STS Graduate Research Seminar – 1/18-1/21

The Program on Science, Technology, and Society flyer

STS Graduate Research Seminar

Beyond “Don’t be Evil”: Embedding your research in social contexts

January 18-21, 202210am-12pm and 2-4pm each dayHarvard Kennedy School, Taubman Building, Room T-520 NYE ARegistration is required. Please register here.


Engineers and scientists often pursue their research in the hope that their discoveries and inventions will benefit the world. Yet, few have significant insight into the institutional channels through which research finds its way into applications and policy, nor how social and ethical factors influence aspects of their research. This intensive one-week course is designed to help graduate science and engineering students grapple with the challenges of moving from research idea to social benefit (or harm) by providing a conceptual framework drawn from Science and Technology Studies (STS). The introduction of STS concepts will be linked to exercises in analyzing the students’ own research projects. The course will offer a mix of lectures, guest speakers, and intensive student participation.

Students taking the course are expected to bring some ideas their current or future research projects, and to attend all sessions. Examples of issues to be considered include: What social, economic, and ethical assumptions are already reflected in the framing of your research? When is it appropriate to address questions about the ethical, political, and organizational issues you encounter in research, and which questions do you consider especially important to explore? What avenues, if any, exist for people outside your immediate lab group to question those assumptions? How do you reach out for feedback on the societal implications of your research, and to whom? Could you tailor your work to more explicitly engage, and possibly incorporate, social values? More broadly, the course will cover why these types of questions are currently so hard to ask in engineering training, and explore what can be done to change this.