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Course module: BMB507912
Science and Society
Course info
Course codeBMB507912
ECTS Credits3
Category / LevelM (Master)
Course typeCourse
Language of instructionEnglish
Offered byFaculty of Medicine; Graduate School of Life Sciences; Graduate School of Life Sciences, fac. GNK;
Contact personprof. dr. F.G. Huisman
Contactperson for the course
prof. dr. F.G. Huisman
Other courses by this lecturer
Teaching period
BMS P3 A  (04/02/2019 to 12/04/2019)
Teaching period in which the course begins
Time slot-: Not in use
Study mode
Enrolment periodfrom 29/10/2018 18:00 up to and including 25/11/2018 23:59
Enrolling through OSIRISYes
Enrolment open to students taking subsidiary coursesYes
Waiting listYes
The student is expected to be able to:
  1. do a literature search on a topic of his or her choice and;
  2. write an argumentative essay that discusses a controversial issue;
  3. taking up a position in this essay and giving supporting arguments.
Period (from – till): 11 January 2019 -  7 June 2019
Note: The Course schedule is: January 11, February 22, March 15, May 17, June 7 and optional date November 22 (a lecture from the PhD course open for students of this course), 2019. The exact schedule of lectures is available in the detailed desciption through the link below.

Prof. dr. F.G. Huisman, Julius Centre UMC Utrecht;
Dr Annemieke Meijer
Guest lecturers
Course description
A  detailed description of the course can be found here on the Study Guide.

In modern life, science is everywhere. The products of biomedical science and technology may help achieve a healthy society and economic progress. They may even prolong life and make it more agreeable at the same time. But how much do we really know about the production, implementation and evaluation of scientific knowledge? What, exactly, is the basis for our belief in science? What sets it apart from common knowledge? Who should we trust in case two scientists disagree in a hotly debated issue? Is science a vocation or just another profession? Is scientific knowledge something special to be emulated, or ‘just another opinion’? Are scientific facts discovered or socially constructed? How are science and technology embedded in society and how do they change over time?
Whoever wants to become a scientist, should be aware of these and similar questions; (s)he should not just know about the contents of scientific knowledge, but about its context as well. This course sets out to create that awareness. Until recently, it was only available to PhD students. Now, an abridged version is offered to graduate students. In six Friday afternoon sessions, the historical, philosophical, sociological and ethical dimensions of the biomedical sciences will be discussed.

For those of you who are interested in a public debate that is now going on with regard to science and the university, see and

The course will be assessed by means of a writing assignment: you will be asked to submit a 1500 word paper on any topic, related to the theme of the course.
You will write an argumentative essay: one in which you discuss a controversial issue, take up a position and give supporting arguments aimed to persuade your readers to accept your claim(s). It is different from the types of text that you may be used to writing (lab reports, research papers) in that the writer has a clear voice – he or she is present in the text, which allows for (or indeed, requires) a considerable amount of creativity and personal choice. You may use a variety of sources, both scholarly and popular (newspapers, magazine articles).
Your essay will be graded on the basis of the following criteria:
  • information: detailed, accurate, relevant
  • structure: rigorously argued, logical, easy to follow
  • interpretation: evidence of independent thought and critical analysis
  • use of evidence: key points supported with evidence, critically evaluated
  • academic referencing: good use of academic referencing conventions
  • style & use of language
Literature/study material used:
Three articles, taken from the Golem-series by Harry Collins and Trevor Pinch:
- ‘Introduction: the Golem’ and ‘The Germs of Dissent: Louis Pasteur and the Origins of Life’ in: Collins and Pinch, The Golem. What You Should Know about Science (Cambridge UP 1993), 1-3 and 79-90.
- ‘ACTing UP: AIDS Cures and Lay Expertise’ in: Collins and Pinch, The Golem at Large. What You Should Know about Technology (Cambridge UP 1998), 126-150.
- ‘Vaccination and Parents’Rights. Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR), and Pertusis’ and ‘The Themes Revisited’ in: Collins and Pinch, Dr. Golem. How to Think about Medicine (The University of Chicago Press 2005), 180-204 and 205-224.
In addition to these articles, speakers will provide one or two articles on the topic of their lecture. When possible, we will send an email with these attachments before the meetings, so that you can prepare the topics to be discussed. Students should print the documents themselves.

The Course schedule is: January 11, February 22, March 15, May 17, June 7 and optional date November 22 (a lecture from the PhD course open for students of this course), 2019.
Please register via Osiris Student in Period 3 (Please note that this is a small exception in regards to start dates and corresponding Period. Use starting block BMS P3 A) Please also be aware that the course starts on January 11th and therefore the re-registration for this course is only available on January 10th since afterwards the course has already started. More information can be found here and by sending an email before November 25th 2018 to Ms M. van Dijk-Okla:, including the following information:
  • Name
  • Email address
  • Home Address
  • Zip code and City
  • A short motivation
The maximum number of students is 25.
All Master’s students of the Graduate School of Life Sciences are welcome to attend the course. There is, however, a maximum capacity of 25 participants. Should there be more applicants, the final 25 will be selected on the basis of their application letter.
You are expected to be an active participant, i.e. to prepare the topic and to take part in the general discussion.

Mandatory for students in own Master’s programme:
Optional for students in other GSLS Master’s programme:
Prerequisite knowledge:
Bachelor’s degree and admission granted to a GSLS Master’s programme
Entry requirements
Prerequisite knowledge
Bachelors degree and admission granted to Masters program.
Required materials
Instructional formats
Individual assignment




Test weight100
Minimum grade5.5

Kies de Nederlandse taal