Module Identifier ED32920  
Academic Year 2004/2005  
Co-ordinator Dr Malcolm Thomas  
Semester Semester 1  
Other staff Dr Jan Martin  
Assessment TypeAssessment Length/DetailsProportion
Semester Exam2 Hours WRITTEN EXAMINATION  50%
Semester Assessment 2,500 word assignment  25%
Semester Assessment Oral presentation (10-15 minutes)  25%

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:
Critically discuss and compare the promotion of science in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Critically examine the status of science in the public sphere.

Critically discuss the benefits that might accrue from the public understanding of science.

Draw on significant scientific developments in order to frame arguments for and against having a scientifically educated public.

Analyse the impact of science on technology.

Elucidate the ethical challenges of emerging science research.

Describe and critique PUOS policies and initiatives.


This module will cover the following topics:

- Why promote the public understanding of science? Exemplified by current issues

- The historical perspective: popularizing science in the nineteenth century

- Key scientific developments in the twentieth century, for example Flemming and penicillin, Watson and Crick and
   DNA, Hawking and the origin of the universe

- Perception of scientists by the public

- Arts vs Science - separation of the two cultures ( C P Snow)

- Informal science education, a historical perspective

- The impact of science on technology: the industrial revolution; the computer revolution; biotechnology

- Key issues in biotechnology: the status of the science in the public sphere and problems encountered

- The ethical challenges of emerging research in science

- How science is presented to the public today and its role in the political processes both at local and national levels

- Dilemmas and the way ahead

- UK policy and PUOS initiatives.

Brief description

Through a series of lectures and workshops, this module will provide learners with an insight into why the public understanding of science is important. It will address the current policies, activities and obstacles associated with producing a scientifically educated public. Using key scientific developments in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries as examples, there will be an examination of the way science has been presented in the public arena, and how this has changed.

Reading Lists

Preliminary Readings
BODMER, W F (1986) The public understanding of science London: Royal Society
FLYNN, J, SLOVIC, P & KUNREUTHER, H (2001) Risk, media and stigma: understanding public challenges to modern science and technology. London: Earthscan


This module is at CQFW Level 6