It’s Friday of week 4, the halfway point of Hilary Term, which means we are also halfway through Core IV: Science and Public Policy. I’m sure our first cohort of MPP students would agree that the last four weeks have been both exciting and engaging.
Core IV began with a philosophical class from Antony Eagle on science and the nature of knowledge, where the important factors that influence scientists and science itself were explored. This was followed by an enormously interesting discussion of ethics of human enhancement led by Julian Savulescu, and a screening of the film Gattaca, where inequality is rife in a future world of genetic enhancement.
A series of classes looking at issues broadly related to health followed. We were privileged to have Sir Walter Bodmer speak on topics of genetics, cancer, and the public understanding of science and Sir Richard Peto discuss the scientific discoveries and interventions that have led to large decreases in infant mortality, and the potential to decrease adult morbidity and mortality in the future. Devi Sridhar picked up where Sir Richard finished, outlining how global and public health is governed and financed, and how the data used to influence these is gathered and analyzed. Most recently Angela McLean has taken the class on a tour of infectious disease, including the spread of pathogens, vaccination, drug resistance, and the role of mathematical models in informing health policy.
For the last few weeks, students have also been working in groups to research important science policy issues, such as water and food security, regulation of nanotechnology, and geoengineering. Each groups has been paired with a working scientist, and so far it seems both the students and scientists are learning a great deal from each other.
Over the next four weeks we will have classes focusing on the environment, where energy, climate change, and biodiversity will all be discussed in the context of public policy. We also look forward to welcoming Nobel laureate Sir John Sulston, who will speak on People and the Planet and our panel of science policy experts, Lord Robert May, Lord John Krebs, and David Clary.