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Science in Biological Research and Investigation

Science has a special standing in society. Is it justified? What, if anything, is it that makes science special? In this course you will study various attempts to understand the nature of science, how scientific knowledge is shaped in practice, and how it is used outside the academy.

Painting of Plato and Aristotle discussing the ideal and the material

Knowledge based on "science" is often considered to be more reliable, but what exactly does this mean? The course will take up various aspects of what good science is and how the scientific process is carried out in practice, both in academic research and in investigations outside of the university world.

During the first part of the course, we will discuss some different attempts to describe and understand science, and what makes it stand out compared to other means of gaining knowledge, with the goal that you should be able to formulate an own, informed take on the merits and limitations of the scientific process.

In the second part of the course, you will study how science is done in practice, as well as how it is used by the society at large. Scientific results or claims are often used in politics, media and advertisements. You will make an in-depth investigation of one such claim, in order to evaluate its scientific merits and potential external agendas. The goal is that you shall develop a solid understanding of how science is used and misused, and of how to check claims of scientific backing.

  • Course structure

    The first part of course will to a large extent be based on discussions around the course book. To make the discussions as rewarding as possible, we will expect that you have read the relevant chapters in advance. Students are expected to complete three shorter assignments, which should be presented orally and in writing.
    The second part of the course mainly consists of a larger written essay, where you will investigate the background of a scientific claim. During this part, there will also be scheduled activities where we will discuss the application of scientific knowledge, inside and outside the scientific field. The essay will also be presented orally.

    Modules

    1. Theory and Philosophy of Science, 4 hp

    2. The Scientific Process in Practice, 3.5 hp

    Teaching format

    The course consists of one weekly seminar, most of which are mandatory. In addition, students are expected to participate in online discussions on the weekly topics, and to submit four assignments of varying lengths and scope.

    Learning outcomes

    After the course, students are expected to 1) be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of important theories regarding the scientific process, 2) be able to demonstrate knowledge of the scientific process in practice, including its limitations, and 3) be able to formulate a well-founded own opinion of what constitutes good science.

     

    Assessment

    The examination of the first course component (Theory and Philosophy of Science) is based on written and oral reports of Assignment 1-3. Participation in course book discussions is mandatory. All students are also required to post at least one message to each chapter discussion on the Athena forum.
    The examination of the second course component (The Scientific Process in Practice) is based on written and oral presentations of Assignment 4, in addition to participation in mandatory activities.

    Examiner

    Sören Nylin

    E-mail: soren.nylin@zoologi.su.se

    Niklas Janz

    E-mail: niklas.janz@zoologi.su.se

  • Schedule

    The schedule will be available no later than one month before the start of the course. We do not recommend print-outs as changes can occur. At the start of the course, your department will advise where you can find your schedule during the course.

    Seminars will mainly be held in room D503, Department of Zoology, Svante Arrhenius väg 18 B, floor 5.

  • Contact

    Student office
    Study counsellor (advanced level)