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STEP Courses: 2007-2008

WWS 304 Science, Technology and Public Policy

David Goldston (Fall 2007)

The course will examine how the U.S. federal government funds and uses scientific and technical research. The course will examine current debates on such issues as how much money should be spent on science and on what kinds of science, how to keep the U.S. economically competitive, how universities and industry should interact, how the space program should be directed, how energy policy should be established and implemented, and how science should be used in a variety of environmental debates. We will use government documents, expert reports and academic readings to understand the background, issues and implications of each debate.

WWS 316 Health and the Enviornment 

Burt Singer (Fall 2007)

Explores population history and its relationship to health; ecology, economics, and health; ecosystem dynamics; drought, famine, and health; psychosocial environments and physiology; well being and positive health; and social stratification and morbidity.

WWS 320 Human Genetics, Reproduction, and Public Policy

Lee Silver (Spring 2008)

Critical concepts in genetics, evolution, behavior, and reproduction will be presented as a framework for understanding the science and potential human uses of cloning, genetic engineering and other advanced reproductive technologies. Public understanding and misunderstanding of the science and technology will be explored. Consideration will be given to the competing roles of religion, politics, and marketplace economics on the potential use of these technologies in different cultures and countries.

WWS 454 "Weapons of Mass Destruction" and International Security

Chris Chyba (Fall 2007)

Examines the roles of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons in international security historically, at present, and in possible futures. The technical basis for these weapons will be presented at a level suitable for the non-scientist, and the challenges of state and non-state acquisition or development will be assessed. Topics to be examined include dissuasion, deterrence, defense, preventive war, preemption, arms control, nonproliferation, counterproliferation, and terrorism.

WWS 556d Topics in IR: Protection Against Weapons of Mass Destruction

Frank Von Hippel (Spring 2008)

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the only significant security threats to the U.S. and its allies have been from nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. Historically, the US focus has oscillated between protection via nonproliferation and disarmament agreements, and via civil and missile defense. The course assesses the threats, both approaches to protection, and linkages made between policies on WMD and perceptions of “conventional” military threats.

WWS 582b Topics in Economics: Energy Economics

Amy Craft (Spring, 2008)

WWS 585a Topics in STEP: Biotechnology Policy

Lee Silver (Fall 2007)

Scientific overview and policy analysis of selected topics in biotechnology that are currently the focus of intense debate. The topics to be covered in the 2007 course will include biotech patents, organic and non-organic food, genetically modified plants (GMOs), genetic engineering of animals, embryo stem cell and cloning research, synthetic biology, self-enhancement, genetic selection of human embryos (PGD), and human germline genetic enhancement. Each topic will be examined from the perspectives of technical feasibility, economic utility, public perceptions and misperceptions, the viewpoints of supporters and detractors, and the political response in the U.S. and other countries. Open to UG students with instructor's permission.

WWS 585b Topics in STEP: Living In A Greenhouse: Technology and Policy

Robert Socolow (Fall2007)

This course will focus primarily on the challenge of modifying the global energy system to reduce projected global carbon dioxide emissions to the atmosphere. We will pursue both science/technology and policy in each of five two-week units. Unit One: The underlying carbon cycle science, and the ways the world has organized to learn more and to communicate results. Unit Two: Energy efficiency, patterns of demand, lifestyles, energy and poverty. Unit Three: Fossil fuels, abundance and depletion, energy security. Unit Four: Carbon capture and storage, policies enabling commercialization, risk assessment. Unit Five: Non-carbon energy in its two forms, nuclear power and renewable energy; subsidies, social preferences. The final two-week unit will be devoted to student reports. Cross-cutting themes include uncertain science, imperfectly discernible costs of future technologies, the limitations of quantification, and the necessity of muddling through.

WWS 586c Conservation of Endangered Species and Ecosystems

David Wilcove (Spring 2008)

Conservation of Endangered Species and Ecosystems This course examines the ways in which science has influenced public policy with respect to both endangered species and ecosystems. Important case studies from different regions of the United States are examined in detail, emphasizing the key scientific studies and how they affected decision-making. Topics include the northern spotted owl and the Clinton Administration's Northwest forest plan, the reintroduction of the gray wolf to Yellowstone National Park, and the conservation of endangered species on private lands.

WWS 586d/Topics in Science Technology and Environmental Policy: Global Environmental Governance

Michael Oppenheimer (Spring, 2008)

Examines international law and governance in the context of environmental problems, given the great variety of domestic approaches among nations, and the resulting challenge to global trade and regulatory regimes. Considers the need for regulation under conditions of scientific uncertainty in issues such as climate change, bovine growth hormones, GMOs, fisheries management, biodiversity conservation, and ozone depletion. Explores the efficacy of diverse regulatory approaches, mechanisms for scientific advice to policy makers and participation by business firms and NGOs. Considers intersections between environmental regulation (both domestic and international) with trade, investment, and multilateral development and aid programs. Class location alternates between NYU and WWS.

WWS 586f/CO 598e Topics in STEP: Information Technology and Public Policy

Ed Felten (Spring 2008)

Information technology plays an ever-growing role in our lives, our economy, and our government, putting pressure on existing policy arrangements and raising entirely new policy issues. This course will examine a range of infotech policy issues, including privacy, intellectual property, free speech, competition, regulation of broadcasting and telecommunications, cross-border and jurisdictional questions, broadband policy, spectrum policy, management of the Internet, computer security, education and workforce development, and research funding. Assignments will consist of weekly reading, weekly writing assignments, and a final project. This course is suitable for students without any special technical background.

WWS591f Policy workshop: Preventing Proliferation Chain Reactions

Robert Einhorn and Frank Von Hippel (Fall 2007)

The North Korean and Iranian nuclear development programs pose serious direct threats to international security. Moreover, there is legitimate concern that they could cause neighboring states to "go nuclear." This workshop will explore the possible internal debates over acquiring nuclear weapons in two or three of the following countries: Japan, South Korea, Egypt and Turkey. The final report will outline the policies that the US government should pursue to discourage decisions to acquire nuclear weapons by these countries. It will include both country-specific approaches as well as nonproliferation regime-wide approaches that could reduce incentives for acquiring nuclear weapons.

WWS 591h Policy Workshop: Health Impact Assessment of Large Development Projects

Burt Singer (Fall 2007)

A direct consequence of globalization is the vast proliferation of large scale projects that have major social, health and environmental impacts. Our primary focus will be health impact assessments, mitigation strategies, and accountability by all parties to the project to ensure that health equity for local populations is secured. The most likely candidate projects are the Ahafo gold mining initiative by the Newmont Mining Co. in Ghana, and the Nam Theun 2 hydroelectric project in Laos. One of these projects will be selected for intensive investigation by workshop participants. Direct interaction with corporate, banking, and government personnel will be essential, together with a well-planned site visit for direct assessment of project activities.

WWS 593h Saudi Arabia: Security, Energy & U.S. Policy 

Chris Boucek (Fall 2007)

This seminar will focus on the security and stability of Saudi Arabia, and the policy relationship with the United States. Domestic and regional security threats will be examined, as will the evolution and future of the US-Saudi partnership. A number of topics will be covered including terrorism, political violence, and jihadism; counter-terrorism strategies; terrorist financing; border security; reeducation, rehabilitation, and reintegration programs; the Iraq war and its effects on Saudi security; regional security concerns post-Saddam; energy, hydrocarbon facility security, and kingdom’s role in the global energy system. Enrollment limited to eight students; enrollment by application or interview only. The course will culminate in a study visit to the kingdom, which will include meetings with a cross section of individuals including senior Saudi officials, western diplomats, expatriate businesspeople, and representatives from the media, academia, and the world of finance. Visit to Saudi Arabia tentatively scheduled for January 2008.

WWS 594m/ Mental Health (session I)

Burt Singer (Spring, 2008)

International comparative and historical overview of concepts of mental illness and well-being. Evolution of diagnostic criteria for mental illnesses. History of psychiatry and psychoanalysis and the influence of neuroscience on them. Neurobiology of depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, Alzheimer's disease, and narcotics addiction. Public perceptions of mental illness and their implications for policies pertaining to treatment and prevention programs: cross-national comparisons. Recent discoveries about neurogenesis and their implications for positive mental health and the future of psychiatry. Pharmacological interventions and the tensions between the pharmaceutical industry, the public interest, and government regulation.

WWS 594P/ Environmental Campaigns: Startegies and Tactics

Michael Northrup (Spring, 2008)

This course will focus on the strategies and tactics used in successful environmental campaigns, taught from a practitioner's perspective. It is designed to provide a tactical toolkit for those interested in pursuing careers in environmental policymaking and advocacy. We will examine, among others, campaigns that have protected Alaska's old-growth rainforests, conserved the Pine Barrens Watershed in Eastern Long Island, encouraged Home Depot and Wall Mart to green their supply chains, shifted consumers to demand sustainable seafood, and encouraged banks to develop environmentally sustainable lending and investment practices. There will also be guest speakers from some of these campaigns.