Science and Engineering Ethics

, Volume 19, Issue 3, pp 1229–1240 | Cite as

The Scientist’s Education and a Civic Conscience

  • Kelling J. DonaldEmail author
  • Jeffrey KovacEmail author
Original Paper


A civic science curriculum is advocated. We discuss practical mechanisms for (and highlight the possible benefits of) addressing the relationship between scientific knowledge and civic responsibility coextensively with rigorous scientific content. As a strategy, we suggest an in-course treatment of well known (and relevant) historical and contemporary controversies among scientists over science policy or the use of sciences. The scientific content of the course is used to understand the controversy and to inform the debate while allowing students to see the role of scientists in shaping public perceptions of science and the value of scientific inquiry, discoveries and technology in society. The examples of the activism of Linus Pauling, Alfred Nobel and Joseph Rotblat as scientists and engaged citizens are cited. We discuss the role of science professors in informing the social conscience of students and consider ways in which a treatment of the function of science in society may find, coherently, a meaningful space in a science curriculum at the college level. Strategies for helping students to recognize early the crucial contributions that science can make in informing public policy and global governance are discussed.


Science education Curriculum Social responsibility 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Chemistry, Gottwald Center for the SciencesUniversity of RichmondRichmondUSA
  2. 2.Department of ChemistryUniversity of TennesseeKnoxvilleUSA

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