Postgraduate Course: Social Dimensions of Systems and Synthetic Biology (PGSP11476)
|School||School of Social and Political Science
||College||College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
|Credit level (Normal year taken)||SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate)
||Availability||Available to all students
|Summary||Funding bodies are increasingly demanding that scientists consider the potential impact of their research, field media enquiries, take part in public engagement activities, work through patenting and regulatory issues connected to their research, and participate in interdisciplinary teams. This course will provide time and space to examine some of the philosophical, social and political issues surrounding the new and growing disciplines of systems and synthetic biology.
Scientists and engineers on the course should gain a broad understanding of key theories and methods in science & technology studies (STS) as applied to their own research interests, and should develop the skills and confidence to contribute productively to broader discussions of their research. Social scientists on the course will have the opportunity to explore two new areas of scientific enquiry in depth, and to apply theory and methods from their disciplinary training to the analysis of these fields.
Topics covered in the course include:
- systems and synthetic biology as new interdisciplinary fields
- what it means to engineer life and build with biology
- research funding, governance and the politics of science
- synthetic biology and sustainability
- building supportive research cultures
- Do-It-Yourself biology, expertise and democracy
- how art, design and fiction can help us think about the future of the life sciences
Each week there will be lectures and groupwork, with a strong emphasis on open discussion. Each week you will write a short response to the set readings, which will be posted online before the class. Sessions will often involve in-class exercises around particular case-studies or examples.
The course is open to students with an interest in the social dimensions of developments in the life sciences, from the natural sciences and the social sciences
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
||Other requirements|| None
Information for Visiting Students
|High Demand Course?
Course Delivery Information
|Academic year 2022/23, Available to all students (SV1)
|Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info)
Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4,
Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours
|Assessment (Further Info)
|Additional Information (Assessment)
||This course will be assessed through assignments designed to test and develop students` interactive skills, critical analysis, academic writing, and familiarity with social science approaches.
1. Reading Responses (20%)
- Assessed weekly (max 200 words)
2. Group work presentation (20%)
- A 10 minute presentation in week 10 on your group`s case study.
3. Essay (60%)
- One essay (maximum length 3000 words) discussing a topic covered during the course
|No Exam Information
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
- Have substantive knowledge and critical understanding of the broad social and political context surrounding developments in the life sciences, and of the diversity of issues and approaches
- Be able to identify and characterise the key methods, approaches and theories from science and technology studies (STS) as they apply to the study of systems and synthetic biology
- Be able to critically evaluate the main social dimensions of systems and synthetic biology, and the contributions to academic and public debates on these issues
- Have developed their skills in finding and using the resources available (theories, methods, techniques, sources of information, etc.) for pursuing these issues in their future work
- Be able to apply these understandings and skills, and deploy these approaches, concepts and techniques in written assignments, discussions and presentations
|Graduate Attributes and Skills
|Course organiser||Dr Jane Calvert
Tel: (0131 6)50 2843
|Course secretary||Mr Adam Petras