Minor Science and Technology in Society (StiS)

Why do scholars write books? Do patents contribute to societal progress? Is it possible to measure scientific production? How high is the pressure to perform at universities? Why are statistical methods so highly regarded? Is science a-cultural or is it a thoroughly social institution? How can students, lecturers and other members of universities meaningfully contribute to discussions about scientific integrity and fraud?

Description

The minor Science and Technology in Society (STiS) starts from the premise that science does not arise and exist in a vacuum, but in a specific historical, political, social, and (inter-) national context. It aims to give a thorough interdisciplinary perspective on scientific cultures as they really exist (beyond first year text book introductions), their origins, key means of expression, and roles in society.

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Courses

The five courses are all scheduled in the first semester of the academic year. They prepare students to take part in consecutive interdisciplinary courses and projects, and provide a thorough basis for scientific and professional work at the boundaries of disciplines, or in the communication or management of science. 

1. Science as Culture: Introduction

This first out of five StiS courses course will introduce the minor. Science does not arise and exist in a vacuum, but in a specific historical, political, social, and (inter-) national context. The students will learn how the development of science and technology can be studied from a cultural, sociological and economic perspective.

The main topics will include:

  • The rise of the research university from the 12th century onwards
  • What makes the 17th century scientific revolution so special?
  • What are the characteristics of a scientific culture?
  • Which theoretical frameworks can be used to understand the development of science and technology in current societies?
  • How can science be studied empirically rather than only philosophically?

The minor aims to give a thorough interdisciplinary perspective on scientific cultures as they really exist (beyond first year text book introductions), their origins, key means of expression, and roles in society. Students will gain a basic understanding of the rise of scientific cultures, their histories, and their most important institutions.

The course also gives a theoretical and methodological overview of the most important concepts in science and technology studies. This will enable students to understand how science itself can be studied in a rigorous scientific way. The course will also help students to acquire a basic understanding of technological development and innovation processes.

The course is coordinated by prof.dr. Paul Wouters.

 

2. Publishing and Communicating Research

This second out of five StiS courses focuses on scientific and scholarly communication patterns over the last few centuries, from 17th century print- to 21st century web-based publishing, and the different ‘publication cultures’ between scientific fields. We will zoom in on the politics and economics of journal publishing, and will explain why articles became the norm in many fields. The role of evaluation in carrying out and communicating research will also be discussed. Why did counting publications become so popular in assessing scientific work? How did large bibliographic databases play a role in this process? How is scientific activity on the web being tracked? We will not only focus on ‘traditional’ forms of output such as books and journal articles, but will also pay attention to the more recent move to the web (including debates about open access). Theoretically, students will learn to make connections between the rise of the information society in the second half of the 20th century and the coinciding emergence of particular forms of scientific governance.

Students will become familiar with the differences in scientific communication patterns and cultures between disciplines; will develop a critical perspective on the role played by certain ways of communication, in the light of the availability of quantitative measures; and will develop a basic insight into the historical development of scientific communication and publishing, in the light of the developments described in xx.

The course is coordinated by dr. Thed van Leeuwen en dr. Sarah de Rijcke.

 

3. Metrics and Knowledge Production

In the governance of scientific research we observe an increasing tendency to add quantitative measures to the longstanding tradition of qualitative assessment (by reading and commenting on each other’s work). This third out of five StiS courses will give an overview of the rise of statistical thinking over the last two centuries. This development paved the way for the emergence of scientometrics in the second half of the 20th century. Scientometrics is the branch of the social sciences that studies scientific and technological developments by means of quantitative methods. We will explore the growth of this relatively young field, by zooming in on what it has enabled and how it has effected academic work. Students will be introduced to quantitative techniques that chart scientific communication processes and cognitive structures of science and technology, using large-scale databases of scientific and technical publications. We will also discuss the explosion of ‘performance indicators’ in science, which are nowadays used from the level of the individual researcher to that of entire universities (through rankings). Finally, and as a teaser to the fourth minor course on “Visualizing Science”, we will demonstrate some of the possibilities of state of the art mapping techniques in science and technology studies.

Students will be introduced to the science of science approach, in particular in the quantitative realm of science & technology studies; they will become acquainted with, and develop a critical perspective on, the measurement of scientific performance; and will develop a basic insight into the birth of the quantitative part of the science of science, in the light of the developments described in the previous courses.

The course is coordinated by dr. Thed van Leeuwen and Clara Calero-Medina.

 

4. Visualising Science

Our culture is increasingly a visual culture. This holds also for science. Advanced imaging technologies have created novel possibilities to visualize large amounts of data that facilitate scientific analysis. This fourth out of five StiS courses delves into the various ways in which visual tools and media are shaping knowledge and objectivity, and how they have done that in the past. It would seem that with the help of user-friendly tools and a minimum of effort, science can be enhanced with gorgeous images – as beautiful and engaging as they are accurate and precise. Using examples from neuroimaging and bibliometric mapping, this course discusses why scientific images are not merely illustrations to scholarly texts, but are crucial to the way objects and data are disclosed and made analyzable.

Students will understand the historical role of visual material in science and scholarship; grasp how images support and shape the notion of scientific objectivity; explore current visualizations and their role in data analysis; understand the implications of imaging technologies for the practice of science and scholarship.

The course is coordinated by dr. Sarah de Rijcke.

 

5. New Developments in Knowledge Production

This final STiS course explores recent socio-technical developments that shape how scientists produce knowledge, collaborate, collect and share their data, and how they are being assessed. The course builds on the four previous modules but is also accessible for students that only took course 1, Science as Culture. The course will be practice based. Each student will formulate a specific question about new trends in research, which will then be studied using both the web and the library. This will lead to an essay which will be the final assignment in the course.

Students will be able to put current developments in science in a historical perspective; understand the role of information technology in scientific research; grasp the interaction between science and technology; understand the role of scientific instrumentation; and understand the new forms of big data as the basis for scientific discovery.

The course is coordinated by prof.dr. Paul Wouters and dr. Sarah de Rijcke.

 

Registration

Students can register via Usis from 1 May to 15 August 2015. 

Students from other universities will need permission to register. Please send an e-mail to Inge van der Weijden at i.c.m.van.der.weijden@cwts.leidenuniv.nl. This also holds for Exchange and Study Abroad students. For more information please see the Prospective students website.

Contact

For more information about the minor StiS, please contact Inge van der Weijden (minor coordinator) at i.c.m.van.der.weijden@cwts.leidenuniv.nl.

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