Where Science Meets Humanities

What are my responsibilities as a researcher when my findings are used for commercial purposes that are contrary to sustainable development? This is one of the questions students discuss in the course titled Theoretical and Historical Perspectives on Science.

Five years ago, the Faculty of Science made two courses compulsory for all Master’s students: one in theory of science and one in statistics and experimental planning. In the autumn of 2012, these courses were moved to the Faculty’s Bachelor’s programmes.
‘Students need to learn this stuff early in their programmes, before they do their independent project. It is also important that all students get to take these courses and not just those who continue on to the Master’s level,’ says Marie Strandevall, Undergraduate Teaching Coordinator at the Faculty of Science.

CHRISTOPHER KULLENBERG, researcher at the Department of Philosophy, Linguistics and Theory of Science, is in charge of the course in theory of science. He is very enthusiastic about it.
‘The meeting between science and the humanities leads to many exciting discussions. These two areas are usually kept apart, despite their obvious connection. Just think about newspapers, where cultural articles are placed on certain pages and new scientific findings on others, despite the fact that scientific discoveries may have major cultural and social impacts.’

The course begins with introductory philosophy of science, and then continues with history of science, research ethics and the link between science and gender. Students discuss for example ethical dilemmas in research at a total of seven seminars.

ANNA-MARIA FAHL finished the course this spring. At first, she was a bit sceptical about the course, but she soon changed her mind.
‘I wanted to study science and didn’t really understand what theory of science was. But then I ended up spending a lot of time on the coursework and couldn’t stop reading the optional texts in the course literature.’
She is very convinced about the importance of the course and enjoyed taking an unconventionally designed course with lots of room for discussion.

CHRISTOPHER KULLENBERG feels that the seminars are very valuable to the students – even those who are not very active – as indicated by the written take-home exam. Another measure that has proven effective is the introduction of peer-reviewed assignments.
‘The peer-reviews have yielded great results – the quality of the assignments has been much higher than in previous years. The students have liked it too,’ says Kullenberg.

He is very impressed with the students’ results and feels that the science students are performing at least as well as the arts and humanities students. The course is one of his favourites.
‘It’s so rewarding to create a forum where science and the humanities can meet, something that is badly needed but too often overlooked.’

FACTS

Compulsory courses in the Bachelor’s programmes

Theoretical and Historical Perspectives on Science, 7.5 higher education credits (see article)

Statistical Analysis and Experimental Planning, 7.5 higher education credits. The overall aim of the course is to provide students with general knowledge about statistical methods used in the natural sciences.

Peer review
Peer review means that students review each other’s work. In this case, the students work in groups of three, where one student writes a report and the other two provide feedback. This is repeated twice, which means that each student turns in one assignment and reviews two.