University College for Interdisciplinary Learning

Science Technology and Democracy

Course Code

UCIL24141 (10 Credits)

UCIL24151 (20 Credits)

Course Details

  • Level: 2
  • Credit Load: 10/20
  • School/s: Alliance Manchester Business School


The Large Hadron Collider at CERN cost £4 billion to build, of which the UK contributed £500 million. Why do nations choose to spend such large sums on fundamental science? How do they decide what to fund, and what say do citizens get in these decisions?

Who should make decisions about the classification of illegal drugs or the safety of a new technology politicians or scientific experts?

What does the emergence of China as a scientific and technological powerhouse mean for a relatively small country like the UK?

Why do some scientific findings prove so difficult to replicate? Is fraud in science on the increase?

Why are the findings of some studies suppressed by powerful companies? Does business have too much influence on science?

Science and technology (S&T) are central to the public policies and self-image of modern advanced economies and rapidly industrializing/less developed countries alike. This course unit explores how and why this has become the case, and what the implications are for our societies, our polities and our economies as well as for the still growing and increasingly globalised scientific enterprise itself.

We will look at the changing role of the state in relation to science and technology and current trends in the governance of S&T, such as demands for the stronger steering of research agendas towards political, economic or social priorities; for more accountability for the efficient and effective use of public money spent on science; and for more commercialization of research. We will look at the role of scientific expertise and experts in public policy and regulation; efforts to improve public engagement with and participation in science and technology decision-making; efforts to encourage responsible research and innovation; and current issues in science such as reproducibility, fraud and 'open science'.

An understanding of the issues explored in this course unit is critical to citizenship in a modern technological democracy. It is also widely applicable in analysis, policy and management roles in science-based industry, research and scientific organisations, government, public agencies and international organisations, NGOs and consultancies, as well as in science communication and public engagement roles.


Summary of Learning Outcomes

  • Show an understanding of how the State became involved in funding science, and the changing rationales used to justify that funding, and associated debates
  • Show an awareness of the scale and complexity of the 21st Century scientific enterprise and its globally distributed nature
  • Show an appreciation of the specificities of science policy and the key challenges that stem from these features
  • Show an understanding of the wider role played by science in public policy and regulation, and associated political, economic and ethical debates
  • Understand the role of interests and ideologies in shaping the positions taken by actors in relation to public policy debates about S&T
  • Identify and interrogate the positions taken by actors in debates and discourses around science policy, understanding the interests and motivations that come to play
  • Show some practical appreciation of how to engage with policy processes
  • Communicate clearly about science and society issues with both a scholarly and a policy/public audience



10 Credits:

  1. Coursework essay, 1,500 words (60%)
  2. Policy brief or blog post on a current science policy issue, 600-800 words (40%)

20 Credits:

  1. Coursework essay (30%)
  2. Policy brief or blog post on a current science policy issue, 600-800 words (20%)
  3. A supervised individual research project on a science-society governance issue, 4,000-5,000 words (50%)


This course is only open to undergraduate students and is suitable for students from any disciplinary background, whether in science and engineering or management, social sciences and humanities.

University College course units are available to take on programmes which have 'free choice' options available to them, (i.e. programmes which allow you, as part of the degree programme, to take a number of credits from subject areas outside of your home school). As these courses are credit bearing, you must enrol by following the standard procedure for your school when adding units outside of your home school.

If you are not sure whether you will be able to enrol in University College courses, please contact your School Undergraduate Office to find out whether these options are available for your degree programme.


Dr Kieron Flanagan & guest lecturers

Teaching and Learning Methods


1 - 12Tues10:00 - 12:00

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