A vibrant scholarly community
In recent decades, STS (known variously as Social Studies of Science & Technology, Science and Technology Studies, and Science, Technology, and Society) has been among the fastest growing “disciplines” within the international community of social scientists. Beginning in Britain at Edinburgh and Sussex, STS moved rapidly to Australia at Deakin University and University of Wollongong, and then during the late sixties to universities in the United States.
At present, about thirty US institutions have autonomous graduate programs in STS; these include significant programs at MIT, Cornell, Stanford, UCSD, Virginia Polytechnic, Minnesota, Iowa, RPI, and the Pennsylvania State University. Many more Public Policy programs have a substantial STS track, e.g., the Kennedy School or Syracuse.
STS has its own professional organizations — The Society for the Social Studies of Science and The National Association for Science, Technology and Society — as well as its own journals — The Bulletin of Science, Technology, and Society; Social Studies of Science; Science, Technology, and Human Values; and Issues in Science and Technology, among many others.
At the graduate level, STS emerged initially out of governmental and industrial initiatives to increase the effectiveness of investment in new scientific and technological knowledge. While this continues to be the focus of some programs, in many programs it has been overtaken by growing public concerns about suspected misuses of science and technology, calling for greater public control over scientific and technological systems and examining their implications for the quality of life. STS has also figured prominently in movements to reform science education; a new STS journal, Science & Education: Contributions from History, Philosophy, and Sociology of Science and Mathematics, emerged in the 1990s to facilitate this discussion.
At the undergraduate level, STS has grown significantly with the realization in all sectors of society that a critical understanding of the nature, social context, history, and cultural implications of science and technology is important for effective citizenship and involvement in contemporary life. Graduates go on to careers in education, science communication, environmental policy, technology development, etc. STS has also proven to be a favored and particularly appropriate major for pre-medical and pre-law students.
Why in Claremont?
STS is a good fit for virtually all institutions of liberal education, but especially at The Claremont Colleges.
Many small institutions have at most two or three STS faculty whose major academic commitments may be elsewhere. In Claremont, over 110 faculty are on the list for the electronic newsletter, STS Gazette. Core STS faculty are among the leaders in the field nationally and internationally. To name only a few: Marianne DeLaet is a vibrant contributor to scholarly discourses in anthropological studies of technology that range from analyses of bush pumps in Zimbabwe to the most advanced astronomical equipment in the world at Caltech. Andre Wakefield has just published The Disordered Police State with University of Chicago Press on the role of sciences in the training of state officials in 17th and 18th century Germany. Brian Keeley is highly regarded for his many scholarly articles that examine philosophical issues raised by advances in biology and neuroscience, such as “Anthropomorphism, Primatomorphism, Mammalomorphism: Understanding Cross-Species Comparisons.” Erika Dyson has just joined us as a specialist in science and religion after completing her doctoral studies at Columbia University, and examines fascinating topics such as the interfaces between occult religions and technologies.
The Hixon-Riggs Professor at Harvey Mudd College supports a visiting faculty position that has made it possible to host a continuing string of early-career scholars opening up important new lines of research in STS. Our current Fellow is Kathleen Burns, who engages with environmental humanities, media studies, and STS in her research and courses, such as "Environmental Crisis in Literature and Science."