Catalogue of Modules, University of Nottingham

C14704 Process and Practice in Science
(Last Updated:09 May 2017)

Year  11/12

Total Credits: 10

Level: Level 4

Target Students:  4th year Msci students within the School of Biology.

Taught Semesters:

Autumn Assessed by end of Autumn Semester 

Prerequisites: Registered for a degree within the School of Biology. Only available to Year 4 students.

Corequisites:  None.

Summary of Content:  A consideration of science ‘as a process’? There will be brief introductions to the history, philosophy and sociological norms of science. Aspects of the scientific literature, such as the Garvey/Griffith model of scientific communication, peer review, 'metrics’, including citation analysis, journal impact factors, and the 'h' and other indices of measuring scientists' performances will be dealt with. Ethics in science and the distinctions between ‘science’, ‘pseudo-science‘, ‘pathological science‘ and ‘fraudulent science’ will be discussed. The module will end with consideration of recent trends, such as the changing relationship between scientists, government and the public, the RAE/REF systems of university funding and the emergence of 'post-academic' science.

Method and Frequency of Class:

ActivityNumber Of WeeksNumber of sessionsDuration of a session
Lecture 11 weeks1 per week3 hours

Activities may take place every teaching week of the Semester or only in specified weeks. It is usually specified above if an activity only takes place in some weeks of a Semester

Method of Assessment: 

Assessment TypeWeightRequirements
Coursework 1 40 1500 word essay 
Coursework 2 30 1000 word essay 
Coursework 3 10 500 word book review 
Presentation 1 15 Assessed presentation 
Inclass Exam 1 (Written) 30 question Quiz 

Professor F Gilbert
Professor M Doenhoff

Education Aims:  To provide a broad understanding of the nature of science and consider how science was and is perceived by different observers, including historians, philosophers and sociologists, as well as by scientists themselves. To consider the extent to which the 'scientific method' is relevant to every day scientific practice and discuss examples of 'pathological science', 'pseudo-science' and scientific fraud. To outline how scientific progress has been and still is mainly recorded as paper-based scientific literature, but also to note rapidly occurring changes in this area. To note the importance of peer review and discuss the reward systems enjoyed by scientists. To gain some understanding about evolving relationships between scientists and other key sections of society, particularly the government and civil service, the media, pressure groups and the general public.

Learning Outcomes:  Learning Outcomes (1): After completing this module you will appreciate that as practicing scientists require you need to know far more than, for example, how to handle a pipette, operate a spectophotometer or look up a gene sequence. You will know about the origins of science and its development into what is now perhaps the most important human activity. You will understand the scientific literature and how its numerical parameters are being used to measure performance, and how these measurements are being used to influence allocation of funds for scientific research. By participating in a student led seminar you will be better able to recognize the pseudo-sciences and fraudulent and pathological science and appreciate the necessity of an ethical approach to scientific research. Learning outcomes (2): Knowledge and understanding: Of the history of the development of science as a human activity Of the contributions of some key philosophers to an understanding of the nature of science Of the different ways in which scientists are rewarded Of the nature of peer review and the processes involved in publishing scientific observations Of the relationship of scientists and science to government, the media and the public Of ethical issues in the process and practice of science Of the distinctions between science, pseudo-science and fraudulent and pathological science Intellectual and practical skills: The ability to acquire information, critically analyze it and draw relevant conclusions The ability to think independently and muster argument in support of particular points of view The ability to construct and write reports using appropriate styles, conventions and terms Transferrable skills: The ability to access and use information and communication technology The ability to organize information systematically The ability to communicate effectively in written and oral presentations The ability to meet deadlines

Offering School:  Life Sciences

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