Institute of Science,Technology & Society

    Science & Technology Studies (STS) is a dynamic interdisciplinary field, rapidly becoming established in North America and Europe. The field is a result of the intersection of work by sociologists, historians, philosophers, anthropologists, and others studying the processes and outcomes of science, including medical science and technology. Due to its interdisciplinary nature, the field is extraordinarily diverse and innovative in its subject matter and approaches. Given the importance of science and technology, findings and debates in this field often have repercussions for almost every aspect of the modern world.
    The best known product of this interest was Thomas Kuhn's classic 1962 study, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. This influential work helped crystallize a new approach to historical and social studies of science, in which scientific facts were seen as products of scientists' socially conditioned investigations rather than as objective representations of nature. Among the many ramifications of Kuhn's work was a systematic effort by social scientists to probe how scientific discovery and its technological applications link up with other social developments, in law, politics, public policy, ethics, and culture.
    One part of STS addresses and often challenges traditional perspectives in philosophy, sociology, and history of science and technology; it has developed increasingly sophisticated understandings of scientific and technical knowledge, and of the processes and resources that contribute to that knowledge. Another part of STS focuses on reform or activism, critically addressing policy, governance, and funding issues, as well as individual pieces of publicly relevant science and technology; it tries to reform science and technology in the name of equality, welfare, and environment. The two parts, which Steve Fuller (1993) has called the “High Church” and “Low Church” of STS, differ simultaneously in goals, attention, and style, and therefore create a deep division in the field. However, this image of division ignores the numerous bridges between the Churches, so numerous that they form another terrain in which the politics of science and technology are explored. There we find theorists increasingly concerned with practical politics of science, articulating positions with respect to questions about the place of expertise in a democracy, or engaging in studies that directly bear on questions of reform and activism. In particular, constructivist STS has created a space for theoretically sophisticated analyses of science and technology in explicitly political contexts.
    STS teaching seeks to promote cross-disciplinary integration, civic engagement, and critical thinking. Undergraduate STS courses are especially popular with engineering and pre-professional students, including premeds. They help to illuminate issues of professional responsibility and ethics. Such courses also build bridges between disciplines that do not ordinarily meet each other in the undergraduate curriculum, such as sociology and science, law and science, anthropology and technology, environmental science and political theory, or technology and philosophy. Graduate STS courses offer ways of integrating knowledge in areas that are impossible to grasp through any single discipline; examples include security studies, environmental studies, globalization, the human sciences, and biology and society. STS courses in these areas enable students to form more robust understandings of the nature of controversy, the causes of scientific and technological change, the relationship of culture and reason, and the limits of rational analytic methods in characterizing complex problems.
    The Institute of Science, Technology and Society is one of the pioneers in China and has conducted research and teaching on S&T policy and society since 1985 (The STS Group within the School of Humanity and Social Science was officially established as an institute in 2000). And the STS institute is also one core part of the National Base for Innovative Study in Science, Technology and Society Development. The institute is also widely known for its research in S&T and innovation polices. The faculty, who are equipped with strong technical knowledge and social science training, are the crucial resource to carry out both theoretical and empirical research in almost all cutting-edge fields in STS.
    The STS institute confers M.A. and Ph.D. degrees. Courses offered include history of S&T, philosophy of S&T, Sociology of S&T, etc.