Kies de Nederlandse taal
Course module: BMW21819
Unravelling Bias in Science
Course info
Course codeBMW21819
Unravelling bias in science

Credits:                7,5                                                           Course code: BMW21819
Coordinator:         Dr. J.J. Geerling                                      Period: 4
Examinator:          Dr. J.J. Geerling                                      Time slot: B+C
E-mail address:                      Level: 2                  06-25710641                                        

Capacity: 24 students
Language: English (is also open to exchange students)

If we take a critical look at science, we are able to detect many biases that are present in research settings. As a consequence, we have less knowledge about e.g. disease progression in women and pharmacokinetics in different ethnic populations. Importantly, biomedical researchers might not be aware of the biomedical mechanisms underlying unconscious biases that influence their (research) choices. As biomedical innovations can directly affect healthcare, it is of crucial important for (future) researchers to be aware of implicit biases in science. This course therefore aims to unravel various types of bias within the biomedical research field.

The course is divided into four parts:
  1. Basics of bias
In this part of the course, students are introduced to the basic concepts of bias. Students will learn which neurobiological mechanisms underlie implicit bias and how researcher’s biases can impact on their research choices. Additionally, students will familiarize themselves with the nomenclature of diversity and will become aware of their own implicit biases. This part of the course also includes various interactive workshops aimed at learned different skills needed in (bio)medical research.
  1. Bias in Pharmacology
During various interactive sessions, students will learn more about diversity in Pharmaceutical Science. They will explore and report on two cases of biased science within the field of hypertension treatment (1) and immune therapy (2). Furthermore, they will write an essay on the importance of diversity in biomedical research.
  1. Bias in Cardiometabolic Disease
During various lectures, students will learn more about the impact of limited diversity in cardiometabolic research with respect to both preclinical (cell/animal) and clinical (human) studies. Students will review published research from a bias in science perspective and will make recommendations of how to improve this in the future. These findings will be presented during a poster session.
  1. Project
During the last weeks of the course, students will perform a project aimed at investigating the underrepresentation of a certain minority group within a specifical field of research. Students will be challenged to generate innovative strategies for raising awareness about biased science and to promote better scientific research. To do so, students will report on their findings by means of an infographic as well as a scientific presentation to be held on the last day of the course.

Throughout the entire course, we will discuss the ethical implications of culture-sensitive topics. Students will learn to present diversity-related data in a sensitive manner and will be trained to design research in which bias is minimized.  Importantly, there will be explicit attention for the student’s personal ‘journey’ throughout this course, as students will continuously reflect on the impact of the topics they discussed and assignments they performed on their personal development towards becoming a (bio)medical scientist.

Knowledge requirements:
Basic knowledge of molecular cell biology, genetics, physiology and immunology (as reflected by the Biomedical Sciences bachelor’s program year 1) as well as the contents of the course Organ Systems as offered in the Biomedical Sciences bachelor’s program, are highly recommended. Students who lack this specific type of training or who are unsure whether their background fits the requirements, are asked to contact the course coordinator to determine their eligibility for the course. When accepted into the course, these students might need to perform additional self-study on the abovementioned topics. 

Learning outcomes:
Knowledge and insight:
At the end of the course the student will be able to:
  • explain why different groups react differently to pharmacotherapy on a molecular and cellular level;
  • explain the impact of limited diversity in experimental design on the outcomes of cardiometabolic studies;
  • clarify why there are metabolic differences between different groups based on their genetic differences;
  • explain the neurobiological basis of implicit bias;
  • use the proper nomenclature related to gender and sex differences.

At the end of the course the student will be able to:
  • critically evaluate experimental designs in literature for the possible presence of bias;
  • communicate effectively with different cultural groups;
  • present culture-, sex- and gender-sensitive topics in a sensitive manner;
  • raise awareness of bias and promote diversity in science.

At the end of the course the student will be able to:
  • reflect on ethical implications of physiological and genetic differences in target groups in scientific research;
  • critically reflect on their own choices in doing research whilst accounting for possible bias.

Teaching forms and contact hours:
Lectures, interactive workshops, working groups, group discussions and independent study. The contact time for the course is 70%. This includes time to work on assignments and the project.

Students will be assessed on the following items:
  • reflection assignment (10%)
  • poster assignment (10%)
  • essay (10%)
  • written exam (30%)
  • product of the final project (40%)

Students must attain a ³ 5.0 on all assessment components and a ³ 5.5 final grade to pass the course. Additionally, active participation during the various course meetings is required to pass this course.

Required materials:
Required literature will be provided at the start of and during the course.

Kies de Nederlandse taal