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 (webpage)
Senior Instructor, Michael Smith Laboratories
Director, Advanced Molecular Biology Laboratory
Office: MSL Rm. 221
Office Hours: (by appointment)
Phone (Office): 822 6264
E-mail: db@mail.ubc.ca
Twitter: @ng_dave

Dr. Allen Sens (webpage)
Senior Instructor, Department of Political Science
Chair, International Relations Program
Office: Buchanan C430
Office Hours: T 2:30 – 3:30, T 10:30 – 11:30
Phone (Office): 822 6127
E-mail: asens@mail.ubc.ca
Twitter: @sensorship

Course Website: link
Twitter Handle: @ASIC200
Teaching Assistants: Craig Kerr, Tereza Jarniková

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 future studies, role-play scenario design, educational writing, final report composition, and the creative expression and presentation of ideas.

Instructional Methods:

In this course, background and contextual material will be provided in lectures (both in person and via video) and in readings. All students will participate in a social science simulation and a genetics laboratory experience, which will reinforce the connection between the scientific method and policy debates on global issues. Group projects will develop analytical, critical, strategic foresight, role-play scenario design, and policy proposal generation skills to address practical problems created by various global 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. Although there is significant class time set aside for the group project, engaged students may also work in virtual groups outside of class time.

Required Texts:

Required readings and video viewings are assigned for each unit. See the 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/viewings listed below. Course grades will be determined on the basis of the following:

  • a. First Individual Future World Project report (due Feb. 4) 15%
  • b. Second Individual Future World Project report (due Mar. 3) 15%
  • c. Future World Project Role Playing Game report (due Apr. 7) 25%
  • d. Simulation Commentary (due Jan. 28) 5%
  • e. Lab Reflection (due week after each lab session) 5%
  • f. Final Examination (UBC scheduling) 35%
  • • The Individual Future World Project reports will be evaluated on the basis of attributes such as breadth and feasibility (i.e. as evidence based as possible) of content, quality of writing, clarity, and/or locale research.
  • • The Group Future World Project reports will be evaluated on the basis of how the game’s narrative includes interdisciplinary content, analysis of the issues/solutions/policies described, and the quality of written game document.
  • • The simulation reflection will evaluate student’s understanding of the obstacles to climate change negotiations.
  • • The lab reflection will evaluate the student’s understanding of the relationship between data generation and social debate on scientific issues.
  • • 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 pdf. Or Word documents.


Lecture notes will be made available as pdf or Word documents. Readings and/or viewings for each week should be completed before class each week. The below represents the general outline – full details will be provided at the website on each Friday after each class (see http://terry.ubc.ca/asic-200-mainpage).

Session 1: (Jan 7) Administration and Overview of Global Issues

• The “global” as a scientific, social science, and humanities concept
• Meet and Greet: Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse

Reading for after class:
– Sciencegeek Fundamentals No. 1 (link)
– Browse and familiarize yourself with the IPCC website located at: http://www.ipcc.ch/index.htm Read the AR5 “Summary for Policymakers” (pdf link or click on the orange “Summary for Policymakers” button).
– Executive Summary, The Emissions Gap Report 2014. A UNEP Synthesis Report. The United Nations Environment Program, 2014. (pdf link).

Required viewing before January 14:
– One of the videos highlighting tabletop role playing games (link)
– ASIC 200 Climate Change Science videos parts one | two | three | four


Session 2: (Jan 14) Climate Change Science II

• Climate Change and the Physical and Life Sciences (an overview of IPCC report AR5, 2013)
• Introduction to the Future Worlds Role Playing Game Project:

Detailed description and sypnosis of this game-base learning assignment. Activity – back story on a cue card. (note first solo assignment due on Feb 4).

Required viewing before Copenhagen Simulation on Jan. 21: Climate Change Arts I Videos
(Parts 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10)

Reading: Simulation preparation materials (to be circulated)

Session 3: (Jan. 21) Climate Change Negotiation Simulation.

• The Copenhagen COP simulation (note if possible, we will see if we can host this from 6:45pm to 9:30pm)

Simulation Reflection assignment due on January 28th (via email asic200@gmail.com, use subject heading “Copenhagen”)

Session 4: (Jan. 28) Climate Change Arts II (Simulation Reflection Due)

• Group formation for Future Worlds Project and discussion of individual assignment.
• Climate Change and the Social Science and Humanities
• Interactive Session: Climate change and the future, Q&A

Reading One: Jeff Tollefson and Kenneth R. Weiss, “Nations approve historic global climate accord.” Nature, Vol 528, Issue 7582 (12 December 2015). Available through UBC Library on line journals or at: http://www.nature.com/news/nations-approve-historic-global-climate-accord-1.19021

Reading Two: Naomi Klein, “If enough of us decide that climate change is a crisis worthy of Marshall Plan levels of response, then it will become one,” The Guardian, (6 March 2015). Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/mar/06/dont-look-away-now-the-climate-crisis-needs-you

Reading Three: Christopher Rootes, et. al., “Climate change, national politics and grass roots action: an introduction,” Environmental Politics, Vol. 21 (2012), 677-690. Available at: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/09644016.2012.720098

Session 5: (Feb. 4) Future Worlds Role Playing Game Project First Team Meeting (First solo assignment hand in before class – physical copy)

• Group based World Building: year; climate conditions; geography; energy; transportation; resource scarcity; environmental stresses; social stresses; the human condition by region; global governance. As a group, you’ll need to lock in these elements for your group assignment, as well as hone a good first or second edit of a 500 word backstory for your adventure module.

Required viewing before Feb. 11:
– Personal Genomics Science I Videos (all)

Required reading before Feb 11:
– “A Monk’s Flourishing Garden: The Basics of Molecular Biology Explained” The Science Creative Quarterly (link).
– “Breakfast of Champions does Replication” The Science Creative Quarterly (link).


Session 6: (Feb. 11) Personal Genomics Science II

• Personal Genomics and the Physical and Life Sciences (new developments!)
• The Future Worlds Role Playing Game Project: Introduction to universal mechanic (in which we will attempt to play a short game in class!)

Required viewing before Feb. 25: Personal Genomics Arts I Videos


Session 7: (Feb. 25) Personal Genomics Arts II

• Continue the game from last class.
• Personal Genomics and the Social Sciences and Humanities
• Interactive Session: Personal Genomics and the future

Reading One: Diane B. Paul: “What Was Wrong with Eugenics? Conflicting Narratives and Disputed Interpretations,” Science and Education, Vol. 23 (February 2014), 259 – 271. Available at: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11191-012-9556-3/fulltext.html

Reading Two: Bernard E. Rollin, “The Perfect Storm – Genetic Engineering, Science, and Ethics,” Science and Education, Vol. 23 (February 2014), 509 – 517. Available at: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11191-012-9511-3/fulltext.html

Reading Three: Yann Joly and Patricia N. Tonin, “Social, ethical and legal considerations raised by the discovery and patenting of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 Genes,” New Genetics and Society, Vol. 33 (May 2014), 167-180. Available at: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/14636778.2014.914849

Reading Four: Maui Hudson, et. al., “The art of dialogue with indigenous communities in the new biotechnology world.” New Genetics and Society, Vol. 31 (March 2012), 11-24. Available at: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/14636778.2011.597979
(get PDF).

Session 8: (Mar. 3) Future Worlds Role Playing Game Project Second Team Meeting (Second solo assignment hand in before class – physical copy)

• Second full class session to lock in elements for your group as defined by the parameters in your second solo assignment. Final edit of your 500 word backstory for your adventure narrative.

Session 9: (Mar. 10) Future Worlds Role Playing Game Project Third Team Meeting

• Generate a draft of your scenario script.
• Generate characters, skills, professions, capacities, abilities, special tools and equipment)

Session 10: (Mar. 17) LAB (Note that session 10, 11, and 12 involve a rotating lab section – i.e. only part of the class will be doing the lab, whereas the other two thirds of the class will have additional time to work on their RPG assignment)

• Lab Groups I
• Future Worlds Project Team Meeting (meetings during labs devoted to developing a playable game)

Session 11: (Mar. 24) LAB (Group I lab reflection due)

• Lab Group II
• Future Worlds Project Team Meeting (meetings during labs devoted to developing a playable game)

Session 12: (Mar. 31) LAB (Group II Lab Reflection Due)

• Lab Group II
• Future Worlds Project Team Meeting (meetings during labs devoted to developing a playable game)

Session 13: (Apr. 7) Game Sessions
In which, groups will rotate to play the creations of another group in the class.
(Final Future Worlds Role Playing Game Project Due Before Class) (Group III Lab reflection Due)

The Laboratory Sessions

The Climate Change unit laboratory exercise will be a social science simulation. The entire class will participate in a climate change negotiation simulation. This session will encompass one class meeting.

The genetics laboratory exercise will last one entire 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 (“Brave World Now” – 2116)

Full details for this assignment can be found at a specially prepared website – http://braveworldnow.wordpress.com

In this course, all students will participate in a group project that will involve the submission of both individual and collective (group) assignments. The group project is a Future Worlds Role Playing Game Project. This project will consist of three components and stages of development:

1. Conceptualization and description of a future earth, based on physical and life science and social sciences and humanities research, evidence, trends and predictions. In addition, any special circumstances, developments, or impact events that might influence a future world may be included but must have support in science or the social sciences. The description of this future earth might include (but is not limited to):

a. The future earth’s physical, geographic, biological, ecological and climatic conditions, described in a manner consistent with scientific possibilities and narratives in scientific literature;

b. The future earth’s social, human, governmental, international and economic characteristics and systems consistent with research in the social sciences and humanities.

In essence, students will be asked to construct a future world consistent with what we know today. All students will submit two separate individual assignments of 1500 words and 2000 words respectively, detailing their own future world projection. In their groups, students will collectively design their future world (using notes from their solo assignments) for use in the next step of the group assignment: scenario design. Think of this as an exercise in future studies or futurology, combined with elements of creating the setting for a futuristic novel or film. In this project, the exercise is to create the world in which a role-play game will be set.

2. Design of a specific scenario in which a group of humans in this future world find themselves seeking to attain a common goal or objective. Scenario design includes the location, context, and objective or goal of the humans involved, as well as who these humans are and what qualities they possess. The scenario design might include (but is not limited to):

a. The objective of the scenario, which might be to find something of value, escape from somewhere, solve a mystery, or even save the world.

b. The creation of the characteristics, attributes, skills, and backgrounds of the individuals involved in the scenario (the characters).

3. Design and practice running the game. In this part of the project, all the elements of future world design, scenario development, and characters are brought together to make a playable game. Games should be play tested. On the last day of class, groups will submit their final Future Worlds Role Playing Game Project. Students from each group will congregate in new groups to play the game designed by each group, run by one of the designers.

As much as possible, each group will be composed of a mix of Science and Arts students.

Twitter and Terry Blog in the Classroom

Use of twitter in ASIC200 is strongly encouraged as a way to further foster networking, as well as highlighting links that may be of interest to the course’s subject matter.  To aggregate these tweets, we invite you to use the hashtag #ASIC200 or interact directly with @ASIC200 when participating.  Note that this is not required for the course, but we do feel that twitter can be an especially useful tool for aggregating information from a wide variety of perspectives, and as such this is viewed as an opportunity to familiarize yourself with the service. For more information on setting up an account, go to http://twitter.com

In the same manner, occasionally, specific anecdotes that have been highlighted in class may resurface as a blog post at Terry.ubc.ca  In light of this, we also encourage you to check the blog out at regular intervals (the ASIC course site also happens to live at the same URL).