Workshop looks at how science changed our lives forever: 'The Applied Science Problem,' Spring 2005


Second Stevens Institute Workshop on Science & Technology Studies, May 6-8

HOBOKEN, N.J. — Science-based technologies largely define industrial civilization today. Communication systems, electric and nuclear power generation, pharmaceuticals and health care, genetically-modified foods, military technologies, transportation systems, and entertainment industries are just a few domains of contemporary technology that grew out of and depend on the useful application of scientific knowledge and discovery.

Where would the world be today without computers?

The second Stevens Institute Workshop on Science and Technology Studies, sponsored by the Department of History, will consider the variety of issues that spring from "The Applied Science Problem." The workshop will be held on the Stevens Institute of Technology campus in Hoboken, N.J., May 6-8, 2005.

Confirmed participation includes:

Claudine Cohen, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris; Michael S. Mahoney,Professor of History of Sciences, Princeton University; Philip R. Reilly, MD, JD, and CEO Interleukin Genetics; and Nick Taylor, author, Laser: The Inventor, the Nobel Laureate and the Thirty-Year Patent War.

"The centrality of science-based technologies begs the question of what we mean by 'applied science,'" says Assistant Professor of History Mary Ann Hellrigel, an organizer of the spring workshop. "How is it that knowledge of nature is somehow transformed into the tools and techniques that underpin modern life? It seems self-evident that there are many routes by which science becomes transmuted into technology, but what are they? Directly tapping the forefront of theory and research? The mundane translation of off-the-shelf textbook knowledge into engineering novelty? Scientific discovery and technological invention emerging simultaneously in a burst of creativity? What else besides insight into nature is required for the creation of a new science-based technology? Who does the "applying," and what sociological and institutional factors are at play? Is the scientific enterprise today, or technoscience as it is sometimes known, with its dependence on instruments that are themselves the products of theory, a convoluted special case of applied science"

Scholars have addressed these and like questions in the past, and more recent social studies of science and technology make this an apt time to reexamine the nature of applied science in a systematic fashion. This workshop deliberately problematizes the notion of applied science in the hope that answers will bring deeper understanding of this dynamic and fundamental aspect of society today.

"The disciplines of the history of science and the history of technology are separated by intellectual and social barriers," says Hellrigel, "and the unfortunate division of these fields is partly responsible for the paucity of sustained inquiry into questions concerning applied science. This workshop brings together researchers in disparate fields at the intersections of science and technology studies to more accurately map the territory of applied science."

The dates for the workshop are May 6-8, 2005 on the Stevens campus. Speedy publication of proceedings is anticipated.

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