Science and Society


The program' mission is to offer interdisciplinary, undergraduate instruction which addresses complex issues at the interface of science and society, particularly those which pertain to human populations, food and fiber production and consumption, the environment, and human health and well-being. By introducing students to important, contemporary issues, varieties of theoretical considerations, and asking them to think critically and creatively, we provide integrative contexts for their intellectual growth in whatever major they will pursue.


There are no faculty assigned to the program other than the Director at .8 FTE. Instead, courses and seminars are taught entirely by faculty from a variety of departments. In 1998-99, 18 faculty from 10 different departments were primary instructors of SAS courses. In addition, in 1998-99, 33 faculty from 26 departments/administrative units, six colleges/schools, and six administrative units guest lectured in an SAS course. The SAS program has based its program on creative synergies leading to commitments of faculty from other departments.

Major Programmatic Thrusts of the Department

  • Undergraduate courses which:
    • Fulfill general education requirements
    • Introduce students to the scope and variety of subjects relating the sciences to society
    • Draw and engage students from across the campus
  • Undergraduate seminars exploring contemporary science and society issues in some depth.
  • EPHEMS (Enrichment Program in Human, Environmental and Managerial Studies):
    • Explores linkages between culture, leadership, collaboration, and social action
    • Focuses on first-year students from traditionally underserved populations
  • Future requires creating a capstone course and internships to serve the SAS minor:
    • Capstone is for fourth-year year students from a variety of disciplines to explore SAS links
    • Internships provide opportunities to explore integrated issues in real world contexts

Program Impact/Ranking

The SAS program has already received national stature in the related field of science, technology, and society (STS) studies. Regarded as unique and highly progressive by other land grant institutions and science educators, the SAS program receives numerous requests for articles and presentations outlining curricular philosophies and pedagogies. EPHEMS is a unique model for advantaging students from underserved groups. The instructional impact for UC Davis is significant. Please see section on teaching programs.

Extramural Grants and Gifts

While major grants (such as the California Food and Fiber Futures Project) are housed in SAS, they bring line item directed funds only and do not support instruction or SAS program operations. They do, however, indirectly enrich the program. In the last five years, the program has received grants totaling $582,818. Extramural funds in the pipeline will raise annual direct expenditures from approximately $110,000 in 1998-99 to over $600,000 by 2000-01 school year. Sources include the USDA, University of California Office of the President, the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, and private donors. The funds have supported a speaker series on population and related issues, an outreach project to two Stockton middle schools, and the California Food and Fiber Futures Project.

Teaching Programs of the Department

The program attracts students to the point where all of its classes are fully enrolled and many students are turned away. Our biggest barrier now is a lack of adequate incentives to enlist faculty in teaching large introductory lecture courses, SAS 1 and 15. Our immediate future barrier is supporting the minor. The program enrolled 914 students in 1998-99, a significant increase from the 258 students who enrolled in the first year of the program in 1993-94. Further, students came from the full range of UC Davis colleges and divisions in 1998-99: 35.4 percent from AES, 47.0 percent from L&S, 13.3 percent from DBS, and 3.3 percent from Engineering. We offer a minor degree but lack support for the required upper division courses. There are two large lecture classes: Preparing for the 21st Century (SAS 1 and soon to be renamed!) and AIDS and Society (SAS 15). Both fill rapidly. An additional five courses and nine seminars round out the curriculum. Student contact hours totaled 3030 in 1998-99. EPHEMS enrolled 42 students in 1998-99.

Enrollment pressures will continue to increase sharply as campus enrollment increases and as we support the Academic Theme Options. Pressure to support the minor will increase. The minor is not now being well served, as we do not have the resources to offer needed upper division courses. This gap is already critical and will become even more so.

The EPHEMS name requires changing to match its current directions. Originally intended for first year students considering majors in human, environmental, or managerial studies, the program is now an extension of SAS. EPHEMS' fundamental philosophy is that students from underserved populations possess insights and perspectives that can position them to contribute to and develop more complex understandings of relationships between science and society.

Outreach/Extension Roles

Each year the SAS program also generates approximately 20 short or long- term internships and places students into them. The SAS program has supported outreach efforts in Sacramento and has initiated outreach efforts in Stockton. Our efforts have focused on adapting a science and society curricular approach to high school and middle school students in low-income areas. In addition to curricular design, we have provided undergraduate student interns to work with students and teachers on a weekly basis in both locations.

Potential for Collaborative Links to Other Units to Develop Clusters of Excellence

Science and Society has collaborative links with departments and programs throughout CA&ES and beyond. These include a joint reading group with the History and Philosophy of Science faculty and multiple interactions with the Agricultural Education Program. The SAS director is a member of the Graduate Group in Education; former Director Kaiser of TXC has affiliations with Women's Studies and Cultural Studies. These and other collegial interactions help us realize new directions for inquiry, theory building, and instruction, and as a result we have collaborated in academic FTE planning as participants in the Science, Public, and Policy Subcommittee.

Positions Needed (No Growth)

It will be important to capitalize on our collaborative links to develop positions which would serve these programs and serve cross-cutting needs of the entire university. These needs cluster around risk, communication of science, and ethics and decision making. We need to creatively package positions in conjunctions with other units. Some likely scenarios in a no growth environment may include:

  1. Tag appointments in SAS for existing faculty in departments with limited teaching venues.
  2. Shared appointments, perhaps based in a center or institute.
  3. Creative "trades" in which some I&R can be assigned to current CE faculty.

Positions Needed (Minimal Growth Scenario)

  1. Communication, science, and the public: explores processes by which productive discourse and understanding can be achieved among policy makers, scientists, and the public.
  2. Risk in social, cultural, and disciplinary contexts: explores public constructions of risk in regard to scientific constructions of risk in relation to social, cultural, and disciplinary factor.
  3. Ethics, decision making, and pedagogies: concerned with the ethical framing of scientific controversies in various contexts, and the accompanying public policy implications.

Projected Resource Needs and Strategies for Achieving

While for many departments the concerns in this section are likely equipment or space, we have compelling needs of a different variety. We desperately require buy out support for faculty to engage in course development and delivery, especially for introductory lecture courses and upper division courses to support the minor, particularly a capstone course.