B-term "C"course: Science Writing & Society (ENGL 281)

English 281 A  Science Writing and Society


Summer 2015 B-term C-composition Course Counts toward the English Minor

SLN 11318 MTWTh 9:40am - 11:50am

Instructor:  Norman Wacker nwacker@uw.edu


The primary objective of this course is to establish an interactive classroom community to engage recent scientific research papers and science reporting that have important consequences for contemporary social issues, including global health, the nature of aggression and warfare, genetic engineering, climate change and the neurology of writing, learning and creativity.

 We will look hard at recent science papers that have also been reported beyond the science community to a larger audience. We will examine how Individual science papers contribute to new and flexible portfolios of knowledge and technical innovation, an open-ended process of knowledge use and knowledge making  central to research universities like ours and professional fields as various as medicine, resource management, finance, business and social and mass media.


Dating back to the times of Charles Darwin, observation and experimental research have been mobilized to identify the forces that produce the natural world, turning points that triggered both scientific and social revolutions.   His concept of evolution lead to a vision of time and life as defined by change and progress, driven by highly selective processes of fitness, adaptation and competition, concepts introduced to Darwin’s enormous readership virtually overnight. The resulting transformation of biology proper has been so pervasive, that the geneticist Theodosious Dobzhansky remarked, “Nothing in biology makes sense, except in the light of evolution.” 

 Key Questions:

How are science papers organized? What do we learn as we read about research, scientific reasoning, and experimentation?  What are the larger stakes of the results reported in these often quite specialized studies?   What debates and conversations accompanied publication of these papers? How do these papers compare to science writing for a general audience? What are some common assumptions about scientific writing and scientific knowledge?  How should we evaluate and revise those assumptions as we work closely with this kind of writing in this class?


Brief low-stakes homework reading log entries, in-class writes and active sharing in class discussion of our reading experience designed to build collaboratively our comprehension and engagement of science papers and their context. Engaged preparation and active participation in each class meeting.

3-short analytical papers on

1) One science paper, its context and stakes

2) One science paper and ensuing discussion and debate

3) Three state of the moment papers and their contribution to advancing a thread of inquiry.

Reading List (in Progress):

Origin of the Species (selections);” “Emergence of Individuality in Genetically Identical Mice;”  “Chimpanzee Adenovirus Vector Ebola Vaccine—Preliminary Report;”  “Investigating the zoonotic origin of the West African Ebola epidemic;”  “A new antibiotic kills pathogens without detectable resistance;” ““Bees at War: Interspecific Battles and Nest Usurpation in Stingless Bees;” “Designing Tomorrow’s Vaccines;” “Genomic Engineering and the Future of Medicine:” “Neural correlates of verbal creativity: differences in resting-state functional connectivity associated with expertise in creative writing;” “An Empirical Test of the Theory of Gamified Learning”


ENGL 281-A

Summer B Term (7/23 - 8/22)

MTWTh 9:40am - 11:50am
Use SLN 11318: https://sdb.admin.washington.edu/timeschd/uwnetid/sln.asp?QTRYR=SUM+2015&SLN=11318

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