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(if you need a copy printed out, please let Dave or Allen know!)

ASIC (Arts and Science Integrated Course) 200

Dr. David Ng
Senior Instructor
Michael Smith Laboratories
Director, AMBL
Office: MSL Rm. 221
Office Hours: (by appointment)
Phone (Office): 822 6264
E-mail: db@mail.ubc.ca
Twitter: @ng_dave

Dr. Allen Sens
Professor of Teaching
Department of Political Science
Faculty of Arts
Office: Buchanan C430
Office Hours: Mon (2pm – 3pm), Thurs (2:30pm – 3:30pm)
Phone (Office): 822 6127
E-mail: asens@mail.ubc.ca
Twitter: @sensorship

Course Website: https://myasic200.wordpress.com

Teaching Assistants: Tara Howatt (Earth and Ocean Science, Science), Linda Horianopoulos (Microbiology, Science)

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.

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 teamwork 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.

Prerequisites: Enrolment is restricted to second year students enrolled in the Faculty of Arts and the faculty of Science. 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, audio 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:

  • 15% – First Individual Future World Project report (due Feb. 13)
  • 15% – Second Individual Future World Project report (due Mar 19)
  • 20% – Future World Project Role Playing Game report (due Mar 31)
  • 10% – Simulation Commentary (due Jan 23 + Feb 6)
  • 10% – PCR Lab Reflection (due Mar 12)
  • 30% – Final Examination (UBC scheduling)

– 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, incorporation of ASIC200 content, and the quality of written game document.
– The simulation reflection will evaluate student’s understanding of the obstacles to climate change negotiations.
– The PCR 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. 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 registered with Access and Diversity 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.

The Laboratory Sessions: The Climate Change unit laboratory exercise will be a social science simulation (reenactment of a future international climate change COP-like event). The entire class will participate in a climate change negotiation simulation. This simulation itself will encompass one entire class meeting, but there will be some class time devoted to preparatory group work beforehand.

The genetics laboratory exercise will last one entire session (the class will be split into two 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). During the week that students aren’t in the lab, they will be given class time to work on their other assignments.

The Brave World Now Assignment: This assignment constitutes the majority of the grade for the course, and has approximately half of the class time designated towards it. Full details for this assignment can be found at the course website – https://myasic200.wordpress.com – click on brave world now link.

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 must include (but is not limited to):

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

  • The objective of the scenario, which might be to find something of value, escape from somewhere, solve a mystery, or even save the world.
  • 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 in the Classroom: Because the content of the course is closely tied to current events, the use of twitter in ASIC200 is strongly encouraged. This is both as a way to further foster in-class networking, as well as a means of 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 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


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 course schedule – full details will be provided at the website on each Friday after each class (see https://myasic200.wordpress.com).

Session 1: (Jan. 9) Administration and Overview of Global Issues

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


Reading/Viewing/Listening to be completed before class on Jan 16:

  • ASIC 200 Climate Change Science Videos parts 1 to 4. https://myasic200.wordpress.com/video-lectures/
  • Skim through the “IPCC special report:Global Warming of 1.5 °C: Summary for Policy Makers” (2018) located at https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/sites/2/2019/05/SR15_SPM_version_report_LR.pdf This report was just released last year and covered extensively in the media. Here is an example of such coverage from the New York Times (link).
  • Also skim through the AR5 “Summary for Policymakers” (2013) located at: https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/2018/02/WG1AR5_SPM_FINAL.pdf
  • Dave will actually be summarizing elements of both of these reports in his climate change lecture. (Note that you’re not required to memorize this stuff, and any mention in the final exam will provide the proper the context and details for you to answer questions, but you do need to have sufficient grasp of the concepts to understand these important documents. Pro-tip: these documents will also be very handy for your Solo assignment #1)
  • Wilder, R. and Kammen, D.M. (2016, Oct.19). Exposed: The Climate Fallacy of 2100. Retrieved from: https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/exposed-the-climate-fallacy-of-2100/
    This blog post summarizes Clark, P.U., Shakun, J.D., Marcott, S.A., Mix, A.C., Eby, M., … Plattner, G-K. (2016). Consequences of Twenty-First-Century Policy for Multi-Millennial Climate and Sea-Level Change. Nature Climate Change 6: 360-369. Public policy and discourse. You can try taking a look at this paper, but note that this will be a lot more technical than the level covered in this course.
  • Optional but definitely worth browsing through. The New York Times has a nice “year in Climate Change” section with many interesting pieces that cover both scientific and social science angles. Go to https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/12/13/climate/year-in-review.html

Session 2: (Jan. 16) Climate Change Science II

  • Climate Change and the Physical and Life Sciences (an overview of IPCC report AR5, 2013, and the Global Warming of 1.5C report).
  • Allen will talk about the COP Vancouver assignment, and some homework required before the simulation.

Reading/Viewing/Listening to be completed before class on Jan 23:

Session 3: (Jan. 23) Climate Change Arts II (COP Vancouver pre-assignment due)

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

Reading/Viewing/Listening to be completed before class on Jan 30:

Session 4: (Jan. 30) Climate Change Negotiation Simulation.

  • The Copenhagen COP simulation

Simulation Reflection assignment due on Feb 6th (via email asic200@gmail.com, use subject heading “COP Vancouver”)

Reading/Viewing/Listening to be completed before class on Feb 6th:

Session 5: (Feb 6) PCR primer + class play session. (COP Vancouver reflection due)

  • Short primer on the PCR lab (which will occur during the following two weeks)
  • Introduction to the Future Worlds Role Playing Game Project: Detailed description and sypnosis of this game-base learning assignment. Activity for each student – back story on a cue card, plus preferred city. From this, we will attempt to work out groups. (note first solo assignment due on Feb 13).
  • The Future Worlds Role Playing Game Project: Introduction to universal mechanic (in which we will start playing an RPG game in class!)

Session 6 + 7: (Feb. 13 and 27) PCR lab or Future Worlds Role Playing Game Project First Team Meeting (rotation) (First solo assignment hand in before class on Feb 13 – physical copy. Bring extra copy for use in class)

  • Half the class will perform their PCR lab experiment on the 13th, whilst the other half will work on their World Building assignment. Then vice versa for the 27th.
  • Group based World Building (using solo #1 rubric): 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


Reading/Viewing/Listening to be completed before class on Feb 28th:

Reading/Viewing/Listening to be completed before class on March 5th:


Session 8: (Mar 5) Personal Genomics Science II

  • Personal Genomics and the Physical and Life Sciences (new developments!)
  • Next Gen Sequencing and CRISPR.
  • Note that PCR reflection is due on Mar 12th.

Reading/Viewing/Listening to be completed before class on Mar 12th:

Session 9: (Mar. 12) Personal Genomics Social Sciences and Humanities

  • Personal Genomics and the Social Sciences and Humanities
  • Interactive Q&A Session: Personal Genomics and the future
  • PCR reflection due today.
  • Second solo assignment project due next week.

Session 10: (Mar. 19) Future Worlds Role Playing Game Project Second Team Meeting (Second solo assignment hand in before class – physical copy)

  • A 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.
  • Start game development: scenario script, characters, skills, professions, capacities, abilities, special tools and equipment) etc

Session 11: (Mar. 26) Class time dedicated for working on their RPG assignment

  • Future Worlds Project Team Meeting (meeting devoted to developing a playable game)
  • Continue work on your scenario script, characters, skills, professions, capacities, abilities, special tools and equipment) etc
  • (Note that Final Future Worlds Role Playing Game Project Due on March 31 via email – asic200@gmail.com)

Session 13: (Apr. 2) Game Sessions

  • In which, groups will rotate to play the creations of another group in the class. We’ll bring snacks!
  • (Final Future Worlds Role Playing Game Project Due on March 31 via email – asic200@gmail.com)