STEM Crisis? What About the STS Crisis?

Science, technology, and society programs will become more effective if they’re embraced by scientists and engineers

3 min read
Illustration by Getty Images
Illustration: Getty Images

This past summer I spoke with Sheila Jasanoff, Pforzheimer Professor of Science and Technology Studies at the Harvard Kennedy School, about her latest book, The Ethics of Invention: Technology and the Human Future (W.W. Norton & Co., 2016). A science, technology, and society program pioneer, founding chair of Cornell University’s prestigious STS department, Jasanoff has made her lifework the exploration of the relationship between science and technology and the law, politics, and government policy.

I had a lot of questions. Historically, scientists and engineers have distanced themselves from the social implications or unintended outcomes of their work. Can this mind-set be changed? Will it ever be possible to get out in front of the unintended consequences of new technologies, or are we doomed to a hamster wheel of innovation, disaster, and remediation? Why is it so unusual for engineers and scientists to weigh in on the potential problems associated with their inventions or discoveries in advance of their widespread dissemination?

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Asad Madni and the Life-Saving Sensor

His pivot from defense helped a tiny tuning-fork prevent SUV rollovers and plane crashes

11 min read
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Asad Madni and the Life-Saving Sensor

In 1992, Asad M. Madni sat at the helm of BEI Sensors and Controls, overseeing a product line that included a variety of sensor and inertial-navigation devices, but its customers were less varied—mainly, the aerospace and defense electronics industries.

And he had a problem.

The Cold War had ended, crashing the U.S. defense industry. And business wasn’t going to come back anytime soon. BEI needed to identify and capture new customers—and quickly.

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