Course Description

470.720 - Science and Government

Science forms the heart of many of our most contentious national issues, from climate change to stem cell research, from teaching evolution to exploring space. Americans view science with both suspicion and awe. We support science watchdog organizations, while we also support increased spending on scientific and medical research. We worry that science opens Pandora's box, yet we look to scientists and engineers to provide solutions in fields such as medicine and alternative energy. This course examines this national paradox, by exploring the interrelations among government, the scientific community, and concerned citizens. Because of its role as both patron and regulator, the federal government is the chief actor in these science dramas. Through lectures, readings, and discussion, the course will look at government research agencies such as the NIH and NASA, at federally sponsored research in universities and companies, at major science initiatives such as the Human Genome Project and the National Nanotechnology Initiative, and at oversight organizations both within government and without. The course will pursue the questions of why and how the government supports so much science, and what role science & engineering play in the nation's social and political aspirations.