Investigative Research on the Social Impact of Science
Biology 9, Soc/Anthro 23 Spring 1998

Peter Taylor, Lang Visiting Professor
Email:; Phone: 610-690-6858
Classes: Martin 213 & 219, TuTh 11.20-1.10
Office Hours: Pearson 102, Tu 1.30-3.30, by sign-up
Course Website -- this is it -- irsios-TOC.html

Scientific developments are central to many current social issues: use of biotechnology, prenatal screening, fetal tissue transplants, municipal waste disposal, toxic wastes, epidemiology of AIDS, sex differences in math. tests, and so on. While non-scientists defer to the technical expertise of scientists regarding these developments, most scientists are too specialized to evaluate the social implications of their work, yet they resist moves for active democratic participation in directing science.


Texts and Materials
Schedule of classes & assignments
Research Briefings
Tasks in preparation for class, in addition to those in schedule of classes
Notes on writing and revising
Freewriting suggestions
Useful web sites
Dimensions of the workshop process
Student presentations, April 23 & 28

This course is based on the premise that science can be appreciated critically without expertise in technique and detail. You identify a current controversy that concerns you -- something about which you would like to advocate a change -- and work through various stages of investigation of that issue, which include:
-- define the issue;
-- do background research into who has interests in the issue, its history and comparison with similar issues;
-- define a manageable project;
-- establish contacts with specialists who can interpret the science and identify where you might pursue studies in greater depth;
-- establish contacts with activists who can help you interpret the science and politics;
-- identify the arguments and counter-arguments of the different sides;
-- begin drafting your reports early so the revision process helps you clarify what research is needed;
-- make and revise written and spoken presentations;
-- explore avenues of public participation and define proposals for action; and
-- sketch out future extensions of your research.
The syllabus describes the provisional sequence of activities and assignments along the way.

At the same time, the class is run as a workshop. At a basic level this means that you have the opportunity to:
i) practice in class and in peer groups (usually from 12.40-1.10) the techniques, e.g., interviewing, that are introduced;
ii) learn about each other's projects and help each other by acting as critical reviewers of those projects;
iii) clarify your own projects, ideas and arguments by making presentations and/or receiving comments at different stages in the research process, and then direct your remaining research efforts accordingly; and
iv) plan the means of best presenting the group's work to the wider public, and supporting each other in doing so.
The group may, however, move to a more profound level of support for each other, depending in part on who you are, and in part on my facilitation of your participation in the workshop.

In addition to general facilitation of the workshop, my role as instructor is to:
i) help you understand the science (as much as I can) through written comments and during one-on-one conferences;
ii) guide you to literature, resources, contacts and possible future internships;
iii) "think on my feet" during class in order to identify what needs clarification and find ways to guide you into solving the problems yourselves;
iv) distribute regular handouts providing more detail about the assignments and readings ahead;
v) schedule student conferences after every class (from 12.40-1.10), enabling me to take stock with each student of developments (or lack of developments) in their project at least once every three weeks; and
vi) arrange guest speakers, discussion of articles and case studies to illustrate points about explanation, argument, modes of research, experts, ways of knowing, and what can be achieved in research and action.
(Note: I keep to a minimum required readings concerning the social impact of science because I have found that these distract students from pursuing their own research. However, I encourage you to ask me for readings if you are ready to learn more history about the social impacts of science and to develop a systematic framework for analysis of these impacts.)

My experience is that teaching this course entails many challenges in supplying contacts and other resources for a large number of different projects. But an even greater challenge has been to get the students into their research and keep them moving along. Some of you will have not previously been given so much responsibility for directing your own learning, interacting with the adult world outside college, and producing original written work of the length that this course requires. The process will be demanding for most of you. Many of you will get "researcher's block" at one point in the course or another, often over seemingly simple tasks such as making a phone call to find out some information or arrange an interview. In response to and in anticipation of such difficulties I have instituted a number of changes since I first taught the course. For example, I will require you to identify and make an appointment without delay with an initial faculty informant. (I provide a letter of introduction so these faculty appreciate the purpose and expectations of having these meetings so early in the your projects.)
My special goals for this year are to encourage you to i) make direct contact with the participants in science-based controversies, that is, to take your research off campus; ii) identify a specific constituency you want to influence; iii) develop a proposal for action directed at that constituency; and iv) design your research -- especially if you are a social sciences major -- in greater detail and with more attention to methodological problems in interviewing, surveys, etc. I also want to v) practice some new approaches to facilitating the workshop process; and vi) make more systematic the different aspects of the pedagogy of this course.

Assessment [*s indicate revisions 3/11/98] This is divided into two parts:
Participation and contribution to the class process, one-third;
Written assignments and presentations, two-thirds.

Assignments are commented on, but not graded, which allows more time and attention to be given to commenting and other teaching/ learning interactions. You must, however, revise them in response to comments (from me and from WAs) and resubmit them until the assignment is marked OK/RNR (resubmission not required). Due date for resubmissions is 3 classes after I *bring the assignment to class to* return to you.

For each part, satisfactory completion of "basic work" gives you a B+ (but on the low end of the B+ range). If you do not complete the basic work, the grade is pro-rated downwards, except that the overall grade cannot be higher than the participation grade. The idea is that completing assignments cannot compensate for low participation.
Basic work=
Workshop process: Attendance (two non-excused absences allowed), *Prepared participation* including Feedback on presentations, and Briefing on research issues (see end of syllabus).
[*This is necessarily more subjective than the basic work for written assignments. Active participation can make up for some absences, but if you are behind in your research and/or you haven't picked up the handouts you missed, you aren't likely to be well prepared to participate actively when you do come to class. Missing conferences counts against you; volunteering as facilitator or presenter for peer groups counts for you.*]

Written assignments and presentations: 80% of assignments OK/RNR. *Final reports count for two assignments; report on faculty informant, principle needing explanation, 5 interview questions, and workbooks/binders reveiwed at mid-semester count as half-assignments.* *Public presentation counts as an assignment.*

To have a chance -- but not a guarantee -- of getting a higher grade, "additional work" is taken into account. *On 4/21 I will let you know whether your basic work looks like being satisfactory, borderline, or less than satisfactory.*
Additional work=
Workshop process: Active participation and Portfolio (to be described later in course).
Written assignments and presentations: Final research report and public presentation *will be graded*.

1. Independent work on your project outside class steadily throughout semester. (I may ask you to keep a work log and will review your workbinders during the semester.)
2. Co-operation (pre-reading, attendance, discussion, contact about non-attendance above two classes, and contact about late work).
3. Participate in your peer group, which should consist of students with related projects. These groups will meet at 12.40-1.10 at the end of each class (or at another arranged time), so that you can make presentations, discuss your projects, and etc.
4. Wordprocessed assignments (so you can revise & update them).
5. Assignments on due dates (often we'll discuss them in class on the due day).
6. Volunteering to make class presentations, which in some cases require completion of assignment before the rest of the class.
7. Resubmit assignments when requested.
8. Keep an eye on assignment deadlines and other tasks ahead so you give yourself time to prepare. (Assignments due are marked in this syllabus with a *A* Check the website for tasks over and above those listed in the syllabus.)

Texts and Materials:
Elbow, P. (1981). Writing with Power. New York: Oxford University Press.
Xeroxed handouts and other readings will be provided. (To help you appreciate what is required in, for example, a narrative outline, the reader includes different examples of student work from previous years. These are not all gems - note comments made on them -- so do not slavishly copy any one of them.)
Compilations of final reports from previous years are on reserve in the Cornell library.
On reserve in the Cornell library: Williams, C.T. & G.K. Wolfe. 1979. Elements of Research: A Guide for Writers. Palo Alto: Mayfield Publishers.
You need also to have a a) 3 ring workbinder with dividers and pockets to store loose materials; and b) a notebook/workbook/journal to carry with you at all times.

Suggested changes welcome

Additional information about classes and assignments will be provided in regular handouts.

Tu20 Introduction.
Freewriting and Focused Conversation on investigative research and the social impact of science.

Th22 Review of previous reports
Verbal reports on proposed investigations
Formation of peer groups
Sign-up for conferences & class presentations
Asmt: Identify an initial faculty informant, make contact, deliver letter of introduction, make appointment for a time before Feb. 3rd.

Tu27 Pre-reading: Chap. 1 Elements, Elbow, chaps. 1 & 3.
Discussion of initial descriptions
Initial formulations -> controlling question
Exercise: General area & specific questions
Other issues: Ambiguity, Lack of definition, Discovering subject/ Inventing subject, Subject, purpose, audience
First peer group meeting -- "share" initial descriptions
*A* Asmt due: Title and initial description of proposed research (1 page)

Th29 Pre-Reading: Chap. 2 Elements
Meet in Cornell library lobby for a session on Reference material in the libraries
Manual and computer searching
Asmt: Use the on-line catalogs or databases to locate articles or sections in books describing a controversy related to your issue. Submit with a paragraph describing the different sides and indicating how the pieces connect with your proposed research. Submit revised title and description if it has changed. Due: Tu3

*A* Asmts due: Verbal reports on appointment with faculty informant (see 1/22);
*A* Paragraph on controversy (see 1/29).
Argument and counter-argument
Pre-reading: Xerox handout on cloth vs. disposable diapers.
Class exercise: summarize the different positions regarding your issue
Asmt: Continue class exercise in preparation for next class.

Th5 Free writing -- an opportunity to evaluate where you want to go with your research. Who do you want to convince? Of what? What obstacles do you see ahead?
Pre-reading: Elbow, Chap. 2

Note: No assignments due this week, but watch out for the bunch coming at the end of the month.

Tu10 Organizing research material
Note-taking and summarizing
Bring your workbook with any material and notes derived from research to date

Th12 More towards controlling question
Creative and critical aspects of any phase of research and writing
Mapping (student presentation, with audience probing)
(Where is the issue/ controversy happening?; Who is implicated?; What changes are envisaged?; Arguments for change & counter-arguments; What related questions have other people investigated? Background vs. focal issues; Research holes; Provisional proposal; Categories & definitions; Need for primary vs. secondary research)


Tu17 Meet in Cornell lobby for a session on using the WWW, prefaced by minilecture on:
Different approaches to research & different sources of information
(Questionaires, interviews, snowballing, statistics; Primary vs. secondary material)
Introduction to information available on the WWW.
Pre-reading: Chapter 3 Elements.

Th19 Explanation (incl. use of jargon)
Reading: James Jeans "Why the Sky Looks Blue" & student explanation of neurotransmitters
In class exercise on explanation for layperson.
*A* Asmt due: For in-class exercise bring material (books, xeroxes, etc.) related to a principle that is important and/or difficult in your area of research.
*A* Asmt due: Annotated bibliography of reading completed or planned

Discussion of one person's draft research design

*A* Asmt due: Research design
Argument (structure, main points, connections, steps; contributing & hidden arguments)
Analyze one student's arguments and sketch out your own.
Asmt: Outline of arguments implicated in your research. Due Th5

Tu3 Interviewing and getting people to speak about/explain what they usually don't; dealing with experts.
Prepare questions and practice interviewing
Guest speaker (who will also observe your practice interviews): TBA
*A* Asmt due: 5 questions you would like someone to answer for you


Note: This section of the course does not presuppose that you will have finished your research. In fact, you could continue to do research up until the day you submit your final report. At this point in the course we expect that you will still be rethinking the direction and scope of your research. Nevertheless, because writing is an excellent way to work out your ideas, your research will be helped by starting to plan your writing now.

Th5 Freewriting on your report's structure and content
*A* Asmts due: a) Update: Additions or revisions to research design and to bibliography
b) Submit workbook (pick up after 4.30pm from Pearson 102)
c) Outline of arguments implicated in your research.
Mid-term self-assessment/ discussion (gap between where you are and would like to be).

Spring break
During the break read "Exploring your writing preferences"

Tu17 Review writing preferences and identify strengths and issues to work on
Direct Writing & Quick Revising (towards outline)
Reading: Elbow, chaps. 4 & 5; reread chapters 1-3.

Th 19 More on arguments

Tu24 Paper outlines
Reading: Elbow, section II

Th26 Student presentation of paper outlines followed by class evaluation
*A* Asmt due: Nested and connected table of contents or see Tu31-Th2

Tu 31-Th2
More student presentations of paper outlines followed by class evaluation
*A* Asmt due: Narrative outline


Tu7 Revision and evaluation of each other's narrative drafts
-Th9 Reading: Elements, chaps 4 & 5; Elbow, section III
*A* Asmt due: Narrative draft of paper or see Tu14


Tu14 Visual presentations
*A* Asmt: First draft of research report
Reading: Elbow, section IV.

Th 16 Practice presentations to class (10 minutes each student), Peer evaluations.

Th23 Public presentations (including action proposals)
-Tu 28


Th 30 Taking Stock of the Course
Sense of Place Maps I
Possible overflow of student presentations.
*A* Asmt due: Draft of research report (returned with comments M4)
Reading on Documentation: Elements, pp. 129-153

*A* Portfolio due for students choosing to do this
*A* Asmts due: Final version Research Report (2 copies, laser printed), with addresses for sending the book of reports to you after mid-May.
*A* Workbook, to be picked up after the weekend
Deliver both by 4pm at Pearson 102, or by 5.30 at my house (401 Walnut Lane)
Review Ain't No Makin' It
5-7.30 Dinner (supplied by PT), discussion, video
Where to go from here? More feedback on course.
Video on participatory research


All students, preferably working in pairs, will select a topic on which to prepare a research briefing, i.e., a summary (2-4 pages) in written form that gives other students in the class a quick start when they face that research issue. These briefings should provide or point to key resources, i.e., key concepts, issues and debates, references, quotes or paraphrases from those references, faculty on campus, relevant courses.
To begin preparing your research briefing, you should meet with me and I will provide initial suggested resources.

Topics and target dates