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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : Postgrad (School of Social and Political Studies)

Postgraduate Course: Science, Knowledge and Expertise (PGSP11352)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryFocussing on science, this course introduces theoretical approaches, concepts and key empirical studies that form the canon and state-of-the-art in research and critical thinking in Science, Technology and Innovation Studies.

While this course can be taken as a standalone course for students enrolled on other programmes, it is designed to work in tandem with the partner core course, ¿Understanding Technology¿. Where possible, the contents of the two courses develop in parallel week by week, in order to encourage students to explore both the differences and intersections of science and technology. In doing so we avoid reifying distinctions between science and technology. The final week of each course will focus on ¿the future and relevance of science, technology and innovation studies¿, which will include reflections on the relevance and limitations of the field in relation to developments in the wider world. The focus on ¿relevance¿ is further enhanced by our innovative approach to assessment where we ask students to write a ¿non-technical summary¿ of their coursework essays. With the students¿ permission we will make these available on the course website.

This core course introduces students to important social science perspectives for understanding scientific practice, knowledge and expertise and their role in the modern world. Rather than taking science, knowledge and expertise as ¿given¿, this course critically explores these categories to show how they are both constituted by and constitutive of modern society. Starting from the question ¿what is science?¿ the course analyses the ineradicably social character of scientific knowledge and practice. It goes on to investigate a number of key issues regarding science¿s role in society, from everyday life to public policy, including the relationship of science to gender, to public debate, and to globalisation. In doing so, the course introduces students to a range of core theoretical, conceptual and methodological perspectives from the field of science studies, and shows how such perspectives can illuminate empirical issues such as nuclear accidents, climate change and cosmology.
Course description The course will be delivered over 10 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 of the field; followed by a 1 hour seminar organised around classroom discussion, student-led presentations, and case study work. The lectures are somewhat longer than normal to permit adequate coverage and explication of interdisciplinary perspectives that will be strikingly novel to many of the students. The role of the seminars is (i) to ensure that students have a good working understanding of the concepts and perspectives developed in the lectures, and (ii) to give them an opportunity to explore how those concepts and perspectives may be used to analyse a range of empirical case studies regarding the role of science in society.

Indicative Weekly Outline

1 What is science?
2 Politics of knowledge and expertise
3 Science as practice and the places of science
4 Communicating science
5 Science in public
6 Gender and situated knowledges
7 Science in everyday life
8 Science and/in policy
9 Science in a global context
10 The future and relevance of science, technology and innovation studies
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
Academic year 2018/19, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  40
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 20, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 176 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Assessment will be based on: (i) a 3500 essay on a topic to be agreed between the student and the course convener, and (ii) a 1000 ¿non-technical summary¿ of the essay aimed at a non-social science audience. Both assignments will be submitted at the end of Semester One. Students are also required to submit a non-assessed assignment due at the end of week 5, outlining a key concept or perspective from weeks 1 ¿ 4.
Feedback Not entered
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Students completing the course will be expected to have a substantive knowledge and understanding of a range of theoretical approaches, conceptual tools and methodologies for studying the nature of science, knowledge and expertise and their role in the modern world
  2. Students completing the course will be expected to be able to apply and critically evaluate this learning in relation to a variety of empirical cases
  3. Students completing the course will be expected to be aware of how appreciation of the social dimensions and implications of scientific knowledge, practice and expertise may help to inform public and policy debate about science
  4. Students completing the course will be expected to be aware of how appreciation of the social dimensions and implications of scientific knowledge, practice and expertise may help to inform public and policy debate about science
  5. Students completing the course will be expected to have developed their abilities to convey complex ideas through written and oral means ¿ particularly through essay writing and seminar presentations.
Reading List
(2010). "Dropping the Brand of Edinburgh School: An Interview with Barry Barnes." East Asian Science, Technology and Society.
Barnes, B. (1983). ¿Social life as bootstrapped induction,¿ Sociology.
Barnes, B., D. Bloor, et al (1996) Scientific Knowledge: A Sociological Analysis.
Bauer, M. W. and Bucchi, M. (2007) Journalism, Science and Society: Science Communication Between News and Public Relations, London: Routledge.
Bloor, D. (1976). Knowledge and social imagery.
Collins, H. M. and Evans (2002). "The third wave of science studies: Studies of expertise and experience." Social Studies of Science.
Epstein, S. (1995) ¿The Construction of Lay Expertise: AIDS Activism and the Forging of Credibility in the Reform of Clinical Trials.¿ Science, Technology, and Human Values 20.4: 408¿37.
Gibbons, M. et al., (1994). The new production of knowledge: the dynamics of science and research in contemporary societies London, Sage.
Gieryn, T. (1983). ¿Boundary work and the demarcation of science from non-science: Strains and interests in professional ideologies of scientists¿ American Sociological Review.
Haraway, D. (1988) ¿Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective¿, Feminist Studies.
Harris, S. J. (1998) ¿Long-Distance Corporations, Big Science and the Geography of Knowledge¿, Configurations, 6: 269-304.
Jasanoff, S. The Fifth Branch: Science Advisors as Policymakers, Harvard University Press, 1990
Jasanoff, S. (2006) ¿Biotechnology and Empire: The Global Power of Seeds and Science.¿ Osiris 21 (1): 273-92.
Kuhn, T. S. (1962). The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
Latour, B. and S. Woolgar (1979/1986). Laboratory Life: The Construction of Scientific Facts.
Mol, A. (2002). The body multiple. Durham, NC, Duke U.P.
Palladino, Paulo and Michael Worboys. ¿Science and Imperialism¿, Isis, 84: 91-102.
Pinch, T. and W. Bijker (1984). ¿The Social Construction of Facts and Artefacts: Or How the Sociology of Science and the Sociology of Technology Might Benefit Each Other¿ Social Studies of Science.
Pyenson, L. (1993). ¿Cultural Imperialism and Exact Sciences Revisited¿, Isis. 84: 103-8.
Shapin, S. and S. Schaffer (1985). Leviathan and the Air-Pump. Princeton.
Turnbull, D. (2000). Masons, tricksters and cartographers: comparative studies in the sociology of scientific and indigenous knowledge. Amsterdam: Harwood Academic.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserProf Steven Yearley
Tel: (0131 6)51 4747
Course secretaryMiss Kate Ferguson
Tel: (0131 6)51 5122
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