Undergraduate Course: Controversies in Medicine, Technology and the Environment (STIS10009)
|School||School of Social and Political Science
||College||College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
|Credit level (Normal year taken)||SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate)
||Availability||Available to all students
|Summary||The course offers a range of analytical tools to address controversies, broadly understood as any instance of disagreement around scientific, technological, medical or environmental issues. Students will be exposed to different methods that will enable them to better understand how the actors involved in the controversies and their arguments evolve over time. By introducing historical, sociological, philosophical and political science perspectives, we seek to help students overcome simplistic views of controversies as easily solvable debates between truth and falsehood. We also present controversies as involving actors outside the scientific community and reflect on normative agendas for not only studying but also critically intervening in controversies. Each method will be illustrated with concrete examples from the literature on Science and Technology Studies. At the end of each session, students will be able to test the methodologies by collaboratively analysing a real-world controversy, for instance the cloning of Dolly the sheep.
Each week introduces a different set of analytical tools for examining controversies, illustrated by empirical cases. Approaches for studying controversies include actor network theory, historical epistemology, citation analysis, feminist theories of science and technology, discourse analysis, and philosophical perspectives on modelling. Case studies include ecofeminism, the Challenger launch decision and climate modelling, among others.
The course is taught through lectures followed by practical symposia. Students are required to complete one-to-three concise readings per week in advance of the lecture. Lectures provide students with a rich background to the readings (i.e. they do not duplicate the readings) and broaden students┐ repertoire of empirical cases. Discussion of the readings enables a deeper understanding of both the conceptual tools and empirical cases.
During the practical symposia, students will apply the analytical tools they learn each week to analyse a real-world controversy, starting with the creation of the first cloned mammal: Dolly the sheep. They are encouraged to engage with the controversy, including adopting competing perspectives in order to develop their critical skills and ability to convey complex ideas to an informed audience.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
||Other requirements|| None
Information for Visiting Students
|High Demand Course?
Course Delivery Information
|Academic year 2019/20, Available to all students (SV1)
|Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info)
Lecture Hours 10,
Seminar/Tutorial Hours 10,
Revision Session Hours 2,
Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4,
Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours
|Assessment (Further Info)
|Additional Information (Assessment)
||Week-to-week assignment: Reading Portfolio (10%)
Students will contribute to an online discussion board, commenting on the weekly readings of the course. This will be in operation in weeks 2┐10 and students will be given a single mark per substantive contribution. Overall grade of this component of the assessment will be provided at the end of the course.
Assignment 1: Essay (50%)
Students will apply at least one of the methodologies of analysis of the course to a controversy of their choice (up to 3000 words). Due half-way through the course.
Assignment 2: Policy Brief or Blog Post (40%)
Students will choose between a) a blogpost, or b) a policy brief in which they will critically analyse a controversy of their choice and convey this analysis to an informed, non-academic audience (up to 1500 words). Due at the end of the course.
||All students will be invited to submit an abstract prior to the deadline for Assignment 1 and 2. If they do so, they will receive feedback from the course organisers. The aim of the assessments is to allow students to develop their own ideas and topics, demonstrate their ability to analyse and synthesise relevant issues, as well as drawing on evidence and applying relevant literature.
|No Exam Information
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
- Understand the principal theories and concepts used to analyse controversies
- Review the work of Science and Technology Studies scholars on scientific, technological, medical and environmental controversies
- Use at least two of the methodologies/analytical approaches to a controversy of their choice
- Critically evaluate and consolidate knowledge in their chosen controversy
- Convey the above to an informed, non-academic audience
|Graduate Attributes and Skills
|Keywords||Controversies; Medicine; Sociology; Science and Technology Studies; Policy; Public Engagement
|Course organiser||Dr James Lowe
Tel: (0131 6)50 2842
|Course secretary||Mr Ethan Alexander
Tel: (0131 6)50 4001