Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship Spring 2000

Book Reviews

Social Issues in Science and Technology

Julie Wood
Reference Librarian and Information Consultant
Library & Information Center
Georgia Institute of Technology

Social Issues in Science and Technology: An Encyclopedia. David E. Newton. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 1999. 352 pp. $ 75.00 (ISBN 0-87436-920-7)
Over the ages, advances in science and technology have invariably been intertwined with the social issues of their time. Whether they have contributed to the debate about a particular issue, or have been its cause, new scientific discoveries and technologies never escape scrutiny. Every field of endeavor must come to terms with the social implications of these advancements. Likewise, anyone researching a topic of social significance cannot ignore the science or technology, if present, that plays a part in it. In our modern culture, these effects are felt more acutely than ever.

With his Ed.D. in science education from Harvard University, David E. Newton has written many books about social issues. This one-volume encyclopedia covers a broad range of topics. Many of the issues are environmentally based, but that is indicative of our contemporary world. In addition to discussing issues such as nuclear power plants, the Salton Sea, hazardous wastes and clearcutting, Newton also examines human gene therapy, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, and echinacea. Using a three-part approach, Newton provides a brief background on the science or technology; the historical context is added to show how the social, ethical, economic or other issues evolved; the various points of view or positions on each issue are summarized.

The entries are not formatted in a cookie-cutter style. Each entry is two to three pages in length and, while not exhaustive, provides even-handed coverage of the issue. No judgements are made and no conclusions are drawn. The author remains appropriately detached and unbiased. The text is easy to read without being simplistic. Difficult concepts are explained succinctly and jargon is avoided. Two especially useful features are the subject bibliographies (most including web sites) at the end of each section and the selected bibliography at the end of the volume.

Although the alphabetic organization is easy to use, some common terms, such as pollution, are broken down into more specialized topics such as feedlot pollution, methyl bromide and radon. These fine gradations are not reflected in the index under pollution. It is necessary to utilize the see-references for the entry entitled pollution instead.

Social Issues in Science and Technology is a valuable resource for school libraries, public libraries and two-year colleges. While research libraries may not find it offers the depth of coverage they normally expect, it does provide a good overview and valuable background information about a wide variety of topics.


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