8. Science and society

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Those who pursue the study of science have created processes, tools and products that challenge and influence society and some of its belief systems, ethics and societal norms. In response, society debates and regulates science in order to prevent harmful developments and unacceptable outcomes, and to allow for new and beneficial products, processes and ideas. Science also can be affected by society, as well as governments, industry, economic interests and cultural perspectives.

  • Science and society outlines how science serves society
  • An detailed interactive containing current curated references made by the World Economic Forum. It covers many topics in this module. Does require free registration  to view all resources in detail.

Incidents, Events, and Science

Inquiry question 1: How do science-related events affect society’s view of science?

Investigate case studies of past events to consider how they have affected the public image of science, including but not limited to:

a.meltdowns of nuclear reactors

  • A news article by the conversations that discusses public opinion and concerns around Nuclear reactors in Japan since the Fukushima accident.
  • Public perception of nuclear energy. This article looks at the values the public has in America and how that affects development in nuclear power plant technologies.

b.development of the smallpox vaccine

c.development of flight

d.positive and negative aspects of damming rivers

General links about public perceptions of science

Regulation of Scientific Research

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Inquiry question 2: Why is scientific research regulated?

a. Investigate the need for the regulation of scientific research in, for example:

  • genetic modification of sex cells and embryos
  • development of biotechnological weaponry
  • testing of pharmaceuticals
  • products and processes of the nuclear industry
  • protection of Indigenous cultural and intellectual property

b. Investigate and assess ethical issues surrounding current scientific research in, for example:

  • use of radiation
  • pharmaceutical research
  • gene manipulation in biotechnology
  • mining practices
  • bioprospecting

c. Investigate a range of international scientific codes of conduct in regard to scientific research and practice in the areas of, for example:

  • cloning
  • stem cell research
  • surrogacy
  • genetically modified foods
  • transplantation of organs

Evaluate the effectiveness of international regulation in scientific research and practice.

Consider the limitations and challenges for each industry you examined. Also, consider the potential gains to scientific research and practice through the use of regulation. 

General links that address the point and enquiry question above

Influence of Economic, Social and Political Forces on Scientific Research

 Inquiry question 3: How do economic, social and political influences affect scientific research?

a. Evaluate the costs involved in space exploration compared to investments in social issues, for example,

b. Evaluate how scientific research aids economic development and human progress in relation to, for example:

  • nuclear power generation
  • use of antimicrobial drugs
  • genetically modified foods
  • use of petroleum products
  • robotics and the use of drones

General links to this enquiry question

c. Evaluate the impacts of scientific research, devices and applications on world health and human well-being, including but not limited to:

  1. medical surgical devices
  2. surgical procedures
  3. water purification and wastewater treatment
  4. vaccination programs for the eradication of disease

Some links to address the points above

d. Using examples, analyse the impacts that governments and large corporations have on scientific research, including but not limited to:

  1. corporations and market opportunities( refer also to the many fallacies explored in module 7 that are perpetuated by industry )
  2. university research project budgets
  3. governmental budgets and limited time priorities
  4. benefit-sharing in research using ICIP( see module 6 on bioharvesting  as well)

Some links to address the points above

e.Evaluate how personal, cultural and socioeconomic perspectives can influence the direction of scientific research, for example:

Some links to address the points above

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