Program on Science, Technology and Society at Harvard

Harvard Kennedy School of Government | Harvard University

FAQs concerning the STS Secondary Field

At what point in your doctoral training should you declare the Secondary Field?

Students should declare the Secondary Field by the end of their third semester at Harvard.

What is the first step a student should take in order to pursue the Secondary Field?

To begin the process, interested students should consult with one of the members of the Executive Committee or make an appointment with Professor Sheila Jasanoff at the Harvard Kennedy School. Students will need to register at the STS Program’s administrative office in the Harvard Kennedy School (79 JFK Street, Room L355) in order to enroll in the STS Secondary Field.

As a scientist or professional school student, do I need any background in social science or humanities to pursue the STS Secondary Field? As a humanist or social scientist, do I need any background in natural sciences or engineering to pursue the Secondary Field?

No. Courses designated as appropriate for the field are open to students from all backgrounds. The principal prerequisite is an interest in such issues as how knowledge advances, how technological innovation occurs, and how social and political factors interact with developments in science and technology.

What is the role of the Secondary Field faculty advisor?

The advisor ensures that the student has selected appropriate courses for the Secondary Field, recommends alternatives if needed, certifies that the student’s STS work is ready for presentation in the STS Circle, and serves as point of contact in case of any difficulties.

Does it matter in what order course requirements are met for the Secondary Field?

No. Some students may prefer to take one or two methodological and related courses (Sections ii and iii of the requirements) before enrolling in the more conceptual framing courses (Section i), while other students may prefer the reverse order.

Are students expected to do STS research along with taking courses for the Secondary Field?

This is not a formal requirement. It is expected that students will rethink the questions that animate their primary research and perhaps modify their methods and/or sources in the light of their exposure to STS.

What should students present at the STS Circle?

As noted above, no original research is expected or required for the Secondary Field. The presentation may be based on a significant term paper, an article, or a dissertation draft and should reflect a conceptual integration of STS questions or methods with the student’s research. STS Circle programs from prior years list many examples. Advisors will offer additional guidance.

Can students start attending the STS Circle right away?

The STS Circle is open to all members of the Harvard community. No official permission is needed to attend. Students should sign up with the STS Program to receive e-mail announcements of talks; RSVPs are requested each week to get a head count for lunches.

Can students take courses at MIT toward credit for the STS Secondary Field?

MIT courses may be approved upon consultation with the STS advisor to fulfill the requirements for methodological or related courses. Approval will not ordinarily be granted for substituting a framing course.

Can courses be substituted for the designated STS framing courses?

Ordinarily no. Permission to substitute comparable courses taken at other universities will only be granted in exceptional cases to students with prior graduate training in STS.

Can courses in my home department be used as the STS framing course?

Students in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences may not satisfy the framing course requirement with a course offered by their home department. Students in professional schools (e.g. HKS or SEAS) may do so.

Can a new class be approved for the STS Secondary Field?

New courses are continually being offered at Harvard and some may incorporate STS approaches that make them suitable for the Secondary Field. Students may request an advisor’s approval to receive credit for such a course. If it is a stable addition to the Harvard course catalog, then students are urged to bring the course to the attention of the STS Program’s administrative office in the Harvard Kennedy School for inclusion in the approved list.

Where should I go if I have further questions?

Please feel free to send an e-mail to if you have further questions.