as the leading STS professional society, but there seems to be widespread sentiment that the name is long enough as it is.

 technology is based on the sciences, particularly such disciplines as physics, chemistry, biology, and other sciences that deal with the study, measurement, and understanding of natural phenomena. Learn about the technological advancements and scientific achievements that so greatly influence our lifestyle and impact our lives. Use the resources below to find out more about the fascinating world of science and technology. Whether you are a scientist or a layman, you will find thought-provoking articles to hold your interest. Stay current with the latest science and technology news.

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