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Role of Science in Society

Course title: The Role of Science Society;
CRN numbers: ENGL: 20027, 20028; OEAS: 17648, 17649
Credits: 3
Course type: Distance learning/on campus
Instructors: Dr. Hans-Peter Plag, Michelle Heart
Listing Departments: ENGL 795/895, OEAS 795/895 Advanced/Special Topics
Term: Fall 2015; Fridays 11:00 - 2:00; Gornto Room 205
Contact Information: hpplag at; mheart at

Course description: In this course, students will critically examine the development and use of knowledge in modern society and discuss the role of science for the provision of the knowledge that supports society in addressing major societal issues. Generally speaking, human history, including the pre-recorded times, reveal the unchanging social characteristic of humanity, existing in most of its endeavors, including science. Based on that observation, the course considers that characteristic a fundamental human activity resulting in the exchanging and sharing of knowledge, information, culture and wisdom. In addition, the course aims to help students to understand how the development of knowledge depends on societal and personal perceptions and shared viewpoints. It is ultimately hoped that, during the course of the semester, the shared viewpoints of the students and the instructors will facilitate discoveries of new patterns and visions, providing foundations for solutions and new theories. Students will specifically explore real and fictitious use cases of emerging threats including climate change and other extreme hazards with a goal to assess how knowledge evolves and impacts societal foresight and wisdom in a mix of rational and non-rational deliberations in the scientific, public, and political area.

Course objectives: Creating a graduate level academic matrix in which both the students and the instructors are encouraged to push the boundaries of traditional academic divisions between the sciences and the humanities, while at the same time developing unique theories in search of a better understanding of the 21st century's interdisciplinary and global perceptions at their fundamental levels.

Learning goals of the course

Students will:


Offices and Office Hours:

Dr. Hans-Peter Plag
4111 Monarch Way, Room 3211
p: 683-5335/773-4803, skype: hpplag
e: hpplag at (preferred mode of contact)
Office hours: by appointment
Michelle Heart
Office: BAL 8045, e: mheart at
Office hours: MW: 1:00-2:30 pm, TR: 2:00-4:00 pm

For policies (Special Needs, Late Assignments, Grading) see here.

Prerequistes: N/A

Reading List: Is available here, but will be modified and updated in the next days.


Note that this part is preliminary and will be updated in the next days! There will be weekly homework, mainly reading. Students are asked to come up with a weekly discussion thread & question to be explored also. One of the essentials of the course is to help the students to come up with good questions, rather than the answers. Our traditional system focused on “answers” creates a bit of an intellectual laziness and sometimes the best solutions are found in best questions, not otherwise. In our scheduling, we also leave room for an element of a surprise/something to be discovered during the course of the semester. Therefore, there may be changes to the weekly schedule.