Service-Learning Project: Socially Responsible Science and Technology

(Undergraduate section only.)

The purpose of this project is to promote socially responsible science and technology, i.e., social responsibility in scientific research research, in communication, public understanding, or application of science, or in the invention, development, use, or dissemination of technology. While the decision about how to understand social responsibility and how best to promote it is up to you, that decision must be formed in dialogue with ideas from the course about why and how values and ethical considerations enter into science and technology. Your project must in some sense be a public intervention – it is not for my eyes alone nor only for your classmates, but should engage wider communities. The goal is to have a genuine positive impact.

This will be a group project, with groups of between 2 and 4 students.

Project Components

  1. Background research – Your project must be informed by research on the area of science or technology in question. You will submit an annotated bibliography of this research in the early stages of the project. (Group)
  2. Intervention – a public object, event, or activity that promotes socially responsible science or technology. (Group)
  3. Documentation of the project – in many cases, your project won’t be something you can directly turn in. This can be as simple as a link to a website or as complex as video and photographic evidence of an event. Please provide documentation not only of the final product but also some documentation of the production process itself. This is the main way I can gauge the effort involved in the project. (Group)
  4. In-class presentation – During finals week, you will present a summary of what you did, an explanation of the theoretical background, and an assessment of the practical successes and difficulties. (Group)
  5. Reflection paper – In this paper, you will (A) present an argument for staging your intervention based on philosophical theories and background research, (B) describe the actual experience of the intervention, (C) reflect on the effectiveness of the project and consider ways it could be improved or could have been more effective. 5000 words maximum.

Standards of Evaluation

The main project will be evaluated on the following criteria:

  1. Effort – This is the major part of the class, and you need to show commensurate effort. It is to your benefit to document some of what went into the production process in this regard.
  2. Informedness – Your intervention should be informed (a) by theoretical grounding in the texts from the class that discuss the nature and processes of technology and the role of ethical and political considerations therein, and (b) by research into the practical issue you hope to address.
  3. Effectiveness – Your project is not just an academic exercise, but an attempt to make some positive contribution to the issue you address. You need to demonstrate and reflect upon the effectiveness of your project in ameliorating the problem. It is to your benefit to include reflections not only on your successes but also on your difficulties and failings, insofar as you also talk about how to close the loop, i.e., how one might overcome those difficulties in the future.
  4. Creativity – Your project should ideally not just be more of the same that is already being done in the area, but a novel, creative, innovative approach based on knowledge gained and your group’s distinctive abilities.

Your individual reflection papers will also be evaluated on the quality of your argumentation and communication, how well you rely on published sources, and how convincing your reflections about effectiveness are.

Project Milestones:

  1. Group Formation – Due week 4
  2. Brainstorming and Project Proposals – Due week 5
  3. Consultation – Before Spring Break
  4. Annotated bibliography – Due week 10
  5. Reflection papers and documentation – Due week 16
  6. Presentations – During Final Exam period

Project Examples

  • Public awareness campaign about unintentional wastes of electricity.
  • Websites or YouTube videos informing about water usage or battery recycling.
  • Online community devoted to solutions to help Zimbabweans meet basic needs with sustainable technology.
  • On campus demonstration of implications of multitasking research for, e.g., texting and driving.
  • Door to door information campaigns.
  • Staged on-campus “happenings”

Bonus Point Opportunities

One way to earn more “Citizenship Points” is to attend one of the following four Center for Values events:

  1. Wednesday, January 29, 7:30 PM – Documentary Night: Food, Inc.
  2. Wednesday, February 05, 7:30 PM – Documentary Night: The Perfect Human Diet
  3. Thursday, February 06, 7:30 PM – James Livingston lecture: After Work: Why Full Employment is a Bad Idea, or, What Is To Be Done When Work Disappears?Cancelled due to weather
  4. Wednesday, February 26, 7:30 PM – David Kaplan – What’s Wrong With Food Additives?
  5. Wednesday, April 23, 7:30 PM – Roberta Millstein: Genetically Modified Food: Feeding the World or Fouling the World?
  6. Thursday, April 24, time TBD (morning or lunchtime) – student meetings with Roberta Millstein

All four events take place in the Jonsson Performance Hall.

Procedure for receiving credit: At the door of the Performance Hall, there will be a sign-in sheet. Put your name on the sheet on your way in, and then check in with me before you leave to make sure you’ll receive credit. You must check in both before and after the event.

Assignment: Discussion Questions

Each week, you should turn in two discussion questions (two per week, not two per reading). They should be questions that engage the readings; if there are focus readings (listed in bold), it is preferable though not required that you focus your questions on those readings. The questions should create discussion, not be easy to answer factual questions, nor simple statements of opinion. They should be analytical, critical, or evaluative, i.e., they should try to explore or extend the ideas in the readings in some way.

Due: Every week, 24 hours before class, by email to the professor.

Note: Exceptionally good discussion questions will be awarded Citizenship Points.

Additional Resources