What is STS?

Science, Technology and Society (STS) is an interdisciplinary field that asks such questions as: 

  • How does science work?
  • How are we to understand the conduct and outcome of scientific controversies?
  • How is the conduct of science affected by economic, political, religious, or philosophical currents in a given time and place?
  • How do societies and governments allocate resources for scientific research and science-based policies?
  • How have scientific research ethics evolved, and what ethical issues are now being contested?

STS applies the methods of history, philosophy and sociology of science to answer some of these and other questions. At the University of Puget Sound, STS majors are also required to do substantial work in the sciences themselves, as a necessary complement to their reflection on science as an activity.  

STS is a young field, but it has roots in the older disciplines of the history of science, philosophy of science, and sociology of science.  “Science and Technology Studies” is a term that is sometimes used for a closely related field.  Around the United States, there are several dozen universities that have programs in these areas, including more than a dozen with undergraduate programs.  There are, as well, undergraduate programs at universities in the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia. 

At the University of Puget Sound, majors in STS take a common sequence of four mainstream courses, distributed over the undergraduate years.  The remainder of the degree requirements are decided in concert with the student’s advising committee.  The goal is to provide an individually tailored program that achieves a balance between breadth and concentration in the student’s special area of interest.