ASIC (Arts and Science Integrated Course) 200

Course Description:

Human society confronts a range of challenges that are global in scope. These changes threaten planetary and local ecosystems, the stability and sustainability of human societies, and the health and well being of human individuals and communities. The natural and human worlds are now interacting at the global level to an unprecedented degree. Responding to these global issues will be the greatest challenge facing human society in the 21st century. In this course students will explore selected global issues from the perspective of both the physical and life sciences and the social sciences and humanities. The fundamental philosophy of the course is that global issues cannot be fully understood or addressed without a functional literacy in both the Sciences and the Arts. In this course, students will develop the knowledge and the practical skills required to become engaged citizens in the local, national, and international civil society dialogue on global issues.


Dr. David Ng
Senior Instructor, Michael Smith Laboratories
Director, Advanced Molecular Biology Laboratory
Office: MSL Rm. 305
Office Hours: (by appointment)
Phone (Office): 822 6264

Dr. Allen Sens
Senior Instructor, Department of Political Science
Chair, International Relations Program
Office: Buchanan C430
Office Hours: F 10:00 – 12:00
Phone (Office): 822 6127

ASIC 200 Office hours: MSL Rm. 101 (Multipurpose Room)
Th. 4:30 – 5:30
Course Website: link
Teaching Assistants: Anne Dalziel, David Semeniuk

Learning Objectives:

This course has four core learning objectives. Students will:

• Acquire a range of analytical perspectives used in the physical and life sciences and the social sciences and humanities to investigate global issues;

• Build an appreciation for the importance of interdisciplinary knowledge, education, and dialogue in meeting global challenges;

• Actively participate in group exercises to develop team work and leadership abilities; and

• Develop the skills necessary for active engagement in global issues in local, national, and international civil society, which will include proposal writing, educational writing, and final report composition.

Instructional Methods:

In this course, background and contextual material will be provided in lectures and in readings. All students will participate in a laboratory experience, which will reinforce the connection between the scientific method and policy debates on global issues. Group exercises will be conducted in class, with the aim of developing analytical, critical, and policy proposal generation skills to address practical problems created by various global issues. A major research project with a public communication component will develop a variety of skills necessary for active involvement in local and global social issues.

Attendance at all lectures, labs, and group project activity is mandatory.


Enrolment is restricted to second year students. There are no course prerequisites. It is not necessary to have a background in the physical or life sciences or the social sciences and humanities to take this course.

Course Format:

The course will meet in class session once a week for 3 hours (Thursdays, 6pm to 9pm, Michael Smith Building lecture hall – Note that front doors lock at 6:15pm).

Required Texts:

Required readings will be assigned as the class progresses. See Lecture outline for details.

Course Assignments, Due Dates and Evaluation:

Students are responsible for material covered in lectures, group activities, labs, and class discussions as well as in the assigned readings listed below. Course grades will be determined on the basis of the following:

a. Group Problem Based Learning (PBL) Report (due March 3rd) 30%
b. Lab Commentaries (due Feb 10th and April 14th) 10%
c. Individual FAQ Project (due March 31st) 30%
d. Final Examination (UBC scheduling) 30%

• The Group Project PBL report will be evaluated on the basis of interdisciplinary content, analysis of the issue under investigation, and the quality of proposed solutions or policy recommendations.

• The lab commentaries will evaluate the student’s understanding of the relationship between data generation and social debate on scientific issues.

• The FAQ project will be evaluated on the basis of attributes such as breadth of content, quality of writing, clarity, community research, and/or outreach potential.

• The final examination will focus on the application of analytical perspectives to the global challenges addressed in lectures, lab experiences, and in course reading material. Students will be required to demonstrate their knowledge of both the physical and life sciences and social sciences and humanities dimensions of global issues.

All assignments are due in class on the specified due date. LATE ASSIGNMENTS WILL BE PENALIZED AT A RATE OF 3% PER DAY AND 3% PER WEEKEND. Late assignments should be handed in to one of the instructors.

Academic dishonesty will not be tolerated. Refer to the University’s policies on cheating and plagiarism. Punishment will include a grade of zero for the assignment and possible expulsion from the course and suspension from the university (see the UBC Calendar). During your time in this course, if you encounter medical, emotional, or personal problems that affect your attendance or academic performance, please notify your Faculty Academic Advising Office.

Students with disabilities who have registered with the Disabilities Resource Center should notify the instructors at their convenience, at least two weeks before examination dates. Although we try to be as flexible as possible, students planning to be absent for varsity athletics or family obligations (or other similar commitments) cannot assume they will be accommodated, and should discuss their commitments with the instructors before the drop date.

Lecture Outline

Lecture notes will be made available as pdfs or Word documents usually within 24 hours of the class (see link)

– – –

Session 1: (Jan 6) Administration and Overview of Global Issues

• “Global” as a scientific, social science, and humanities concept

Unit One: Climate Change

Reading for Unit One:

1) Browse and familiarize yourself with the IPCC website located at: and read the AR4 “Summary for Policymakers” located at: (Click on the “Summary for Policymakers” or “SPM” as it appears in the “contents” menu).

2) Read the “Copenhagen Diagnosis: Updating the World on the Latest Climate Science,” available for download at:

3) Read “The Comparative Politics of Climate Change,” by Kathryn Harrison and Lisa McIntosh Sundstrom. Available for download at the website of the Global Environmental Politics Journal, at: (scroll down to “Introduction” and find the article available in either Pdf format.

4) Read the “overview” of the World Development Report 2010: Development and Climate Change,” available for download at the WDR 2010 homepage at:,,menuPK:5287748~pagePK:64167702~piPK:64167676~theSitePK:5287741,00.html?cid=GS_WDR2010EN_62 (Click on “overview” under the “Download the Report” menu bar).

5) OPTIONAL: go to the UNFCCC home page at: and browse the latest news. Then click on “Essential Background” and then “Feeling the Heat” and read the all the sections listed from the Introduction through to (and including) the Kyoto Protocol.

6) OPTIONAL: if you want to immerse yourself in a great (albeit at times very technical) and up to date overview of climate science, regularly browse or subscribe to

Session 2: (Jan 13) Climate Change

• Climate Change and the Physical and Life Sciences

Session 3: (Jan. 20) Climate Change

• Climate Change and the Physical and Life Sciences (con’t)
• Climate Change and the Social Sciences and Humanities

Session 4: (Jan. 27) Climate Change

• Climate Change and the Social Sciences and Humanities (con’t)

Session 5: (Feb. 3) Social Science Lab

Session 6: (Feb. 10) PBL Group Project Discussion (I) (Lab Reflection Due)


Session 7: (Feb. 24) PBL Group Project Discussion (II)

Unit Two: Personal Genomics

Reading for Unit Two:

1) A selection of articles from the Science Creative Quarterly:

“A Monk’s Flourishing Garden: The Basics of Molecular Biology Explained” The Science Creative Quarterly. Available at:

“What is Bioinformatics?” The Science Creative Quarterly, Available at:

“Your Epigenome and you…” The Science Creative Quarterly.  Available at:

“Breakfast of Champions does Replication” The Science Creative Quarterly. Available at:

2) Read “Ethics, Politics, and Genetic Knowledge.” Social Research, Fall 2006. Available on course website.

3) Read “The Human Genome Diversity Project.” Law and Policy, January 2005. Available on google search (click on the PDF version of the article that appears first) at:

Session 8: (Mar. 3) Personal Genomics (Group PBL Project Due)

• Personal Genomics and the Physical and Life Sciences

Session 9: (Mar. 10) Personal Genomics

• Personal Genomics and the Physical and Life Sciences (con’t)
• Personal Genomics and the Social Sciences and Humanities

Session 10: (Mar. 17) Personal Genomics

• Personal Genomics and the Social Sciences and Humanities (con’t)

Session 11: (Mar. 24) LAB

• Lab Group I

Session 12: (Mar. 31) LAB (Individual Research Project – FAQ – Due)

• Lab Group II

Session 13: (Apr. 7) LAB (Lab Reflection due April 14th via email)

• Lab Group III (Course ends)

The Laboratory Sessions

The Climate Change unit laboratory exercise will be a social lab exercise. The entire class will run through a focus group session using specialized software developed for municipal urban planning (Envision Tools). Various levels of government use these tools to project their future infrastructure choices and model their effect on sustainability issues. This session will encompass one entire 3 hour lecture.

The genetics laboratory exercise will last one enture session (the class will be split into three lab groups, each group conducting the lab in a different week). Each student will perform a standard DNA fingerprint assay (for a non-phenotypic Alu insertion at TPA-25 of Chromosome 8 – this procedure is commonly used for a variety of outreach programs in North America, and provides excellent context for discussions on the relationship between data generation and debate over policy). The lab will be conducted under a pre-implantation genetics type scenario, as bridged by a previous discussion of stem cell work.

The Student Group Project Assignment

In this course, all students will participate in a Group Problem Based Learning Project. This project will be focused around a specific problem or question that will act as the starting point for student discussion and the production of a collaborative research project. As much as possible, each group will be composed of an equal mix of Science and Arts students. From this starting point, students will:

1) Discuss the problem presented to them. Students should deliberate on the nature of the problem, the various aspects of the problem, and identify the tools and physical and life science and social sciences and humanities knowledge needed to understand the problem and respond to it. Students will generate possible options for responding to the problem.

2) Design a practical project proposal designed to respond to the problem. The proposal should include a one page introduction to the problem, a two page description of the project and what contribution it will make to addressing the problem, a one page statement of project requirements, a proposed budget, and a fundraising plan identifying possible donors and community partners.

The Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) Project.

The FAQ project will provide students with an opportunity to compose a “Frequently Asked Questions” document on a global issue of their choice. This FAQ will describe the global issue under investigation, analyze the local or regional impact of this issue, identify the shortcomings/inadequacies of local or regional government policy, provide policy advice and recommendations for future action by local and regional governments, and design an advocacy strategy involving the appropriate civil society actors (NGOs and advocacy networks) to promote public awareness and government policy changes.

Project Requirements

This assignment will predominantly focus around written content of approximately 10 double spaced pages in length, and is expected to be written for a layman readership, delivered in a manner where engagement is just as important as the content. As well, the topic chosen should have elements that can broach both science and arts perspectives (although we understand if one perspective has a much more significant role).

The structure of the assignment should be as follows:

• Title Page (title of project; your name and student number);
• What is the issue? (Description): 2 pages composed of a number of FAQs and responses that introduce/describe the issue and its global significance;
• What is the local significance of the issue? (Local/regional impact assessment): 2 pages composed of a number of FAQs and responses that outline the local manifestation/character of the issue;
• Why is current policy inadequate? 2 pages of FAQs and responses describing current policies, laws and regulations, and government agencies responsible for addressing the issue and why these measures are wholly or partially inadequate;
• What can be done? (Policy recommendations): 2 pages of recommendations for changes to existing policy or suggestions for new policies;
• How can your proposed changes be realized? 2 Pages of examples/choices/options for a possible public advocacy approach involving local/regional/national organizations or networks designed to promote policy change on the issue;
• A Creative Component: an information/awareness/marketing/protest component in visual, graphic, or any other creative medium amenable to online display.

The Creative Component in Detail: the project must include some form of audio or visual media in order to develop a link between the content of the project and the graphic or creative arts aspect of a public engagement strategy, outreach effort, marketing approach, and/or awareness campaign. Examples include web-based elements, creative writing, music composition, graphic art, comics, podcasts, video, poetry, etc. (anything amenable to online display). Note that the core components of this component must be created by you, rather than be an assembly or art created by others. For example, taking content (photos, art) created by others and putting it into a power point presentation is NOT considered creative (composing the photographs or creating the art that goes into the presentation would be considered creative).

It is hoped that outstanding projects produced will be published on the Terry website ( For previous examples go the FAQ section of the Terry website (although note that the criteria for the assignment has changed (see above).

As the Terry Project website currently attracts a large readership, the objective of this assignment is to allow students an opportunity to produce a document with educational relevancy.  Here, we hope that readers, via the projects, may become more informed about various global issues, the role of community engagement and activism in addressing social problems, and enable students to explore the relationship between global and local issues and the graphic and/or creative arts.

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