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Science as Culture: Introduction


Additional Information

Admission requirements

A propedeutic exam of any Bachelor’s program.
Elective students: please contact the study advisor of your Bachelor’s program for information and enrollment.


This course will introduce the minor STiS. The students will learn what it means to see science as a specific culture. The current discussion about the role of the university (including the student and staff protests in various countries) will be used as case study to highlight contemporary practices and problems. This will be interlaced with more theoretical explorations of the nature of science as it is practiced (rather than as it is preached).

Course objectives

  1. The student can summarize “the Legend” about science.
    1. She can identify instances of this Legend in popular science stories and newspaper articles about universities.
    2. The student can contrast common sense assumptions about research with the attributes of scientific culture as treated in John Ziman’s book Real Science.
    3. The student analyzes a standard textbook introduction to science (given by the teacher) on the implicit assumptions about science.
    4. The student can explain the current debate about the role of universities as background of the current protests.
    5. The student can identify the issues at stake in this debate and position it in the historical development of universities.



  • September 5th from 11.00 until 13. 00 hours SB11

  • September 12th until September 26th from 15.00 until 17.00 hours 5A37

  • October 10th from 15.00 until 17.00 hours 5A29

  • October 17th until 24th from 15.00 until 17.00 hours 5A37


  • September 21th – October 19th from 9.00 until -11.00 hours 1A22

The Monday classes will each week discuss in-depth selected literature, including chapters from Ziman’s book that is the basis of this module. All students must have read the literature in advance. The lecturer will give a short introduction to the main topics of the literature of that week and give contextual information. Each chapter or article is discussed by one student who gives her impressions and points out what according to her are the main arguments. The ensuing discussion is mainly aimed at deepening the student’s understanding of the underlying theoretical concepts and their relevance to understand the nature of science and the role of universities.

The Wednesday working group meetings are meant to help the students to translate the theoretical knowledge acquired in the Monday classes to empirical research of his/her own. Each week a particular assignment is given to support the learning curve in empirical research. In addition, we discuss the progress in all student projects on a weekly basis.

Assessment method

  • An essay about a specified empirical or theoretical question on the nature of real science or the role of universities (2000 words)

  • A presentation about the Legend of Science as exemplified by a particular text about science

  • Participation in the classes and fulfillment of weekly assignments


We will use blackboard as communication platform for lecture notes, assignments and announcements.

Reading list

Stefan Collini, What Are Universities For? Penguin (23 February 2012)

Additional compulsory readings will be made available via blackboard or through the Leiden University Library. Supplementary reading will be encouraged throughout the course.


Registration is open from May 1st until August 15 2016. The course catalogue code is 6000MSCTSN, activity number 1524
Please note that we can accommodate a maximum of 40 students. Admission is based on the students’ qualifications + a first come, first served basis.
Students from other universities will need permission to register.
Please send an e-mail to Inge van der Weijden at
This also holds for Exchange and Study Abroad students. For more information please see the “Prospective students website”:

Contact information

Dr. Inge van der Weijden, coordinator minor StiS,, 071-5276073