Science and the Public

  • SciPub students in DC
    SciPub students in DC


The aim of this Focus cluster is to take a scholarly, interdisciplinary and, we hope, fun approach to science and technology and the ways in which they reach the public. Our cluster will be a cohort of four courses dedicated to various aspects of science’s place in the world, including: patient activism and advocacy; the development of laws and policies governing science; the relationship between science and the performing arts; and human-machine interfaces in the twenty-first century.  The weekly interdisciplinary discussion course will be dedicated to science communication and science outreach. Each course will explore, to varying degrees,  “how the sausage gets made,” i.e., how science and technology happen; what becomes of them once they do happen; how they are conveyed to various publics; and stakeholder responses to them.


Science and Society 196FS/ African and African American Studies 196FS/ Global Health 195FS/ Psychology 196FS/ Public Policy 196FS/ Sociology 196FS/ Cultural Anthrpology 196FS: Patient and Research Participant Activism and Advocacy (SS, STS, W)

Misha Angrist

Misha Angrist, Associate Professor of the Practice at the Social Sciences Research Institute; Senior Fellow in Duke Initiative for Science & Society;  Visiting Associate Professor of the Practice in the Sanford School of Public Policy 

In the 1960s, patients appropriated the language and tactics of the civil rights movement to advance clinical and research agendas. Today patient activism is evolving, leading to new solutions, dilemmas, and organizational structures. This course will examine patient and research participant activism and the ways it challenges conventional notions of expertise, amateurism, "human subjects protections," and minimization of risk. Students will bring the tools of journalism, anthropology, humanities scholarship, public policy and community engagement/citizen science to bear on ethical and policy questions. 

Science and Society 199FS/ Public Policy 199FS: Risks, Rewards, Rule and Tools: Science, Law and Policy (SS, CCI, STS, W)

Janet Prvu Bettger
Yousef Zafar

Janet Prvu Bettger, Associate Professor of Orthopaedics and Nursing, Director of Undergraduate Initiatives of the Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy

Yousef Zafar, Associate Professor of Medicine, Public Policy and Population Health Sciences

What are the government policies that support science? How is science regulated and controlled? What can science contribute to law and policy? How do the states and the federal government interact to set science policy? How do disparate regulations and law impact research and translation? How is scientific research funded? Why is there so much distrust of science? We will explore these questions and more by looking at the various interactions of law, science, and policy. 

Science and Society 198FS/ Theater Studies 198FS/ English 198FS/ Literature 198FS: Performing Science: Experimentation, Collaboration, and Artistry (ALP, STS, R)

Jules Odendahl-James

Jules Odendahl-James, Director of Academic Engagement, Arts & Humanities

This course combines a historical survey of science-themed plays with an examination of sci+arts initiatives such as the University of Western Australia’s Symbiotica; the Art & Science Laboratory in New Mexico; and the UK’s Centre for Performance Science. Central course questions: How can performing arts improve public awareness and knowledge about complex scientific ideas and research? What points of view and methods of research do artists bring to scientific inquiry and vice-versa? We will pay particular attention to secondary schools, contemporary art installations, and science museums as public laboratories for experimental, embodied collaborations across the two disciplines.

Science and Society 197FS: From Siri to Skynet: Our Complex Relationships with Technology (SS, STS)

Mark DeLong

Mark DeLong, Director of Duke Research Computing

From mobile phones to driverless cars, modern high-tech devices have important human-facing and human-obscured elements that shape our relationships with technology. Some integrate seamlessly into our daily lives, others frustrate us, and some simply captivate us. In this course, we will investigate how the design, development, and usage of these technologies impact contemporary human societies. Topics will include design principles, data collection & usage, accessibility, usability, safety, ethics, societal impact and performance. Case studies used in the course will include a variety of past and current technologies, as well as emerging systems such as brain-computer interfaces, autonomous robotics and artificial intelligence.

Faculty Director

Misha Angrist
Misha Angrist
  • Associate Professor of the Practice in the Social Science Research Institute
  • Senior Fellow in the Duke Initiative for Science and Society
  • Visiting Associate Professor of the Practice in the Sanford School of Public Policy
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