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Visualizing Science


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 on enrollment.


Our culture is increasingly a visual culture. This holds also for science. Advanced imaging technologies have created novel possibilities to visualize large amounts of data that facilitate scientific analysis. This course delves into the various ways in which visual tools and media are shaping knowledge and objectivity, and how they have done that in the past. It would seem that with the help of user-friendly tools and a minimum of effort, science can be enhanced with gorgeous images – as beautiful and engaging as they are accurate and precise. Using examples from neuroimaging and bibliometric mapping, we will discuss why scientific images are not merely illustrations to scholarly texts, but are crucial to the way objects and data are disclosed and made analyzable.

Course objectives

  • To understand the historical role of visual material in science and scholarship;

  • To grasp how images support and shape the notion of scientific objectivity;

  • To explore current visualizations and their role in data analysis;

  • To understand the implications of imaging technologies for the practice of science and scholarship.


  • 10 working group meetings 2 hours

Assessment method

  • Obligatory attendance of the lectures and work groups;

  • Written open question examination;

  • A short presentation (together with 2 other students).


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

Reading list

De Rijcke, S. & Beaulieu, A. (forthcoming). Networked Neuroscience. Brain scans and visual knowing at the intersection of atlases and databases. In: New Representations in Scientific Practice, Coopmans, C., Lynch, M., Vertesi, J. & Woolgar, S. (eds), MIT Press.
Van Eck, N.J., & Waltman, L. (2010). Software survey: VOSviewer, a computer program for bibliometric mapping. Sciencemetrics, 84(2), 523-538.

Additional readings will be made available via Blackboard or through the Leiden University Library.


Registration for the courses in usis will open in January.
Students from other universities will need permission to register. Please send an e-mail to Sarah de Rijcke at
This also holds for Exchange and Study Abroad students. For more information please see the “Prospective students website”: .

Contact information

Dr. Sarah de Rijcke, coordinator minor StiS,, 071-5276853