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Science and the public: contemporary and historical perspectives



Science has often been held to exemplify the values which operate in the public sphere in an open society. It has been treated as a model for the democratic discourse through which the state is held accountable in public. Yet, science as specialized expertise, fostered in elite communities, is also detached from the lay discourse of the public sphere. This detachment is increasingly challenged as skeptical publics question expert prerogatives. This course aims to offer a careful understanding of the interrelationship between science and the public. Students will learn about different aspects involved in the way scientists, intermediaries and institutions have interacted with the public sphere in the past and continue to do so. Topics that will be addressed are the popularization of science, public (dis)trust in science, scientific expertise and public law, classified science and secrecy, the depiction of science in the media, science museums, and science based government campaigns aimed at the general public. In this course, we will discuss critical texts on these topics after a brief introduction by one of the students. Excursions to museums are also included. A final essay will conclude the course.

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Class discussion of course literature, museum visits.



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Class participation (20%), presentations (20%) and a final essay (60%).




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Lecturer: Prof.dr. F.H. (Frans) Lunteren, van