XClose

Science and Technology Studies

Home

STS offers degrees at each university level: undergraduate, masters, and PhD

Menu

WeAreSTS podcast - episode guide

A podcast exploring research and teaching underway in Science and Technology Studies (STS) at UCL. Learn more about the subject, the people, and the careers. Learn more about how you can join us.

 

WeAreSTS - Science and Technology Studies at UCL (University College London)
Hosted by Professor Joe Cain, UCL Professor in History and Philosophy of Biology, WeAreSTS is an official podcast of UCL Department of Science and Technology Studies (STS). WeAreSTS includes project work from STS students and staff. We have five ways students can be involved with interviews, production, and project development. We also encourage freelance development from STS students and staff.

Our overall goal is to help teachers, prospective applicants, and influencers answer questions about our subject: 

  • What is STS?
  • What does work in the subject involve?
  • Why would I want to do it, too?
  • What do people do with an STS degree?
  • Is this career direction for me?

WeAreSTS is available for listening on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Stitcher, SoundCloud and most other podcast listening apps. You also can find us on Libsyn.

Regular episodes

Each REGULAR episode explores research or teaching themes that are part of Science and Technology Studies (STS). Some episodes will be interviews about active research projects. Other episodes will support STS subjects in teaching or public engagement.

Episode #8 Gemma Milne talks about her book, SMOKE AND MIRRORS, the STS1Book 2021-22

SoundCloud Widget Placeholderhttps://soundcloud.com/we-are-sts/8-gemma-milne-talks-about-her-book-smo...

 

 

Will robots steal my job? Will gene editing cure my cancer? HYPE is a fundamental part of science communication, the development of new technologies, and the crucially important interface between business, investment, and new technology. How does HYPE work? Can it be used for good?

In this interview, Gemma Milne discusses her book, SMOKE AND MIRRORS, and her interest in HYPE as an ever-present phenomenon in our society. Gemma also discusses how she became interested in studying sociology of technology and innovation research, beginning with her first degree in mathematics, and her later journey through the finance and tech start-up industries, then science journalism.

Gemma’s book:

Milne, Gemma. 2020. Smoke and Mirrors. How Hype Obscures the Future and How to See Past It (London: Robinson). ISBN: 978-1-4721-4366-2.

SMOKE AND MIRRORS has been selected as the STS1Book for 2021-22. Each year, the Department asks all staff and students to read one book in common during the summer, then arrive for the new session ready to discuss both its substance and its broader value. Incoming students should read this prescribed book. It will be the subject of activities during induction week and will be used in Year 1 courses. Titles are selected for inclusion by the STS Undergraduate Programme Tutor from suggested offered by students and staff. For more information:

https://www.ucl.ac.uk/sts/about-sts/sts1book-programme

Gemma Milne also is co-host of the “Radical Science” podcast.

https://radicalsciencepodcast.com

And she is a PhD researcher in UCL Department of Science and Technology Studies (STS).

She creates a newsletter, “Brain Reel” https://brainreel.substack.com

Website: gemmamilne.co.uk 
https://gemmamilne.co.uk

Twitter: @gemmamilne

 

Featuring

Interviewee: Gemma Milne <https://gemmamilne.co.uk>

Interviewer: Professor Joe Cain, Professor in History and Philosophy of Biology <https://ucl.ac.uk/sts/cain>

 

Music credits

“Rollin At 5,” by Kevin MacLeod

https://filmmusic.io/song/5000-rollin-at-5

License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

"Sweeter Vermouth," by Kevin MacLeod

https://filmmusic.io/song/4450-sweeter-vermouth

License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/ 

 

Production information

Editing and post-production by Professor Joe Cain.

 

Podcast information

“WeAreSTS” is a production of the Department of Science and Technology Studies (STS) at University College London (UCL). To find out more, and to leave feedback about the show, visit us online:

https://www.ucl.ac.uk/sts/podcast

STS Students and staff also can find on the website information about how to get involved with our programme.

“WeAreSTS” producer is Professor Joe Cain.

Twitter: @stsucl #WeAreSTS

Episode #7 Why Has Recycling Always Been Key to Research? Professor Simon Werrett Talks Thrifty Science

SoundCloud Widget Placeholderhttps://soundcloud.com/we-are-sts/7-why-has-recycling-always-been-key-to...

 

 

In Britain of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the practices of reuse, re-purpose, and recycle were core to the work of what became science. More important, if you follow the trails left by these activities, you’ll find ideas that reorganise how we should think about the way science was done, where it was done, and who did the work. Professor Werrett also resurrects the old word “oeconomy,” putting it to work to help us understand why reuse was understood to be virtuous. And he explains how industrialisation in the nineteenth century substituted ideas related to consumption and specialisation.

In this interview, Professor Werrett discusses the main ideas of his book, plus how he hopes to extend his analysis to histories of thrifty science in Russia and elsewhere. He also talks about other projects he has underway and some of the joys that come from a focus on material culture in the history of science and technology. In our age of recycling, is thrifty science making a comeback? Professor Werrett argues it never went away. It simply is something we tend to let drift out of focus.

Simon’s book

Simon Werrett. 2019. Making the Most of Materials in the History of Experiment (University of Chicago Press), ISBN 978-0-226-61025-2.

It was awarded the 2020 Paul Bunge Prize from the German Chemical Society and the German Society for Physical Chemistry.

Simon talks about some of the main ideas from his book in a series of short films produced by STS:

https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLqDGBZHFcMlnaTbR1vS266tWaCnnCaCjK

The project described by Simon at The Institute of Making was the 2014 “Emotions, Transformations, and Restorations”:

https://emotionstransformationsrestorations.wordpress.com

 

Featuring

Interviewee: Professor Simon Werrett, Professor of History and Philosophy of Science <https://www.ucl.ac.uk/sts/werrett>

Interviewer: Professor Joe Cain, Professor in History and Philosophy of Biology <https://www.ucl.ac.uk/sts/cain>

 

Music credits

“Rollin At 5,” by Kevin MacLeod

Link: https://filmmusic.io/song/5000-rollin-at-5

License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

 

Production information

Editing and post-production by Professor Joe Cain.

 

Podcast information

“WeAreSTS” is a production of the Department of Science and Technology Studies (STS) at University College London (UCL). To find out more, and to leave feedback about the show, visit us online:

https://www.ucl.ac.uk/sts/podcast

STS Students and staff also can find on the website information about how to get involved with our programme.

“WeAreSTS” producer is Professor Joe Cain.

Twitter: @stsucl #WeAreSTS

 

Episode #6 Why Do We Talk So Differently About Innovation, Asks Dr Melanie Smallman 

SoundCloud Widget Placeholderhttps://soundcloud.com/we-are-sts/episode-6-why-do-we-talk-so-differentl...

 

 

Dr Melanie Smallman talks about her meta-study of attitudes across 10 emerging technologies by public, government, and politicians. Her conclusion: we talk quite differently about innovation. Smallman argues those differences matter for how we respond to the changes taking place around us. Science communication and public engagement needs to be smarter about the public it serves.

Dr Melanie Smallman is Associate Professor of Science and Technology Studies in UCL Department of Science and Technology Studies (STS). She’s an expert in science policy and science communication. She’s worked in the UK government, run a consultancy business in policy and communication, and is an experienced researcher of public engagement of science and innovation.

 

More on Melanie Smallman:

https://www.ucl.ac.uk/sts/smallman

In this interview, Melanie talks about the research behind her popular paper:

Smallman, Melanie. 2018. “Science to the rescue or contingent progress? Comparing 10 years of public, expert, and policy discourses on new and emerging science and technology in the United Kingdom,” Public Understanding of Science, volume 27, issue 6, pp. 655-673. DOI:

https://doi.org/10.1177/0963662517706452

We also talk about the module Melanie teaches at UCL, “Science in Government”. Details are available:

https://www.ucl.ac.uk/sts/study-here/undergraduate-bsc-degrees/undergrad...

This interview was recorded in 2021.

 

Featuring

Interviewee:

Dr Melanie Smallman, UCL Associate Professor in Science and Technology Studies

https://www.ucl.ac.uk/sts/smallman | Tw: @melaniesmallman

Interviewer:

Professor Joe Cain, UCL Professor in History and Philosophy of Biology

https://www.ucl.ac.uk/sts/cain | Tw: @profjoecain

 

Music credits

“Rollin At 5,” by Kevin MacLeod

Link: https://filmmusic.io/song/5000-rollin-at-5

License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0

 

Production information

Editing and post-production by Professor Joe Cain.

 

Podcast information

“WeAreSTS” is a production of the Department of Science and Technology Studies (STS) at University College London (UCL). To find out more, and to leave feedback about the show, visit us online:

https://www.ucl.ac.uk/sts/podcast

Students and staff in STS also can find on the website information about how to get involved with our programme.

Tw: @stsucl #WeAreSTS

“WeAreSTS” producer is Professor Joe Cain.

 

 

Episode #5 Meet the Snouters! Professor Joe Cain Talks about Jokes in Science

SoundCloud Widget Placeholderhttps://soundcloud.com/we-are-sts/5-meet-the-snouters-professor-joe-cain...

 

 

For April Fool’s Day, we talk about a famous joke in the history of biology. Dr Rebecca Martin interviews Professor Joe Cain about the Snouters. It’s a joke that began with publication of a book in 1961 that told the story of an unusual group of mammals discovered on a remote archipelago in the Pacific Ocean. It was a fiction; a prank; a joke. That joke took on a life of its own as other people retold the joke, embellished it, and translated it into new environments. Joe has done the historian’s job of tracing these paths. He’s also done the sociologist’s job of drawing a lesson about communities and tribes. “Jokes help groups draw boundaries,” he says. “They do social work, and they do intellectual work.” Joe talks about the project in this interview. He also talks more widely about science and technology studies and its value for interpreting science as the work of people like us.

The research paper Joe discusses is:

Joe Cain. (2018). In My Tribe: What the Snouters (and Other Jokes) Reveal About Tribes in Science. Endeavour. Volume 43, Issues 1-2, March-June 2019, Pages 2-10.

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.endeavour.2018.12.001

If access is blocked, read the preprint version (same paper, different format):

https://tinyurl.com/snouter-preprint

 

Abstract for the Paper

This paper tells the history of this famous joke in science: Gerolf Steiner’s invention of the Rhinogradentia using the pseudonym Harald Stümpke. It follows this story from this joke’s creation in the 1940s, to the relabelling of Rhinogradentia as “snouters” in the 1960s, to later use as an inside joke within zoology and taxonomy. Steiner’s original monograph for these imaginary creatures followed standard conventions in taxonomy and did not disclose its fictitious nature. It was a tall tale for specialists to cherish. Later, Steiner’s joke took on a life of its own as his monograph functioned to identify communities of shared understanding and to spot lapses in expertise. This study places Steiner’s story within “jokelore,” arguing the rhinograde narrative has been repeated, shared, extended, and mimicked by diverse groups so they may accomplish either social work or intellectual work within the context of particular tribes and intellectual traditions.

For more examples of jokes in science, including Equus pantomimus and Eoornis petrovylox gobiensis, visit Joe’s site:

https://profjoecain.net/rhinogradentia/

 

Featuring

Interviewee:

Professor Joe Cain, UCL Professor in History and Philosophy of Biology

https://www.ucl.ac.uk/sts/cain | Tw: @profjoecain

Interviewer:

Dr Rebecca Martin, Honorary Research Fellow, UCL Department of Science and Technology Studies (STS)

https://theanatomyofaphd.wordpress.com | Tw: @Rebecca_Martin_

 

Music credits

“Rollin At 5,” by Kevin MacLeod

Link: https://filmmusic.io/song/5000-rollin-at-5

License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

 

Production information

Editing and post-production by Professor Joe Cain.

 

Podcast information

“WeAreSTS” is a production of the Department of Science and Technology Studies (STS) at University College London (UCL). To find out more, and to leave feedback about the show, visit us online:

https://www.ucl.ac.uk/sts/podcast

Students and staff in STS also can find on the website information about how to get involved with our programme.

“WeAreSTS” producer is Professor Joe Cain.

Twitter: @stsucl #WeAreSTS

 

Episode #4 Professor Charlotte Sleigh talks about what makes us human for STS1Book event

Professor Charlotte Sleigh talks about the STS1Book for 2021, a book she has co-written with Professor Amanda Rees. It’s called Humans. In our conversation, we talk about the book and some of its main ideas.

We also talk about the book as one in a long series of projects Charlotte has undertaken in the general area of “animal studies,” a research topic in STS that has evolved in important ways in the past ten years. For example, Charlotte is an highly praised expert on the cultural history of ants, both in terms of scientific research and in terms of different cultures around the world. She’s also currently president of The British Society for the History of Science, one of the top global organisations supporting research, writing, and discussion in this area.

One of the projects Charlotte mentioned was:

  • Stone, Christopher D. “Should Trees Have Standing?–Towards Legal. Rights for Natural Objects.” Southern California Law Review 45. (1972): 450-501

This was later developed into a book:

  • Stone, Christopher D. Should Trees Have Standing? Law, Morality, and the Environment. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.

Our interview was recorded in 2021 just after Charlotte arrived in STS as Lecturer (Teaching) in Social Studies of Science. This appointment is in addition to her role as an Honorary Professor.

For more about Professor Charlotte Sleigh.

Also, check out the book’s co-author, Dr Amanda Rees.

The book we discussed:

  • Amanda Rees and Charlotte Sleigh. 2020. Humans (Reaktion Books). ISBN 978-1-78914-214-3.

The STS1Book programme is an initiative by UCL Department of Science and Technology Studies (STS) that asks all students and staff to read one book in common during the year. This serves as a foundation for interdisciplinary conversations and debate within our community. Each year we try to bring the authors into the department to work with our students to interpret the work and also simply to meet important practitioners in the subject. Find out more about the STS1Book programme.

For more about the British Society for the History of Science.

Featuring

SoundCloud Widget Placeholderhttps://soundcloud.com/we-are-sts/4-charlotte-sleigh-talks-about-what-ma...

 
 
Episode #3 Comparing Pandemics: COVID-19 and the 1918 ‘Spanish Flu’

What are the similarities between the COVID-19 pandemic and the 1918 ‘Spanish Flu’ pandemic? What can we learn by a comparison? How does history help us understand what’s happening today? One of our experts in science communication, Dr Jean-Baptiste Gouyon, interviews one of our historians of science and medicine, Dr Cristiano Turbil, to answer these questions, and more. Did you know the 1918 ‘Spanish Flu’ pandemic probably started in the US state of Kansas? Do you know why the 1918 pandemic is called the ‘Spanish Flu’?

This interview was recorded in 2020 during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Featuring

  • Interviewee: Dr Cristiano Turbil, Teaching Fellow in History of Medicine (@cristianoturbil)
  • Interviewer: Dr Jean-Baptiste Gouyon, Associate Professor of Science Communication (@jbgouyon)
  • Host: Professor Joe Cain (@profjoecain)

SoundCloud Widget Placeholderhttps://soundcloud.com/we-are-sts/3-comparing-pandemics-covid-19-and-the...

 
Episode #2 Talking Careers with Dr Jean-Baptiste Gouyon

Every university student has "careers" on the mind, even if they're not sure what they should be thinking about. I talk with the STS Careers Tutor, Dr Jean-Baptiste Gouyon about this subject. He talks about the new STS student-led Careers Task Force. We also talk about many ideas under the title, “careers thinking,” including the philosophy of flexible futures. As a careers tutor, Dr Gouyon is a specialist in thinking about how students might look ahead to find specific career paths. If they’re not sure how to start, Jean-Baptiste is an expert in helping people get started. For more information about careers associated with STS:

https://www.ucl.ac.uk/sts/careers

STS also works with UCL Careers Service, which offers a fantastic range of activities and expertise for our students.

https://www.ucl.ac.uk/careers/

Personal tutors also can help guide students through the process.

Featuring

SoundCloud Widget Placeholderhttps://soundcloud.com/we-are-sts/2-talking-careers-with-dr-jean-baptist...

 
Episode #1 STS student, Nuzhah Miah, interviews Dr Jack Stilgoe

STS student, Nuzhah Miah, interviews Dr Jack Stilgoe about Evgeny Morozov’s 2014 book, To Save Everything Click Here, asking him why it’s recommended reading for new students coming into UCL Department of Science and Technology Studies (STS).

The book they are discussing is Evgeny Morozov (2014) To Save Everything Click Here: Technology, Solutionism, and the urge to fix problems that don’t exist (Penguin).

The publisher’s description reads: “Our gadgets are getting smarter. Technology can log what we buy, customize what we consume and enable us to save and share every aspect of our existence. In the future, we're told, it will even make public life - from how we're governed to how we record crime - better. But can the digital age fix everything? Should it? By quantifying our behaviour, Evgeny Morozov argues, we are profoundly reshaping society - and risk losing the opacity and imperfection that make us human.”

Featuring

This interview took place in August 2020.

SoundCloud Widget Placeholderhttps://soundcloud.com/we-are-sts/1-jack-stilgoe-talks-with-nuzhah-miah-...

Bonus episodes

BONUS episodes will showcase student-produced projects. Others will deliver episodes on special topics, or they'll allow listens into our expert discussions about topics as diverse as science policy making, science in the media, philosophy of information, history of dinosaurs, sociology of science, and history of technology.

Bonus: Should Research into Artificial Intelligence Be Stopped? Professor Jon Agar Explains Why A Former UCL Provost Said “Yes”

Professor James Lighthill, UCL Provost (1979-1989), was the author of a highly influential report to the UK government about artificial intelligence (AI). It questioned what AI was and what it could achieve. Its impact was profound. It was the cause, say some, of the first “AI winter” of the 1970s. Lighthill was one of the leading mathematicians of the 20th century. His work nevertheless was highly engaging, asking questions such as “how do fish swim?” and “how do birds fly?”. His answers led him to firm convictions about what makes good science policy, not least concerning how science might pay close attention to the world's problems.

The bonus episode excerpts from the audio of Professor Agar’s “lunchtime lecture” at UCL in March 2021, with his permission. About the lecture, Professor Agar explains, “I will explore the resonances between Lighthill’s approach and our recent return to grand challenges and a problem-oriented industrial strategy for science….I will present my discoveries made in the Lighthill papers held in UCL Special Collections and the National Archives at Kew that reveal the reasons for this intervention. Given the resurgent importance of AI, we can learn from the past fortunes of the subject.”

The original title of Professor Agar’s talk was, “Why Did a Former UCL Provost think Research in AI Should be Stopped?”. It occurred as part of the UCL Minds Lunch Hour Lectures series in March 2021.

UCL's Lunch Hour Lecture series has been running at UCL since 1942 and showcases the exceptional research work being undertaken across UCL. Lectures are free and open to all. The full version of this lecture, with formal introduction and moderated questions and answers, is available on the UCLLHL YouTube channel.

#ucllhl​

Twitter: @UCLLHL

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/UCLLHL​

About the Speaker: Professor Jon Agar is Professor and Co-Head of UCL Department at Science and Technology Studies (STS). He is a historian of modern science and technology, and he is the author of many books, including:

  • Science Policy under Thatcher (2019)
  • Constant Touch: a Global History of the Mobile Phone (Icon, second edition, 2013)
  • Science in the Twentieth Century and Beyond (Polity, 2012)
  • The Government Machine: A Revolutionary History of the Computer (MIT Press, 2003)

He is also the co-editor of the volume:

  • Histories of Technology, the Environment and Modern Britain (co-edited with Jacob Ward, 2018)

In 2016 he was the recipient of the Royal Society’s Wilkins-Bernal-Medawar Medal and Lecture.

 

Featuring

Speaker: Professor Jon Agar, UCL Professor in Science and Technology Studies https://www.ucl.ac.uk/sts/agar (@jon_agar)

Host: Professor Joe Cain, UCL Professor in History and Philosophy of Biology https://www.ucl.ac.uk/sts/cain (@profjoecain)

 

Music credits

“Rollin At 5,” by Kevin MacLeod

Link: https://filmmusic.io/song/5000-rollin-at-5

License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0

 

Production information

Editing and post-production by Professor Joe Cain.

“WeAreSTS” producer is Professor Joe Cain.

 

Podcast information

“WeAreSTS” is a production of the Department of Science and Technology Studies (STS) at University College London (UCL). To find out more, and to leave feedback about the show, visit us online:

https://www.ucl.ac.uk/sts/podcast

Students and staff in STS also can find on the website information about how to get involved with our programme.

Twitter: @stsucl #WeAreSTS

SoundCloud Widget Placeholderhttps://soundcloud.com/we-are-sts/bonus-should-research-in-ai-be-stopped

 
Bonus: Tribute to Dr William Fleming Maclehose (1967-2020)

We pay tribute to our friend and colleague, Dr William Fleming Maclehose (1967-2020). Bill was a historian of medieval medicine and an important part of STS. He was an expert in theories of sleep and sleeping. Bill loved the history of medicine in all its forms and across all the world’s great cultures. 

This episode is an interview with Bill. Students in STS sometimes interview staff for projects in science communication. A few years ago, one of our master’s students, Deirdre Dinneen, did just that with Bill. After Deirdre heard of Bill’s death, she very kindly offered us this recording. We thought broadcasting it would be a small tribute to someone we miss.

Participants

  • Interviewee: Dr William Maclehose
  • Interviewer: Deirdre Dinneen

Music credits

Intro music is “Stylish Background Classical Waltz Piano” by MusicLFiles available <https://filmmusic.io/song/6330-stylish-background-classical-waltz-piano>. License: <http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/>

Exit music is “Feather Waltz” by Kevin MacLeod available <https://filmmusic.io/song/3743-feather-waltz>. License: <http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/>

Production information

Nuzhah Miah, a current STS undergraduate student, edited the interview and fine-tuned the audio.

Podcast information

“WeAreSTS” is a production of the Department of Science and Technology Studies (STS) at University College London (UCL).

SoundCloud Widget Placeholderhttps://soundcloud.com/we-are-sts/bonus-tribute-to-dr-william-maclehose-...

 
Bonus: Admissions for Master’s Degrees with Dr Jenny Bulstrode

Why study STS at the postgraduate level? What are some of the benefits and key qualities of the programme? What are your options at UCL?

Dr Jenny Bulstrode describes our Master’s level programmes in conversation with the show’s host, Professor Joe Cain. She offers guidance on choosing the right subject path, how to choose a referee, and what she seeks in a personal statement.

STS offers two Master’s Degrees:

  1. History and Philosophy of Science MSc
  2. Science, Technology, and Society MSc

These are available for full-time and part-time study. We also have options to study these subjects while seeking a degree, diploma, or a certificate-level qualification.

This interview was recorded in 2021 and is relevant for applicants considering admission to study in the 2021-22 academic year.

For more information, visit us online:

https://ucl.ac.uk/sts/msc

Featuring

SoundCloud Widget Placeholderhttps://soundcloud.com/we-are-sts/bonus-admissions-for-masters-degrees-w...

 

Feedback

Click to give feedback

We welcome your thoughts about the podcast.

Links