Science and Technology in Society (STiS), 2018-2019

How does science really work?
Science is the work of people. In this minor, you will learn about the ways in which scientists actually do this work of knowledge production. How doe social processes in and around academia work? Studying the way science is embedded in larger social settings is essential to understanding the possibilities and limitations of science and research.

Understanding science as a social phenomenon

  • Taking a social-scientific look at science will raise various questions:
  • What do scientist actually do when they conduct research?
  • Why do some write books, and others articles?
  • What does it mean to do statistical analysis and compare universities in rankings?
  • What does it mean to represent scientific knowledge by means of an image?
  • Can we measure scientific production?
  • What can we do to prevent fraud and preserve scientific integrity?

These are only a small part of the many questions that this minor will address by turning the sciences into an object of study. It aims to give a thoroughly interdisciplinary perspective on scientific cultures and their roles in society. It trains students to critically interrogate scientific claims and practices. This also means that students' perspectives on their own discipline will become more articulate.

Content of the minor
The minor contains five consecutive courses that are all taught in English, scheduled in the first semester of the academic year. These courses include a mix of reading, collaborative projects, and training in interdisciplinary skills such as interviews and co-authorship of a paper.

The minor starts with an introduction to how the development of science and technology can be studied from a cultural, sociological and economic perspective. We will zoom in on communication patterns, publication cultures and the politics and economics of journal publishing. You will develop a critical perspective on the role of information technology and the quantitative part of science. By examining the various ways visual tools and media are shaping scientific knowledge and objectivity, you will understand the implications for science and society in an increasingly visual environment. In the last course of the minor you will explore recent socio-technical developments that shape how scientists produce knowledge, collaborate, collect, share, and assess their data.

In this minor we pay explicit attention to some skills, both from social science and science more broadly: from writing and designing your research, to interviewing, quantitative analysis and case studies. Skills and insights acquired in this minor are broadly useful across academia and beyond: when ‘doing’ science, when engaging in science communication and science policy, and when operating in knowledge-intensive industries of any kind.

For whom
You can apply for the minor when you are in your 2nd or 3rd year of your Bachelor programme. The minor is open to students from any background, including natural, medical and engineering sciences, social sciences, and humanities. The courses can also be taken individually. Thus, also exchange students can follow parts of the minor.

The STiS Minor is offered by CWTS
The minor Science and Technology in Society is provided by the Center for Science and Technology Studies (CWTS). This center is part of the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences. At CWTS, researchers study the dynamics of scientific research, and the impact of research assessment on knowledge production. The center also applies this knowledge through products and services to academic institutes to evaluate their academic impact and scientific standing. CWTS staff come from multiple disciplinary backgrounds, representing a broad spectrum of specialized academic fields, ranging from psychology, political science, literature studies and information science to computer science, economics, physics and chemistry.

Information on the 5 individual courses:

  1. Science as Culture: Introduction
  2. Publishing and Communicating Research
  3. Metrics and Knowledge Production
  4. Visualizing Science
  5. New Developments in Knowledge Production

1) Science as Culture: Introduction
This first STiS course will introduce the minor. ‘Science as Culture’ discusses the social practice of science in a general way. How is science produced, objectivity achieved, and scientific knowledge shared with society? Students will gain a basic understanding of the rise of scientific cultures, their histories, and their most important institutions. The course serves as an introduction to social science in general, gives a theoretical and methodological overview of the most important concepts in science and technology studies, and offers practice in writing a social scientific paper.

The course is coordinated by:
dr.ir. G. Valkenburg

2) Publishing and Communicating Research
The second STiS course discusses scientific and scholarly communication patterns, in historical and contemporary perspective. How do scientific communication patterns and cultures differ between disciplines? The course also offers training in the structured presentation of research results in a conference poster.

The course is coordinated by:
dr. Thed van Leeuwen

3) Metrics and Knowledge Production
The third STiS course provides an introduction to scientometrics, the branch of social sciences that studies scientific and technological developments by means of quantitative methods. What are impact factors and rankings and what do they mean? Students will become acquainted with, and develop a critical perspective, on the measurement of scientific performance. In this course, we use, and critically examine, existing research metrics. By means of a case study, we get acquainted with the ins and outs of applying research metrics in an evaluative context in academia.

The course is coordinated by:
dr. Thed van Leeuwen

4) Visualising Science
The fourth STiS course offers an interesting combination of topic and method. The topic you study is visualization: how are scientific images made and how are they used? What choices are made in producing an image? Students will learn how images support and shape the notion of scientific objectivity, explore current visualizations and their role in data analysis, and understand the implications of imaging technologies for the practice of science and scholarship. You study this specific topic through one common social-scientific method: the interview.

The course is coordinated by:
dr. Tjitske Holtrop

5) New Developments in Knowledge Production
During the fifth STiS course new developments in how scientists produce knowledge, collaborate, collect and share their data, and how they are being assessed will be discussed. In particular, how do new information technologies change such practices? Students will learn to put current developments in science in a historical perspective, study the role of information technology in scientific research, and understand the new forms of big data as the basis for scientific discovery. During this course, you will work on a collaborative case study of such developments.

The course is coordinated by:
dr. Thomas Franssen
dr. Wolfgang Kaltenbrunner

Registration

Students can register from 1 May to 31 July via uSis. The course catalogue code is 6000MSCTSN, activity number: 1029.

Please note that we can accommodate a maximum of 20 students. Admission is based on the students’ qualifications + a first come, first served basis.

Students from other universities will need permission to register. Please send an e-mail to Josephine Bergmans via j.e.bergmans@cwts.leidenuniv.nl. This also applies to Exchange and Study Abroad students. For more general information for international students please see the Study Abroad website.

Contact

For more information please contact Josephine Bergmans (minor coordinator) via j.e.bergmans@cwts.leidenuniv.nl or visit the Website Minor Science and Technology in Society (STiS)

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