The opening decade of this millennium witnessed genome scientists, policy makers, critical race theorists and world leaders proclaiming the anti-racist democratic potential of human genomics. These views stand in stark contrast to the 1990s concern that genomics might create new forms of racism. This lecture explores this shift, both why it happened and what it reveals about emerging challenges for understanding issues of race and racism in the genomic age.
This event is sponsored by the Clarke Forum for Contemporary Issues and co-sponsored by the Departments of American Studies, Anthropology, and Spanish & Portuguese. This program is also part of the Clarke Forum’s semester theme, The Meanings of Race.
Video of lecture http://clarke.dickinson.edu/jenny-reardon/
UCSC Science and Justice Program Receives National Attention
By Kara Guzman
POSTED: 08/20/2013 05:53:05 PM PDT
SANTA CRUZ — An interdisciplinary team of professors and graduate students from UC Santa Cruz’s Science & Justice Training Program have been recognized on the national stage for their work to integrate ethical training into scientific fields.
The team recently published an article in Public Library of Science Biology, a national peer-reviewed science journal, about the need to create institutional space for the exploration of the links between science and questions of ethics and justice, and how they were able to achieve that at UCSC.
The training program, which teaches both science and humanities graduate students to integrate ethical questions into their work, is the first of its kind, according to co-director Jenny Reardon. One of the program’s goals is to inspire the growth of this type of work on a national level, said Reardon.
“We live in a world where science and technology are a part of everybody’s lives,” said Reardon, who is an associate professor in sociology and faculty affiliate in UCSC’s Center for Biomolecular Science and Engineering. “What we wanted to do was build a space where scientists and engineers could come together with social scientists and humanists around areas of common concern.”
Reardon listed topics such as dam construction, fish stock management and genomics as areas where people beyond just scientists are needed to answer broader political and justice questions.
A subtle yet significant shift has occurred in the principles of the National Science Foundation, a federal agency that funds approximately 20 percent of federally supported university research, and the agency now seeks to fund research that explicitly engages the public and benefits society, according to the article.
This shift has resulted in an effort at the national level to increase science ethics education, according to assistant program director Jake Metcalf. Traditionally science ethics education is built around responsible conduct of research, or “don’t cheat, don’t steal, don’t lie,” said Metcalf.
“We’re trying to expand that to say we can develop better forms of knowledge when we actually have space and funding and time to recognize the interdisciplinary nature of the problems that scientists and engineers encounter,” said Metcalf.
Along with coursework that teaches graduate students how to identify intersections between science and ethics, such as in genomics or climate change, the program offers a working group and research center, which provide an institutionalized space to explore these intersections.
Science & Justice fellow Tiffany Wise-West, a civil engineer who is completing a Ph.D. in environmental studies, said that the program helped her think beyond just engineering, and brought the social implications of her work to the foreground.
“It’s added a new dimension,” said Wise-West. “I had not thought in that way before.”
A key part of the program is encouraging scientists to step away from the “publish or perish” pressure and take the time to reflect on these broader issues. Reardon said she sees a long-standing competitive culture within the scientific community that encourages sacrificing personal time to quickly churn out scholarly articles.
“That’s why I think these questions of justice are important,” said Reardon. “It encourages us to think about what life is about, what is the good life and what is the place of knowledge and knowledge production.”
Science and Justice Training Program explores ethics of scientific research
Founders and participants outline program in ‘PLOS Biology’
By Guy Lasnier
Jenny Reardon is an associate professor of sociology and co-director of the Science and Justice Training Program. Co-director Karen Barad is professor of feminist studies and history of consciousness.
A subtle but significant shift in how national science policy makers regard the outcomes of scientific research has created opportunities for innovative programs such as the Science and Justice Training Program (SJTP) at UC Santa Cruz.
The interdisciplinary program, within UCSC’s Science and Justice Research Center, trains graduate students to explore the effects and impacts of their research on society. Writing recently in a scientific journal, members of the training program, co-directed by Jenny Reardon, associate professor of sociology, and Karen Barad, professor of feminist studies, outline the UCSC effort that was founded in 2010 with a National Science Foundation grant.
The article “Experiments in Collaboration: Interdisciplinary Graduate Education in Science and Justice” appears on the community page of the July 30 issue of PLOS Biology.
“In a world increasingly shaped by science and technology, the SJTP aims to offer one pathway for science and engineering to connect to social issues and public concerns in a more practical, substantive, and thoughtful way,” the authors write.
Although policy changes over the past 20 years have led to an increased awareness of the impact of science on society, little direction is provided on how to proceed. That has created “an unexpected and underexploited benefit,” the authors write. “Where there is a mandate with little guidance, there is also an opportunity to innovate.”
At UCSC that means increased ethics education requirements for graduate students and a training program to deliver it. It means scientists and engineers working with colleagues in the humanities, arts, and social sciences.
As an example, the authors cite two physics students working on solar greenhouse technology for industrial applications. They had hoped their technology also would be useful to and embraced by small-scale organic farmers.
However, after interviewing farmers using techniques learned in an SJTP research methods seminar, they learned the farmers wanted nothing to do with high-tech approaches. This prompted the researchers to rethink who might benefit from their work.
The goal is “not to turn scientists into social scientists or humanities scholars or vice versa,” the authors write. “Rather, it is to create opportunities for graduate students and other SJTP members to gather around common objects and concerns (e.g., a greenhouse, climate change, or the use of racial categories in biomedical research.”
Also contributing to the article were Jacob Metcalf, a postdoctoral fellow for the training program; along with graduate student fellows Ian Carbone, Martha Kenney, Jennifer Liss Ohayon, Derek Padilla, Miriam Olivera, Kate Richerson, and Tiffany Wise-West.