Education for sociotechnical collaboration
A commentary by Daniel Hastings, Cecil and Ida Green Education Professor of Engineering Systems and Aeronautics and Astronautics at MIT, and Dr. Peter Edwards, Director of the Singapore-ETH Centre


To meet today's complex challenges, we need scientists and engineers who have an understanding of social, economic, and political realities and proceses, and equally, planners and policy makers with a solid knowledge of science and technology. What kind of education is needed for such well-informed collaborators?

"In an increasingly interconnected world, new developments, whether in technology or economic activity, usually have far-reaching social and environmental outcomes. Being able to develop policies that achieve desirable outcomes of sustainability and resilience therefore requires a systems’ understanding that takes account of such things as risk, resilience, rebound effects, technological lock-in, unintended consequences and consumer behaviour.

Universities face significant challenges in attempting to provide this understanding. Already, with the burgeoning growth of knowledge, it is difficult to provide students with an adequate knowledge of even their chosen discipline. And it would, indeed, be unrealistic to expect an engineering student, say, to become an expert in the political sciences. However, it is more important than ever that students learn enough about the wider context of their discipline so that they can work together with experts from other fields."

With this in mind, several universities have developed interdisciplinary programmes aimed specifically at improving the ways that scientific and engineering expertise and knowledge are engaged in public decision-making."

Read full commentary at Today
Professor Peter Edwards is the Director of the Singapore-ETH Centre; Professor Daniel Hastings is the Director of the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART). The two centres are engaging students from ETH Zurich, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, National University of Singapore and Singapore and the Singapore University of Technology and Design at a five-day seminar in Singapore on how science, technology, and policy interfaces can be strengthened.

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