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2020/21 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

IDEA1100 Science & Society: An Ethical View

10 creditsClass Size: 80

Module manager: Dr Andrew Kirton

Taught: Semester 1 (Sep to Jan) View Timetable

Year running 2020/21

Pre-requisite qualifications


Module replaces


This module is approved as a discovery module

Module summary

Advances in science have profoundly changed how we view ourselves, how we view the world, and how we live in societies. Scientists are called on to tackle the biggest challenges facing us now, such as climate change and the Covid-19 crisis. This is because the scientific method is widely understood as the most reliable route to knowledge. Any negative effects from scientific advancement, such as the predicted disruption from widespread use of AI, are seen as necessary for progress. But are there limits to what scientific thinking can help us solve? Is more and better science always the answer? Why is it good to be scientific? Are there ever reasonable grounds for distrusting science?These kinds of questions are about the value, purpose, and ethics of science. Because they cannot be answered by the scientific method, they may rarely be considered by scientists themselves. This module – co-taught by scientists from the Chemistry school, and ethicists from the IDEA Centre, with expertise in online teaching methods – will allow you to explore the inter-relation between science and ethics. We look at the theory of science, and explore real-world developments and industry practices, to understand what good and bad science looks like.We will consider questions such as: is the scientific method the superior method for finding answers, or does it have limits? How can science be misused, and the work of scientists be morally compromised? Is it possible to judge the contribution of science to society on a moral basis, or is morality just a matter of subjective opinion? Should scientists be allowed to pursue knowledge for the sake of it, or should they work for the interests of society? In taking this module, you will learn about the science underpinning real-world problems, alongside philosophical and ethical theories, while developing skills in debate, analysis, and critical argument, to help you develop your own answers to those questions.


The objectives of this module are to enable students to:

1. Recognise the role that scientific developments play in all aspects of contemporary society
2. Understand how the scientific method has evolved and continues to do so
3. Examine how ethics is embedded within science and how scientists interpret such ethical positions
4. To emphasise the concepts of value in connection to science in society
5. Provide a platform for students to explore and debate such ethical positions within science

Learning outcomes
On completion of this module, students would have developed:

1. An understanding of the ethical and evaluative aspects of science and the scientific method2. An awareness of issues and which connect the pursuance of science to its place in contemporary society
3. An opportunity to engage in argued debate as a valuable learning tool as part of the module assessment
4. An opportunity to develop analytical skills, critical thinking and presentation skills as part of the module assessment


The module will cover these (or similar) topics:

1. Is science trustworthy I: Is science better than what came before?
2. Is science trustworthy II: Can science give us truth?
3. “Bad Science I”: The pharmaceutical-medical industry
4. “Bad Science II”: Climate change
5. Morality and science I: Is science objective, and morality subjective?
6. Morality and science II. What questions should scientists investigate?
7. Science in Society I. Protecting against disease
8. Science in Society II. Protecting Mental health
9. Science in Society III. Our Technological Future

Teaching methods

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
On-line Learning51.005.00
Group learning51.005.00
Private study hours80.00
Total Contact hours20.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)100.00

Private study

The seminars and group learning elements will have pre-reading as preparation time.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

The course will offer plenty of opportunities for formative feedback. Lectures will be discursive, allowing students to ask questions and the lecturers and tutors some opportunity for formative feedback. The seminars will allow tutors to assess the students’ understanding of the key notions and materials. Each tutor will be available for feedback in office hours. And feedback on the group presentations – though assessed – will provide opportunities for students to improve prior to writing the essay.

Methods of assessment

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
EssayA short essay (<1500 words) outlining support for or opposition to a specific ethical position60.00
Group DiscussionClass is divided into teams with assigned debate positions. Each pair of teams prepare and present their position to the assembled class who then vote on which position, in their opinion, prevails.40.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 10/08/2020 08:40:39


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