How do social institutions develop and change, especially
economic, legal, political and scientific? What role
do ethics and values play in science and technology issues?
Our established customs, behaviors and practices are known as
institutions. Often, institutions have interacting and interdependent
dimensions -- those we call "systems." Because institutions
are the ways societies structure themselves, they are fruitful
areas for scientific study. Especially important are the following.
- Economic institutions. This is not just about money,
but also about the jobs people hold and the way they work. In
the global economic system, far-flung events can have surprising
results close to home. An understanding of small- to
global-scale economic workings helps to cope with -- or
take advantage of -- the effects and changes at all scales.
- Legal institutions. Scientists help us understand
the impact of laws on people and on society; human behavior (including
criminal behavior) and interactions related to legal systems;
the dynamics of legal decision-making; and why and how legal
- Political institutions. Government and political processes
include the workings of democracy, especially in the United States
but also in the world. Political changes touch all of us and
research studies using scientific data and tools, increase our
understanding of these processes and their impacts.
- Scientific institutions. Scientists also study science
scientific knowledge is and how it develops, including differences
various endeavors in the nature of evidence and testing
Researchers also examine the interactions among science,
technology and society, and how they change each other.
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