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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 Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThe SKE course introduces key concepts and empirical studies related to science, knowledge and expertise. While it is based in the social sciences, SKE is highly interdisciplinary, assumes no prior knowledge, and it is available for all students. Some of the key issues and questions we consider are:
- What makes someone a scientific expert? Should we defer to scientific experts?
- What are the implications of citizen science for scientific authority and expertise?
- Is it possible to separate science from politics?
- What role should scientists and scientific advisory bodies play in policy making?
- Can public opinion and expert advice be reconciled in policy-making?
- Is `following the science` a good guide for policymakers?
- Does `post-truth` politics threaten scientific knowledge and expertise?
- Can interdisciplinary research live up to its promise?

The course introduces students to a number of Science and Technology Studies (STS) perspectives on scientific practice, scientific knowledge and scientific expertise in contemporary society. It considers some key themes regarding science`s role in society, including public participation, experts in policy-making, and interdisciplinary research. Each week we will also consider the practice of science, knowledge and expertise in areas such as environmental, climate and energy, and synthetic biology and the life sciences.
The course is taught by Professor Jane Calvert, who studies the life sciences, and Dr Mark Winskel, who studies energy and climate change.
Course description The course will be delivered over 10 weeks using a mix of lectures, seminars and tutorials. Each two-and-half hours session will typically consist of a lecture, introducing key theories, concepts and case studies in specific areas, followed by a seminar organised around tutorial discussions of key readings and student-led activities.

Indicative Weekly Outline:
1 Introducing the course
2 What is science?
3 The places of science
4 Scientific expertise
5 Science and uncertainty
6 Gender and situated knowledge
7 Public understanding of science
8 Public engagement and participation
9 Interdisciplinary science
10 Science and policy
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 2023/24, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  30
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.
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 have developed an 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 have gained experience in applying and critically evaluating this learning in relation to a variety of empirical cases, including on energy studies and the life sciences
  3. Students completing the course will have developed an appreciation of the social dimensions and implications of scientific knowledge, practice and expertise, and how that may help to inform public and policy debate about science
  4. Students completing the course will have developed their skills in finding, evaluating and analysing information about science and its role in the modern world
  5. Students completing the course will have developed their abilities to convey complex ideas through written and oral means, particularly through essay writing and contribution to seminars
Reading List
- Balmer, A. Calvert, J., Marris, C., Molyneux-Hodgson, S., Frow, E., Kearnes, M., Bulpin, K., Schyfter, P. Mackenzie, A. and Martin, P. (2015) `Taking Roles in Interdisciplinary Collaborations: Reflections on Working in Post-ELSI Spaces in the UK Synthetic Biology Community`, Science & Technology Studies 28(3) 3-25
- Collins, H.M and Evans, R. (2007). Rethinking Expertise. Chicago: Chicago UP
- Collins, H. M, Evans, R. and Weinel, M. (2017). `STS as science or politics?` Social Studies of Science 47(4): 580-586
- Gieryn, T. F., (2019) Truth-spots : how places make people believe. Chicago : The University of Chicago Press; 2019
- Kunseler E-M (2016) `Revealing a paradox in scientific advice to governments: the struggle between modernist and reflexive logics within the PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency` Palgrave Communications 07-06-16, pp 1-9.
- Lave, R. (2015) `The future of environmental expertise`, Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 105, 2, 244-252.
- Pielke, R. Jr (2017) The Honest Broker: Making Sense of Science in Policy and Politics. Cambridge: CUP, especially first two chapters.
- Stirling, A. (2008). `Science, Precaution, and the Politics of Technological Risk.` Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1128(1): 95-110
- Turnhout, E., Halffman, W., Tuinstra, W. (2019) (Eds.), Environmental Expertise: Connecting Science, Policy and Society. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 104-116.
- Wilsdon, J. and Willis, R. (2004). See-through Science. Why public engagement needs to move upstream. London: Demos.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Jane Calvert
Tel: (0131 6)50 2843
Course secretaryMrs Casey Behringer
Tel: (0131 6)50 2456
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