Scientific Solutions for Society (SS4S) Certificate Program
Scientific Solutions for Society (SS4S). Graduate & professional certificate program aimed at training participants to solve key societal problems of today and the future using science and innovation. The program will focus on effective science communication, the impact and processes of establishing policies, and the principles of sustainability and real time assessment of innovations for society at local & global level. Participants will gain essential skills to be applied in solving real world problems and develop leadership skills by serving as trainers for subsequent course offerings.
Core competencies: critical thinking, societal problem solving, cross-discipline applications, community building, building diversity and inclusivity
Skills: communication, leadership, empathy, listening/hearing/understanding, team work, ethical reasoning
Target student population: Graduate & Professional Level Certificate (Bachelor's Degree required) [this is meant to be flexible and adjustable for different levels of education] - no specific field of study
Sustainability: In order to ensure sustainability and offer avenues for building leadership abilities and communication skills to the course participants, certificate awardees will have an opportunity to serve as trainers for subsequent course offerings - 'train-the-trainers' to ensure sustainabilty and enhanced learning.See courses and course sequence »
Goals of the Program:
Today's problems are often met with solutions identified in silos, whether they are policy silos or technology think tanks. The science policy establishment is dominated by politicians and attorneys, who likely have little to no science background or knowledge. As a result, the people writing science policy have a limited ability to understand the science behind the policy decisions they are making. As experts in respective fields, scientists have an obligation and an opportunity to inform the policy making process. However, most scientists do not have any training in public policy or public service. Additionally, entrepreneurs have inadequate training and knowledge in understanding the impact of scientific technologies in society. This program offers students in scientific fields to learn about the policy making process & ethical technology development. Additionally, this program offers students in non-scientific fields to learn about contemporary science as they pertain to policy needs. This program will provide trainees with key core competencies that link science and society together making them valuable resources to academic, public, and private job sectors.
Core Courses (4 required courses):
- Contemporary Political Issues in Science - This course will be structured around societal problems case-studies that will focus on developing critical thinking skills, introduce informed consent issues, and develop cross-discipline application skills. Projects trainees will work in teams to build on collective knowledge and experiences, while developing analytical skills related to societal issues. Contemporary issues that case-studies focus on could include: COVID-19 (Pandemic preparedness), Climate Change, Food Systems, Health Disparities, and National Security.
- Science Communication (focus on varied audience types & varied media types; covers communication, listening/hearing/understanding, empathy)
- Intro to Public Administration & Policy (focuses on how governments work, decision making, public engagement, leadership, team work, listening/hearing/understanding)
- Technological Developments and Society - The case-study based understanding of the technological needs of society, keeping in mind the useful and adverse effects of technology on marginalized communities)
Block Specialties (students will choose 2 elective courses within or across block specialties):
- Public Policy
- Society and Health (Public Health)
- Ecosystem Sustainability
Final Capstone Experience (required to complete certificate):
- Design Thinking to Solve Problems - The Design Thinking to Solve Problems Capstone provides students with the opportunity to engage in a shared capstone experience. Students matriculating through the Scientific Solutions for Society Certificate program come from diverse backgrounds, have taken an assortment of different courses, and bring varying experiences and expertise. For all the different paths the student has taken, they lead to the Design Thinking to Solve Problems Capstone and the culmination of completing their certificate in Scientific Solutions for Society (SS4S). The Capstone course is designed to usher each student into the post-degree workforce with a broad skill set for careers in science policy, government, non-profit sector, entrepreneurship, the public sector, or academia. The course focuses on using design thinking, where participants will identify social problems and potential technological needs and they will utilize humanistic, foundational, and meta knowledge to build potential solutions. The participants will pitch the ideas and solutions to the subject matter experts such as policy makers, entrepreneurs, receive real-time feedback to test validity and practicality of the ideas.
Students will obtain humanistic, meta, and foundational knowledge through building core competencies to be successful in careers encompassing societal problems and solutions.
Students will gain competencies and skills that will foster their ability to use their scientific knowledge to solve societal problems based on critical thinking, emotional awareness, cultural competence, and creative problem solving. Students will gain key skills in communication, collaboration, ethics and reasoning, and leadership that will give them the tools to work across disciplines, particularly social and physical sciences, to solve the problems of the future.
- Program Outcome 1
Prepare students for broad landscape of opportunities in science and technology policy, innovation and entrepreneurship, and public engagement in STEM-focused careers (could be measured through job placement tracking)
- Program Outcome 2
Increase the number of culturally competent, critical thinking candidates entering the workforce (can we measure this through enhanced diversity in program and intended workforce?)
- Trainee Learning Outcome 1 (TLO1)
Capacity to identify and quantitatively analyze science-related societal problems using foundational, humanistic, and meta knowledge to evaluate human-natural systems change. (could be measured in capstone and in portfolios or individual course projects).
- Trainee Learning Outcome 2 (TLO2)
Capacity to propose and communicate solutions to societal problems arising within a given system to diverse audiences (could be measured in capstone and in portfolios)
- Trainee Learning Outcome 3 (TLO3)
Capacity to propose and evaluate creative interventions, such as policies, innovations, and business solutions, that can be used to mitigate the impacts of human activity (measured in capstone and journals)
Assessing Program Outcomes
Capstone Course - Design Thinking to Solve Problems; Syllabus here: Design Thinking to Solve Problems.pdf (Acrobat (PDF) 105kB Nov4 20)
Course description: This course is required for completion of the certificate program. This capstone includes application of the basic tools of inquiry into social problems; basic ethical issues in contemporary science; analyzing the problem; analyzing any relevant policies; data validity and reliability; data gathering techniques; data management; solution(s) generation; disciplinary standards for writing the proposal and reporting findings. Over the course of the semester, students will be exposed to different sectors that overlap science and society (public, private, non-profit).
Course objectives: The Design Thinking to Solve Problems Capstone provides students with the opportunity to engage in a shared capstone experience. Students matriculating through the Scientific Solutions for Society (SS4S) Certificate program come from diverse backgrounds, have taken an assortment of different courses, and bring varying experiences and expertise. For all the different paths the student has taken, they lead to the Design Thinking to Solve Problems Capstone and the culmination of completing their certificate in SS4S. The Capstone course is designed to usher each student into the post-degree workforce with a broad skill set for careers in science policy, government, non-profit sector, entrepreneurship, the public sector, or academia.
Assessments: TLO1-3 will be assessed in the capstone course. Specifically, trainees' ability to
- use of quantitative skills will be evaluated based on problem evaluation and solution creation
- communicate effectively will be evaluated based on their written portfolio report and their pitch - rubrics will be given to review committee that outlines specific components trainees are to address
- effectively creative interventions that can be adopted by review committees as part of their strategy - this will be evaluated using a survey the review committee completes that addresses validity of solution to their respective field (policy, innovation, business solution, etc.)
Program Surveys - Across program assessments will be used to evaluate how students are building competencies from course to course. An online evaluation form will be used where trainees will answer survey questions twice each semester.
Portfolio of Understanding (PoU). Trainees will build portfolios of understanding in courses that serve as living assessments across the course term. The in-course portfolios will contain different sections such as reflections (when, where, and on what), inquiries, relevant social problems, problem solving suggestions, etc. This portfolio will demonstrate critical thinking, diversity of thought, and emotional and cultural awareness. Portfolios allow for individual growth to be evaluated and provides individualized feedback.
An example PoU description can be found here: Portfolio of Understanding - example.pdf (Acrobat (PDF) 91kB Nov4 20) and a rubric for grading here: portfolio rubric 2014.pdf (Acrobat (PDF) 342kB Oct8 20).
Assessments: TLO1-2 will be assessed using portfolios of understanding. [Humanistic, Meta, and Foundational knowledge denoted by H, M, and F, respectively]
- the inquiry section of the portfolios will demonstrate ability to identify relevant problems and gaps in knowledge that are present (TLO1) [F, M]
- the reflection section of the portfolios will demonstrate emotional and cultural awareness (TLO1) [H]
- the literature section of the portfolios will demonstrate understanding of difference between primary and popular literature sources while demonstrating ability to analyze a problem and provide relevant support (TLO1) [F, M]
- the solutions section of the portfolios will demonstrate ability to critically think, problem solve, and effectively communicate potential solutions or innovative ideas (TLO2) [F, M, H]
Journals. Following the lead from another development team [Scientific Process in the Changing World], journals will be used to assess progress of interdisciplinary thought in courses that are case-based. Taken from and adapted slightly from this team, journals will look like this: Case-study course Journal Assessments.pdf (Acrobat (PDF) 32kB Nov4 20).
Program Course Sequence
The Program Course Sequence page outlines the certificate program, SS4S, and includes an outline of courses (core, elective, and capstone) that would fulfill the program. Core courses (4) cover the foundation of the program goals to equip trainees with key core competencies that link science and society together. Elective courses cover 4 primary block specialties that our team identified, where students can create a more individualized SS4S program that fits their interests. The program is rounded out with a final capstone experience where students will bring their acquired knowledge and skills from their respective fields of expertise and their SS4S program to complete a community based needs assessment. In addition, the capstone also includes a professional planning component that will prepare trainees for the job market.
Within our course sequence description, we have provided specific details for each block specialization, and additional details for some courses to highlight the integration of goals across our elective course choices. In addition, we have included a rubric for course selection into the program for initial and future course selections.
Build a rubric that includes what courses would contain that meet our program goals.
Humanistic: life/job skills, ethical and emotional awareness, cultural competence
Meta: Creativity, innovative thinking, problem solving, critical thinking, communication, collaboration
Foundational: digital literacy, cross-disciplinary knowledge (physical and social sciences)