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2024/25 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

IDEA1100 Science & Society: An Ethical View

10 creditsClass Size: 80

Module manager: Andrew Kirton

Taught: Semester 2 (Jan to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2024/25

This module is approved as a discovery module

Module summary

Recent years have seen increased scepticism toward science, with wariness about the incentives of the pharmaceutical industry and medical models of health, and scepticism of climate science becoming politically mainstream. This module, taught by scientists and ethicists, critically explores the fundamental questions those issues raise: what gives scientific knowledge special authority? Is science objective even if scientists are influenced by values? Should scientists ever be activists? Should society ever halt scientific research?


The aims of the module are:
1. To introduce students to the philosophical and historical roots of the scientific method.
2. The develop critical awareness of the arguments for and against whether science ought to be free of influence from ethical or other social values.
3. To develop critical awareness of the role that scientific discovery and research plays in society, including the associated benefits and harms to citizens, society and the planet.
4. To develop the ability to critically evaluate ethical arguments for and against how scientific research should be conducted, and how scientific industries should operate.
The objectives will be fulfilled through:
1) In interactive lectures where students are introduced to core concepts, texts, and arguments, and encouraged to critically reflect on and develop their own arguments about them.
2) In seminars where students engage with one another in learning activities, including debating and evaluating their own positions, and producing work for discussion.
3) Seminar preparation where students read texts critically and analyse the arguments.

Learning outcomes
On successful completion of the module students will have demonstrated the following learning outcomes relevant to the subject:
1. Identify and explain key philosophical and ethical issues surrounding science and its role in society.
2. Critically evaluate different conceptual and ethical positions one could take on those issues.
3. Develop their own positions on those issues through thoughtful, reasoned arguments.

Skills Learning Outcomes
On successful completion of the module students will have demonstrated the following skills learning outcomes:
1. Communicate ideas and understanding clearly and concisely, using appropriate academic language (Academic and Work Ready skill)
2. Critically analyse source material and demonstrate independence of thought (Academic and Work Ready skill)
3. Search for appropriate material to support knowledge and analysis of topics (Academic, Work Ready, Digital and Sustainability skill)
4. Conform to standards of academic integrity including when and how to appropriately acknowledge someone else’s work (Academic and Work Ready skill)
5. Identify ethical questions and use ethical frameworks (Sustainability skill)


Topics may include:
- Is the scientific method authoritative, or just another way of telling stories about the world?
- The medical model of illness and mental health
- Should scientists be activists?
- Ethics of the pharmaceutical industry
- Should society ever halt scientific research?
- Ethics of future / upcoming technologies; including human enhancement

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours84.00
Total Contact hours16.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)100.00

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Seminars will include learning activities that involve students producing work that is shared for peer review, with emphasis on evaluation according to the marking criteria for final assessed essay. These activities may take the form of, for example: writing an essay outline on that week’s topic; participating in written online debates through Google Docs; writing an initial argument and then objection and resolution. Students then produce reflections on their own work through prompts (e.g. how does your work differ to the other students in your group? What are three things your work does well, compared to theirs, and vice versa?) that are designed to help students internalise the assessment standards as the module progresses. The design is informed by the pedagogical approach to formative feedback outlined in Nicol and McCallum, (2022) ‘Making internal feedback explicit: exploiting the multiple comparisons that occur during peer review’ Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education 47(3), 424-443.
Students will also be prompted to reflect on guidance on how to write a critical, argument-focused, ethics essay. This will include a short video provided on Minerva.
After reflecting on these materials students will be prompted to reflect on what things they think they have previously done well in relation to the guidance, and what things they think they will need to focus on for the final assessment.
In addition to the opportunities for peer assessment throughout the module’s seminars, students will also be invited to provide a 500-word exposition of an argument that they have encountered in the module course materials; or a 500-word essay plan; or a 500-word objection and reply.
This allows students to practice one of the skills that they themselves have identified as key to writing a good ethics essay in the reflective exercise above.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
EssayIndividual essay (1500 words)100.00
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: 20/06/2024 14:04:33


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