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

Undergraduate Course: Topics in the History of Modern Science and Medicine (STIS10015)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course invites students to engage with topics of current scholarly importance in the modern history of science and medicine while developing research and analysis skills in these fields. Students will interrogate recent scholarship, consider canonical and emerging methodologies, examine historiographical controversies, and explore disciplinary borderlands as an induction into honours-level study in the history of science and medicine.
Course description How do science and medicine change society and the world? How do society and the world change science and medicine? What does it mean for scientific and medical knowledge to be, as a former Edinburgh historian subtitled his influential essay collection, "Produced by People with Bodies, Situated in Time, Space, Culture, and Society, and Struggling for Credibility and Authority" (Shapin 2010)

This course introduces students to the distinctive scholarly traditions of the history of modern science and medicine and aims to make the field's rich body of methods and debates useful and applicable. This honours level seminar invites students to develop a critical understanding and capacity for analysis in these fields. Every year this course will bring students to the forefront of current scholarship on a particular topic in depth (see below), exploring what it means to pursue open scholarly questions in a vibrant academic discipline.

Students will encounter and practice canonical and emerging methods, frameworks, and debates in the history of science and medicine. They will work collaboratively to engage and contextualise the current literature and will develop skills in the historical analysis of modern science and medicine. The course's content will be relevant to a range of degree subjects and learning goals and will connect to contemporary questions about science and medicine in society. Class discussions and directed learning will equip students to consider open questions and unresolved challenges in the field.

The course is discussion based with an expectation of regular independent reading as preparation for collaborative exploration.

2023-24 Topic: This year's topic is data and information as subjects and tools of historical inquiry. What has the history of the census to do with predictive policing? How have classification schemes such as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) shaped algorithmic approaches to medical care? What is the relationship between libraries, laboratories, and clinics? And what has the nineteenth century avalanche of printed numbers to do with the impact of Big Data on scientific research? Data and information have been a recurring focus of some of the most exciting and transformative scholarship in the history of science and medicine, including a variety of recent works that we will engage alongside major earlier contributions.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements History of Science and History of Western Medicine are recommended as pre-honours preparation but these are not a requirement.
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesVisiting students should have at least 4 humanities or social science courses at grade B or above (or be predicted to obtain this). We will only consider University/College level courses.
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2023/24, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  None
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Seminar/Tutorial 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) Portfolio Assessment (100%) consisting of student work up to a maximum of 5000 words, with a self-assessment that does not count toward the word total. Portfolio elements can include an essay, report, book review, project, or other approach with guidance from the course organiser. The portfolio will demonstrate that the student has met the learning outcomes through course activities combining broad engagement with in-depth examination of specific themes or methods, deriving from the questions and methods developed in course discussions and readings. The self-assessment will evaluate the student's learning in relation to their personal goals and the course learning outcomes, and students will build toward the self-assessment with discussions of goals and learning approaches at the start and middle of the course.
Feedback Formative feedback on draft portfolio components and a mid-course self-evaluation is provided to all students at the mid-course mark, with additional opportunities to discuss portfolio ideas and research offered to students in the second half of the semester.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Explain and evaluate current issues in the historiography of science and medicine.
  2. Identify and critically examine major themes in modern science and medicine.
  3. Discuss and contextualize current literature in the history of science and medicine.
  4. Collaboratively engage peers in historical inquiry using methods and frameworks from the historiography of science and medicine.
Reading List
These will vary annually with the topic.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills The course encourages curiosity for learning (encountering the history of science and medicine as a living field of inquiry), including local and global engagement (reflected in the sources and methods studied), creative and collaborative research (in discussion-based examination of the history of science and medicine), critical and reflective thinking (in engagement with current interpretive debates and methodologies), and skilled communication (practised in group discussion and written assessment). It promotes a veritable cornucopia of graduate attributes.
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Lukas Engelmann
Tel: (0131 6)50 6367
Course secretaryMr Ewen Miller
Tel: (0131 6)50 3925
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