Go to Home Page
  Educators Course Syllabi Science, von Hippel- science technology, public policy

Science, Technology and Public Policy (WWS 304)
Professor Frank von Hippel
Princeton University
Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs
Undergraduate Program Fall Term, 1995

Lectures: Monday and Wednesday, 11:00-11:50 AM
Bowl 1, Robertson Hall
Precepts one per week, time to be arranged



Exploration of the issues encountered by policy makers in scientific and technical areas of public policy. Topics include:

  • the importance of understanding the scientific structure of the problem
  • critical value and technical assumptions
  • risk assessment
  • interest groups and policy alternatives
  • the roles and responsibilities of technical experts

Case studies and policy debates include:

  • nuclear weapons policy
  • climate change
  • alternative energy futures
  • R&D and development policies
  • genetic engineering, and cancer risks

Two lectures, one preceptorial.


None other than an interest in policy-making for technology.


Term paper of less than 25 pages doublespaced in length, should focus on a specific technology-related policy problem or on a generic problem in public policy-making for technology. The topic should be discussed with your preceptor during the second or third week, a (not necessarily complete) draft should be submitted for detailed comments a week or two after the mid-term break and 10-minute oral presentations in the precepts and specially scheduled sessions will begin shortly thereafter. See "Background on the Course Papers" for further guidance (50 % of grade).

Four 2-page "think pieces" on the readings for discussion in the precepts (15%).

Three problem sets illustrating the usefulness of "back-of-the-envelope" estimations when the material being treated is amenable to this approach. Solutions should be handed in a week later for discussion in the precept. They will not be graded but some of the problems will reappear on the exams.

Midterm (10 %) and final (20%). [The exams will be approximately equally divided between factual questions (35%), opinion questions (35%), and back-of-envelope problems that have been worked in the problem sets (30%)].

Reading and Study Materials:

A volume of photocopied material, Science, Technology and Public Policy, Course Readings will be available for purchase at Pequod (6 Nassau St). Citizen Scientist will also be available for purchase for the author's discount price ($2.95) from Charlotte Cooney. The Code of Codes: Scientific and Social Issues in the Human Genome Project, Daniel J. Kevles and Leroy Hood editors, will be available for purchase at the University Store. Multiple copies of these books and other assigned reading materials will be available in the WWS library. Study questions and supplementary materials for most lectures will be handed or posted on the WWS 304 world-wide-web home page.

( Indicates reading is in photocopied volume of Course readings.)


Lecture Dates

Sept. 18
Introduction: Technology and Values

Sept. 20, 25 -- (Discuss subject of term paper with preceptor during weeks 2&3)
Policy Making for Technology

Sept. 27, Oct. 2
Nuclear Weapons -- The First Global Problem

Oct. 4, 9
Public Interest Groups

Oct. 11, 16
Human-Caused Change in the Global Atmosphere

Oct. 18, 23
Alternative Energy Futures

Oct. 26
Mid-Term Exam

Break Week

Nov. 6,
Freedom of Information

Nov. 8,13 -- (Draft papers due during first two weeks after break)
Dissent and the Organization

Nov. 15,20 -- (Oral presentations of papers begin during third week after break)
R & D -- For What?

Nov. 22,27

Nov. 29, Dec. 4
Risk Assessment and Regulation

Dec. 6, 11
Genetic Screening

Dec. 13

Jan. 12
Final date to turn in papers

Final Exam

I. Introduction: Technology and Values

  • Natural science teaches us how the world works and technology enhances human capabilities. How we use these insights and powers depends on values.
  • "The First Technological Revolution and Its Lessons," Peter F. Drucker, in Technology and Culture, Melvin Kranzberg and William H. Davenport, eds. (New York: New American Library, 1972) pp. 41-49.[note]
  • "Palchinsky's Travels: A Russian Engineer's Adventures Among Gigantic Projects and Small Minds" by Loren R. Graham,Technology Review, November/December 1993, pp. 22-31.
  • "Spanish Waters, Amish Farming" in Democracy and Technology, by Richard E. Sclove (New York: The Guilford Press, 1995), pp. 3-9.

II. Policy-Making for Technology

  • Policy-making technology in the U.S. has historically occured mainly at the federal level, with Congress, specialized Executive agencies, the courts, the media and public-interest groups all playing their usual roles. In addition, because specialized knowledge is involved, special organizations have been set up to provide the Executive and Congress with expert advice: the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy; the quasi-indepenendent National Research Council, which is operated by the National Academies of Science and Engineering and the Institute of Medicine; and the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment (eliminated as of Sept. 30 by the new Congress).
  • "Introduction" (pp. 3-9) and "The Supersonic Transport: A Case History in the Politics of Technology" (pp. 10-29) in Advice and Dissent: Scientists in the Political Arena by Joel Primack and Frank von Hippel (Basic Books, 1974; New American Library 1976).
  • "Emerging Importance" (pp. 1-17) in The Brain Bank of America by Philip Boffy (McGraw-Hill, 1975). A discussion of the role of the National Research Council, the "think tank" of the National Academies of Science and Engineering, in the development of federal policies for technology.
  • "An Outsider's Inside View of the Challenger Inquiry" by Richard P. Feynmann, Physics Today, February 1988, pp. 26-37.
  • "Peer Review of Public Policy" in Citizen Scientist, pp. 16-29
  • "Who Sacrifices, Who Benefits and Who Decides?" by Barry M. Casper and Paul David Wellstone in Powerline: the First Battle in America's Energy War. (University of Massachusetts Press, 1981), pp. 3-23 & 241-257.
  • "Decision-Making in a Democracy," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists by Richard Sclove, May 1982, pp. 44-49. (See also the appended comment by John Gibbons, then Director of the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment, pp. 49-50.)

III. Nuclear Weapons -- The First Global Problem

  • Nuclear weapons have dramatically reduced the willingness of major industrialized nations to go to war. They have also made it possible to destroy civilization by accident. On balance, the governments of the nuclear-weapon states seem confident in their abilities to avoid such accidents. However, they are not sanguine about the results if additional countries -- or even terrorist groups get their fingers on the trigger. Non-nuclear-weapon states tend to support a strong nuclear nonproliferation regime but want nuclear disarmament too.
  • Hiroshima by John Hersey (1946), chapters 1-4
  • "Fissile Material Security in the Post-Cold War Era," by Frank von Hippel in Physics Today, June 1995, pp. 26-31.
  • "Global Trends" (pp. 8-9); "Nuclear Weapons -- A Primer" (pp. 169-170); "Manufacturing Nuclear Weapons" (pp. 171-175); "International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Safeguards" (pp. 177-178); "Nuclear Suppliers Organizations" (pp. 179-183) in Tracking Nuclear Proliferation: A Guide in Maps and Charts, 1995, Leonard S. Spector, Mark G. McDonough, with Evan S. Medeiros (Washington, D.C.: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1995).
  • "Working for Non-proliferation Controls in Argentina and Brazil" by David Albright and William Higinbotham inF.A.S. Public Interest Report, April 1990, pp. 1-3.
  • "South Africa and the Affordable Bomb" by David Albright, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, July/August 1994, pp. 37-47.
  • "Iraq's Nuclear Hide-and-Seek," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, September 1991, pp. 14-23; "Iraq's Bomb: Blueprints and Artifacts," ibid, January/February 1992, pp. 30-40; "Iraq's Shop-till-you-drop Nuclear Program,"ibid, April 1992, pp. 27-37 by David Albright and Mark Hibbs.

IV. Public Interest Groups

  • During the past twenty years, public-interest groups have come to play a central role in the development of public policy for science and technology.
  • "Analysts and Activists" by Frank von Hippel, Melampus (Fall 1991), pp. 3-4.
  • "The Battle over Persistent Pesticides: From Rachel Carson to the Environmental Defense Fund" (pp. 128-142) and "When Outsiders Can be Effective" (pp. 239-248) in Advice and Dissent: Scientists in the Political Arena by Frank von Hippel and Joel Primack.
  • Environmental Defense Fund, 1990-91 Annual Report, cover and pp. 19,24.
  • "Working in the White House on Nuclear Nonproliferation and Arms Control" by Frank von Hippel, F.A.S. Public Interest Report, March/April 1995, pp. 1, 3-8. (This article is also on-line)
  • Twenty -Five Years Defending the Environment, NRDC 1970-1995, pp. 1-3, 20-33.
  • "Twenty Years of Environmental Mobilization: Trends Among National Environmental Organizations" by Robert C. Mitchell, Angela G. Mertig and Riley E. Dunlap, pp. 11-26 in American Environmentalism: The U.S. Environmental Movement, 1970-1990 (Bristol, PA: Taylor and Francis, 1992).
  • "Introduction" by Ralph Nader (pp. xv-xxix); and "PIRGs Take Shape" (pp. 1-13) in More Action for a Change by Kelly Griffin (New York: Dembner Books, 1987).
  • "Princeton Project 55 Public Interest Internship Program"
  • On Reserve in the WWS Undergraduate Office (Rm. 438):New Careers: A Directory of Jobs and Internships in Technology and Society 4th Edition (Washington, D.C.: Student Pugwash USA, 1993) lists science and technology jobs and internships in public-interest groups and government.

V. Human-Caused Change in the Global Atmosphere


Stratospheric Ozone

  • The 1985 Vienna Convention on Protection of the Ozone Layer and the subsequent implementing protocols were the first steps toward a management policy for the global atmosphere. What can we learn from the way in which policy makers dealt with the uncertainties of and controversies over estimates of both the severity of the problem and the costs of its mitigation?
  • "Protecting the Ozone Layer: New Directions in Diplomacy" by Richard E. Benedick in Preserving the Global Environment, Jessica T. Matthews, ed. (New York: W.W. Norton, 1991), pp. 112-153.
  • "Politics of the Ozone Layer" by David D. Doniger,Issues in Science and Technology Spring 1988, pp. 86-92.
  • "CFC Replacements: A Global Experiment in Technology Transfer," Nature 351 (May 2, 1991), pp. 6-7.

Greenhouse Gases

  • The greenhouse problem challenges us to change our most basic support systems involving energy supply and use, and agriculture.
  • "The Changing Climate," Stephen H. Schneider, Scientific American, September 1989, pp. 70-79.
  • "The Great Climate Debate," Robert M. White, Scientific American, July 1990, pp. 36-43.
  • "If the Mercury Soars, So May Health Hazards," Science 267, February 17, 1995, pp. 957-958.
  • "Study Unveils Climate Cooling Caused by Pollutant Haze,"Science 268, May 12, 1995, p. 802.
  • "Studies Say --Tentatively--That Greenhouse Warming is Here," Science 268, June 16, 1995, pp. 1567-1568.
  • "Signals from Earth" by Jessica Mathews, Washington Post, March 19, 1995, C7.
  • "Long-term Implications of the Greenhouse Effect (beyond IPCC)" by Jerry D. Mahlman, Director, NOAA/Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, Princeton University, July 20, 1993, 6pp.
  • "Climate and Economic Development: Climates Past and Climate Change Futures" by William D. Nordhaus (pp. 355-376); and "Comments on 'Climate and Economic Development" by Dale W. Jorgenson, Robert H. Williams and Dennis Anderson (pp. 377-394),Proceedings of the World Bank Annual Conference on Development Economics, 1993 (supplement to The World Bank Economic Review and The World Bank Research Observer)"
  • "A Dissenting View on Global Climate Change" by Henry Linden, The Electricity Journal, July 1993, pp. 62-69; "The Science of Climate Change Is Sound" and "Henry Linden Responds," ibid, December 1993/January 1994, pp. 38-45; "Global Climate Change: The Dangers are Real" by Daniel A. Lashof and "Science Does Not Support 'Consensus' on Climate Change" by Henry R. Linden, ibid, February 1994, pp. 55-77.
  • "Despite Warnings, Limits on Carbon-Dioxide Emission Unlikely," New York Times, April 2, 1995.
  • "Rio Signatories to Negotiate New Goals," Science 268, April 14, 1995, p. 197.
  • Convention on Climate Change (U.N. Conference on Environment and Development, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 3-14 June 1992) 25 pp.
  • The Convention on Climate Change: What Does It Say? (Information Unit on Climate Change, UNEP, April 1, 1994), 3 pp
  • The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change: What Does It Mean? Information Unit on Climate Change, UNEP,undated), 3 pp
  • Problem set.

VI. Alternative Energy Futures

  • We have the opportunity to make our society much more energy efficient and shift away from fossil to renewable energy sources without great economic cost. But the unaided "invisible hand" of the market will not do it for us.
  • "Efficient Use of Electricity" by A.P. Fickett, C.W. Gellings and A.B. Lovins, Scientific American, September 1990, pp. 65-68, 71-74.
  • "Energy for the Developing World" by. A.K.N. Reddy and J. Goldemberg, Scientific American, September 1990, pp. 111-118.
  • "Energy from the Sun" by C.J. Weinberg and R.H. Williams, Scientific American, September 1990, pp. 147-155.
  • "Fuel Cells" by Sivan Kartha (to appear in Yearbook of Science & Technology, McGraw-Hill)
  • "The Crisis of Energy R&D and an Opportunity Crisis for the [April 1995] Berlin Meeting of the Conference of Parties [to the Convention on Climate Change]" by Robert Williams, Feb. 8, 1995, 39 pp.
  • "Fuel Decarbonization for Fuel Cell Applications and Sequestration of the Separated CO2" by Robert H. Williams, Draft, April 15, 1995.

Problem Set.

VII. Freedom of Information

  • "Knowledge will forever govern ignorance. And a People who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives. A popular government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but the prologue to a farce or tragedy, or perhaps both." -- James Madison, 1822
  • "The Perils of Government Secrecy" by Steven Aftergood,Issues in Science and Technology, Summer 1992, pp. 81-88.
  • "Panel Finds Wide Debate in 40's on the Ethics of Radiation Tests," Philip J. Hilts, NYT, October 12, 1994, p. A1, A16; "Medical Experiments in Humans," O.G. Haywood, Jr. Col., Army Corps of Engineers, April 17, 1947.
  • "Suddenly, Your Briefcase is Classified," Benjamin Wittes, Legal Times , June 26, 1995, pp. 12, 14,16.
  • "Torricelli Admits Violating House Secrecy Oath," Dana Priest, Washington Post, April 8, 1995, A7; Dan Ellsberg: "Dear Minority Leader" (April 12, 1995) and "Are Secrecy Oaths a Liscense to Lie?" (April 8, 1995).
  • "The Federal Freedom of Information Act -- Text" (1984 Edition of Litigation Under the Federal Freedom of Information and Privacy Act, 9th edition, Allan Adler and Morton H. Halperin, eds. (Washington D.C.: Center for National Security Studies), Appendix, pp. 1-8. (FvH has the CNSS publication, Using the Freedom of Information Act: A Step by Step Guide).
  • "The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, as Amended," Title 1.
  • "Environmental Impact Assessment" (pp. 188-194) in Technology, Environment, and Human Values by Ian G. Barbour (New York: Praeger, 1980).

VIII. Dissent and the Organization

  • In our specialized society, we depend on experts to inform us accurately of possible dangers and opportunities of which nonspecialists are unaware. But most experts are employed by large organizations with their own vested interests.
  • "An Anatomy of Whistle Blowing" by Ralph Nader inWhistle Blowing, edited by Ralph Nader, Peter Petkas and Kate Blackwell (New York: Grossman, 1972), pp. 3-11.
  • "Missile-blower" by Daniel Golden, The Boston Globe Magazine, 19 July 1992, pp. 10-11, 16-26.
  • "Uranium Miners Inherit Dispute's Sad Legacy," Keith Schneider, New York Times, 9 January, 1990, pp. A1, A20.
  • "President Lyndon Johnson: The War Within" by Richard N. Goodwin in The New York Times Magazine, 21 August 1988, pp. 34-38, 42, 48.
  • "The Advisor's Dilemma" in Citizen Scientist, pp. 30-39.
  • "Due Process for Dissent" in Citizen Scientist, pp. 40-51.
  • "The Role of Law in Protecting Scientific and Technical Dissent" by Alfred Feliu, IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, June 1985, pp. 3-9.

IX. R&D -- for What?

  • Historically, about one half of U.S. R&D has been supported by government (mostly the DoD) and half by industry. Major cutbacks are currently occurring in both sectors, indicating a loss of confidence both in government's ability to improve public welfare with R&D and, within industry, in its ability to capture the economic benefits of its R&D. At the same time, the momentum of previous technological innovation -- especially in the area of information management -- is having a major impact on our society.
  • "The Evolution of U.S. Science Policy" by Harold T. Shapiro, Fourth International Symposium on New Chemistry, Tokyo, Japan, November 1993, 11 pp.
  • "New Technology and National Economic Policy" (pp. 1-16); and "Government Support for Commercial R&D" (pp. 17-36) in The Technology Pork Barrel, Linda R. Cohen and Roger G. Noll, eds. (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 1991).
  • "Technological Change in Agriculture" by Richard E. Just, Andrew Schmitz and David Zilberman, Science 206, December 14, 1979, pp. 1277-1280.
  • "Secession of the Successful" by Robert Reich, New York Times Magazine, 20 January 1991, pp. 17,18, 42-45.
  • "U.K. Tries to Set Priorities with the Benefit of Foresight,"Science 268, May 12, 1995, pp. 795-796.
  • "Industrial R&D: The New Priorities," IEEE Spectrum, September 1994, pp. 30-41.
  • "Lessons from Silicon Valley" by Annalee Saxenian,Technology Review, July 1994, pp. 42-51.

X. Development

  • "The Economics of Life and Death" by Amartya Sen, Scientific American, May 1993, pp. 40-47. See also, " Mystery Inside a Riddle Inside and Enigma (Kerala)" by Paul Wallich, Scientific American, March 1995, p. 37.
  • "Population, Poverty and the Local Environment" by Partha S. Dasgupta, Scientific American, February 1995, pp. 40-45.
  • "Accounting for Environmental Assets" by Robert Repetto, Scientific American, June 1992, pp. 94-100.
  • "Biotechnology and Agricultural Development in the Third World" by Fred H. Buttel in The Food Question: Profits Versus People?, H. Bernstein, B. Crow, M. Macintosh and C. Martin, eds. (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1990)163-180.
  • "Some Economic and Political Consequences of the Green Revolution in India" by Utsa Patnaik in The Food Question: Profits Versus People?, pp. 80-90.
  • "The Green Revolution in Java: Ecological, Socio-economic, and Historical Perspectives" Prisma 18 (1990) pp. 71-93
  • "Technology Transfer: Implications for Women" by Mary B. Anderson in Gender Roles in Development Projects C. Overholt, M.B. Andersen, K. Cloud and J.E. Austin, eds. (West Hartford, CT: Kumarian Press, 1984), pp. 57-78.
  • "Reflections on the Republic of Korea's Acquisition of Technological Capability" by Larry E. Westphal, Linsu Kim and Carl J. Dahlman pp. 167-217. in International Technology Transfer: Concepts and Measurement, N. Rosenberg and C. Frischtak, eds. (DATE?)

XI. Risk Assessment and Regulation

  • "Bursting Boilers and the Federal Power," John G. Burke in Technology and Culture, Melvin Kranzberg and William H. Davenport, eds. (New York: New American Library, 1972), pp. 93-118.
  • "The Bitter Pill," Carl Djerassi, Science 245, 28 July 1989, pp. 356-361.
  • "Perception of Risk" by Paul Slovic, Science 236 , April 17, 1987, pp. 280-285.
  • "Evaluating the 'Small' Probability of a Catastrophic Accident from the Marine Transportation of Liquified Natural Gas" by William B. Fairley in Statistics and Public Policy, William B. Fairley and Frederick Mosteller (eds.) (Addison-Wesley Publishing Co., 1977), pp. 331-353.
  • The basic problem with risk assessment is how to deal with uncertainty.



  • "The Cancer Problem," John Cairns, Scientific American, Nov. 1975, pp.64-72,77-78.
  • "The Genetic Basis of Cancer" by Webster K. Cavenee and Raymond L. White, Scientific Amercan, March 1995, pp. 72-79.
  • "Chernobyl: Estimating the Long-Term Health Effects" (pp. 226-235) in Citizen Scientist
  • "Setting Regulatory Priorities" (pp. 8-37) in In Search of Safety by J.D. Graham, L.C. Freen and M.J. Roberts (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1988)
  • "A Molecular Approach to Cancer Risk" by Richard Stone,Science 268, April 21, 1995, pp. 356-7.
  • "The Global Tobacco Epidemic" by Carl E. Bartecchi, Tomas D. MacKenzie and Robert W. Schrier, Scientific American, May 1995, pp. 44-51.
  • "Controlling Indoor Air Pollution" by Anthony V. Nero, Jr., Scientific American, May 1988, pp. 42-48
  • Problem Set

XII. Genetic Screening

  • Most of the remaining difficult-to-treat diseases, along with key physical and mental characteristics, have major genetic contributors which are now being identified at an extraordinary rate. Although this knowledge provides the basis for development of therapies, its most immediate usefulness is to inform decisions concerning childbearing, employment, and insurance. In all of these cases, different rights come into conflict, creating a rich public-policy agenda. (Guest speaker: Prof. Lee Silver, Department of Molecular Biology)
  • "Peasants of China Discover New Way to Weed Out Girls" by Nicholas D. Kristof, New York Times, July 21, 1993, p. 1
  • "Out of Eugenics: The Historical Politics of the Human Genome" by Daniel J. Keveles (pp. 3-36); "A History of the Science and Technology Behind Gene Mapping and Sequencing" by Horace Freeland Judson (pp. 37-80); "Genetic Technology and Reproductive Choice: An Ethics for Autonomy" by Ruth Schwartz Cowan (pp. 244-263); and "Health Insurance, Employment Discrimination, and the Genetics Revolution" by Henry T. Greely (pp. 264-280) in The Code of Codes: Scientific and Social Issues in the Human Genome Project, Daniel J. Kevles and Leroy Hood editors (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1992).
  • "Gene Discrimination Barred in Workplace" by Rick Weiss, Washington Post, April 7, 1995, A-3.
  • "The Human Genome Project: Under the International Ethical Microscope" by Bartha Maria Knoppers and Ruth Chadwick, Science 265, September 30, 1994, pp. 2035-6. XIII. Perspectives on Science and Technology This will be a sum-up lecture with some discussion of deeper issues.
  • "Attitudes Toward Technology" (pp. 35-58) in Technology, Environment, and Human Values by Ian G. Barbour (New York: Praeger, 1980).
  • "Technology and Wisdom" by Emmanuel G. Mesthene fromTechnology and Social Change, Emmanuel G. Mesthene, ed (Indinanapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1967), 7 pp. [note]: Drucker's description of the cause of the origin of the centralized state is not universally accepted [see e.g. William P. Mitchell, "The Hydraulic Hypothesis: A Reappraisal," Current Anthropology 14, #5 (December 1973), pp. 532-534] but the lessons that he draws are well worth pondering.