Science and technology are integrated into our lives—from the way we heal the sick, to the way we communicate with each other, to the way we wage war. However, with these advancements come questions about security, privacy, health, sustainability, and more. For this reason, how governments, societies, and individuals engage in science and technology has become a rich area of interdisciplinary research.
Sheila Jasanoff, Pforzheimer Professor of Science and Technology Research, a pioneer in the field, was the founding chair (STS) of Cornell University’s Department of Science and Technology before joining Harvard in 1998 and launching the Science, Technology, and Society program at Harvard Kennedy School.
Harvard’s STS program celebrates its 20th anniversary this week with a three-day multidisciplinary symposium, “Science, Technology, and the Future of Humanity,” featuring novelist Arundhati Roy; on how science and technology are shaping knowledge, life , the role of public policy and the future of cities; and a conversation about how the field of STS can help us better understand ourselves, our society, and our planet. We caught up with Jasanoff, who won the prestigious Hallberg Prize for her work earlier this year, to discuss the evolution and future of the STS field.
ask: How has the field of STS changed or developed over the past 20 years?
STS has moved from primarily studying the way scientists work and the risks posed by technology to asking deeper questions about how to steer science and technology for the public good and how to use the power of innovation responsibly. STS research is now seen as essential as science and technology permeate our lives and all the major challenges we face as human society in the 21st century require us to think harder about what we need to know and how we should use our knowledge. As a result, STS is increasingly recognized as an area where universities must do more to build and nurture in order to make us better scientists, doctors and engineers, and smarter citizens and policymakers. STS is no longer an invisible space between disciplines, but a well-defined field necessary for our development as a thoughtful, self-aware society.
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