Forever Duke Students
Forever Duke Students

2020 Summer II Courses on the Pandemic

“We are living through the most pronounced and vast bioethical crisis of our times. At every step of this global pandemic, we must grapple with myriad ethical, legal, and social implications of the choices that we have to make. Never before has there been a greater need for understanding the relationship between Science & Society.

– Nita Farahany, Director, Duke Initiative for Science & Society


The Duke Initiative for Science & Society is committed to helping you gain the necessary education, research, engagement, and guidance to help see us through the long path that lies ahead. As part of this effort, we’ve launched several Summer II Courses allowing students to study this unprecedented and extraordinary time we live in. Guided by S&S experts in science policy and communication, students will attain historical perspective and analyze the social, policy, and legal implications of the current pandemic.



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SCISOC 590-01: Telehealth COVID-19 Experience

Buz Waitzkin, J.D., Deputy Director, Duke Initiative for Science & Society.
Rebecca Whitaker, Ph.D., MSPH, Managing Associate, Duke Margolis Center for Health Policy.

SCISOC 590-01 Telehealth COVID-19 Experiences
This course will primarily be looking at answering a specific research question over the course of the semester.

Although long-touted as a cornerstone of the future of medical care, telehealth has been sparsely implemented in the United States because of the complex regulatory, legal, political and financial barriers to utilization. In response to the impending COVID-19 health care delivery crisis, federal and state governments moved rapidly to implement a range of temporary regulatory changes intended to facilitate the expanded use of telehealth. These changes resulted in a dramatic increase in the use of telehealth. Duke’s experience presents an excellent case study in the effectiveness of telehealth training, barriers to success, the populations impacted and early successes with its implementation. The tutorial, which is a joint project of the Duke Initiative for Science & Society and the Duke Margolis Center for Health Policy, will involve both research and pedagogy. A pilot study will be undertaken of Duke’s experience, while the students assemble the regulatory actions taken by state and federal governments. In parallel, seminars will explore the reasons for the historic resistance of the US health care system to telehealth, the policies that underlie these barriers, on-going efforts to overcome these barriers and the emergency temporary changes implemented in response to COVID-19.

SCISOC 590-02: Big Data and COVID-19

Sarah Rispin-Sedlak, J.D. and Brian Langloss, Ph.D., Lead Policy Analysts at Duke

SCISOC 590-02 Big Data and COVID-19
This course will primarily be looking at answering a specific research question over the course of the semester.

Big Data and COVID-19 is a research project-based class designed to introduce students to disease surveillance through technology for the COVID-19 pandemic, and to generate a data set that can be analyzed and shared publicly.

The course will begin with asynchronous lectures on disease surveillance, data collection and data privacy, the emerging use of social media, mobility and biometric data to track and control the spread of COVID-19, and the privacy and civil liberties concerns to which those efforts give rise.

Students will then research and catalogue current efforts to use social media, mobility and other personal data, as well as COVID-19-specific apps, to track and control the spread of the disease. One group of students will be devoted to tracking changing attitudes toward the technology sector and the use and sharing of our individually generated data by technology companies in concert with public health officials. The research the students produce will be used to create a record of these efforts, and come up with policy recommendations about how to most responsibly revise, continue, control, and sunset them once this public health crisis is over.

SCISOC 590-03: Pandemic Response – Crisis, Upheaval, Adaptation

Misha Angrist, Ph.D., Associate Professor of the Practice at SSRI, a Senior Fellow in Science & Society, and Visiting Associate Professor of the Practice in the Sanford School of Public Policy as part of the DeWitt Wallace Center for Media & Democracy.

SCISOC 590-03 Pandemic Response
The title of this course, Pandemic Response, speaks to our intentions: a catastrophic biological event has happened and we are compelled to understand the underlying science and to bring science to bear on its predicted trajectory and mitigation. At the same time, our most profound responses to our scientific understanding of the pathogen exist in realms with immediate social consequences that go beyond empiricism: economics, ethics, behavior, mental health, grief, service delivery, immigration, socialization, education, etc. This course is designed to be an intense undergraduate learning experience that attempts to wrestle with the events of the last six months and make meaning of them.

SCISOC 590-04: Pandemics in Popular Culture – Science, Narrative and Public Policy

Thomas Williams, J.D., Law & Biosciences Fellow, Duke Initiative for Science & Society

SCISOC 590-04 Pandemics in Popular Culture
This course explores the possibility of film and literature’s impact, direct and indirect, on the framing of public policy and public discourse. The class will be based around films, documentaries and books, supplemented by additional readings to provide context– in the latter part of the class, students, through individual and group work, will begin to take a more substantial role in contextualizing the works, and thinking empirically about the connection between policy, narrative, and science.

SCISOC 590-05 (EDUC 590-01): Communicating STEM Through Public Outreach

Jory Weintraub, Ph.D., Science Communication Program Director & Senior Lecturing Fellow, Science & Society

SCISOC 590-04 Communicating STEM Through Public Outreach
This course will explore broad science communication and outreach themes not limited to the pandemic.

Educating and engaging K-12 students and the general public in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) is always important, and particularly so in the time of the Coronavirus pandemic. Provided that they are properly trained in effective STEM communication and outreach methods, scientists (particularly younger, more demographically diverse scientists) can be particularly good STEM messengers. This course will expose students to strategies necessary to design and conduct impactful STEM outreach. Students will read essential literature on the topic, hear directly from expert practitioners, and develop, implement and assess their own STEM outreach project in public venues.