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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : Science, Technology and Innovation Studies

Undergraduate Course: The Responsible Researcher (SCSU10005)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits10 ECTS Credits5
SummaryFunding bodies are increasingly demanding that academics acknowledge and address the social dimensions of their research. Furthermore, researchers are often expected to field media enquiries, take part in public engagement activities, contribute to policy making, work through regulatory issues related to their research, and participate in interdisciplinary teams. This course will equip students with the skills and confidence to contribute productively to broader discussions of what it means to be a 'responsible researcher'. The course may also prompt some ideas for careers that might be open to graduates.
Course description The course will subsequently discuss the different contexts in which researchers work and find themselves both inside and outside the academy.
The research community: Like any community, researchers operate under a set of (sometimes unwritten) social norms and rules that guide behaviour and govern how they deal with issues such as trust, integrity and misconduct. Moreover, social interactions are important when looking at (interdisciplinary) collaboration and how research is funded in the UK, in particular issues around peer review of research and publications.
Researchers as citizens: What does the public expect of scientists and engineers? We will consider multiple ways in which scientists and publics have interacted, including the public understanding of science, public engagement, dialogue, citizen science and the responsible research and innovation approaches.
Researchers as activists: Many of the current debates around scientific evidence deal with controversial issues. Should researchers be neutral sources of information or must their specialised knowledge mean they should no longer remain neutral when they see apparently irrational actions being taken?
The Researcher as innovator: Science as discussed in the public realm is rarely the same as the science that scientists discuss in the lab. In this lecture we will examine what happens to science when it moves into the public sphere, both in terms of science in the media, in policy and the challenges of scientific innovations in the market place.
Researchers and big data: Whether it is new generation sequencing technologies or the use of sensors and satellites to collect data, the era of 'big data' has arrived. With this come a number of challenges beyond the ability to collect, understand and link data. Issues around ownership and privacy, informed consent and benefit sharing are becoming increasingly important, particularly with moves to share data more widely, and even make data freely and openly available and we will reflect on the implications of this.

The course will be delivered over 5 weeks using a lecture-plus-seminar-discussion format. Each two-hour session will typically consist of a 1 hour lecture intended to signpost major theories, concepts and literature in specific areas followed by a 1 hour seminar organised around classroom discussion and interactive work. A second 2 hour session will consist of group study work which will explore the lecture themes in more depth, with applications to a range of case studies which may include; climate change, biobanking, nuclear power, genetically modified crops and animals, fracking, cloning etc.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Develop a critical understanding of the role of researchers in academia and society.
  2. Engage critically with the work of STS (science and technology studies) on expertise, organisation, governance, and public engagement and evaluate their arguments
  3. Assess competing claims and make informed judgments about current roles of researchers inside and outside of academia
  4. Develop their ability to present - in written and verbal form -- coherent, balanced arguments surrounding the social and political roles of experts.
  5. Use a range of research skills to plan and execute an original report reflecting on how scientists have responded to the challenges of being a responsible scientist.
Reading List
-Ziman, J. (1996) Is science losing its objectivity? Nature 382:751-754.
-De Marchi, B. & Ravetz, J. R. (1999) Risk management and governance: a post-normal science approach. Futures 31:743-757.
-Stirling A. (2012) 'Opening up the politics of knowledge and power in bioscience,' PLoS Biology, 10(1) e1001233.
-Tait J. (2009) 'Upstream engagement and the governance of science: the shadow of the genetically modified crops experience in Europe,' EMBO Reports, 10 (Supplement 1): S18-S22.
-Holliman, R. (2004) 'Media coverage of cloning: a study of media content, production and reception,' Public Understanding of Science,13, 107-130.
-Burgess, J. (2005) Follow the argument where it leads: Some personal reflections on 'policy-relevant' research, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 30 (3): 273-281.
-Macnaghten, P. & Owen, R. (2011) Good governance for geoengineering, Nature, Vol 479: 293.
-Sarewitz, D. & Pielke, R. Jnr. (1999) Prediction in science and policy. Technology in Society 21: 121-133.
-Owen, R., Mcnaghten, P. & Stilgoe, J. (2012) Responsible research and innovation: From science in society to science for society, with society. Science and Public Policy 39: 751-760.
-Bubela, T., Hagen, G. & Einsiedel, E. (2012) Synthetic biology confronts publics and policy makers: challenges for communication, regulation and commercialization. Trends in Biotechnology 30(3): 132-137.
-Stilgoe, J., Watson, M. & Kuo, K. (2013) Public engagement with biotechnologies offers lessons for the governance of geoengineering research and beyond. Plos Biology, e1001707.
-Yearley, S. (2005) Experts in Public: Publics' Relationships to Scientific Authority. Chapter 8 pp 113-128 in Yearley S. (2005) Making Sense of Science. London. Sage.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills By the end of the course students will have strengthened their skills in:
- understanding different roles that researchers play in different contexts;
- positioning themselves as researchers in a complex social and political environment
- presenting information visually and orally (in tutorials and essays).
-prompt thinking about different career paths open to scientists
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Ann Bruce
Tel: (0131 6)50 9106
Course secretaryMr Alexander Dysart
Tel: (0131 6)51 5197
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