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New developments in knowledge production


Admission requirements

Course 1, Science as culture (6420SCI13).


Big Data is the new buzzword. But what goes on behind the scenes of the creation of new data centres? To what extent are new developments in science driven by data floods? Can amateurs and citizens really participate in creative research with the help of the availability of new data sources in instruments and on the web? What are the prospects of citizen science?

This fifth module will look at the future of knowledge creation across all fields by analyzing current developments that may change the practice of research and scholarship in fundamental ways. The student will be confronted with different aspects of the process of informatization of what we will call “knowledge practices”. It builds on the previous modules by looking at the role of data and databases as well as new forms of web based communication. We will not only study academic science but also forms of knowledge creation outside of the traditional university settings.

Topics that will be discussed in the course:

  • The role of the web and internet in science and scholarship (beyond their role in scientific communication)

  • International large-scale collaboration

  • The role of databases as knowledge infrastructural elements

  • Cyborgs and robots in science and scholarship

  • The emergence of digital humanities and digital methods in the social sciences

Course objectives

After this course students will be able to:

  • Mention an example of e-science in respectively the sciences, social sciences, technical science and humanities, and discuss to what extent they represent innovations in the way knowledge is created.

  • Classify at least 3 different forms of scientific collaboration and can summarize how they can be recognized empirically, including the data sources needed to study scientific collaboration.

  • Explain why the concept of “infrastructure” is necessary to explain the development of scientific knowledge.

  • Formulate a short research proposal (4000 words) for a citizen science project.



The tutorial group meetings will each week discuss in-depth selected readings (posted on Blackboard), which all students must have read in advance. The lecturer will give a short introduction to the main topics of the readings of that week and give contextual information. Each paper or chapter is discussed by one student who gives his/her impressions and points out what according to him/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.

The tutorial group meetings are meant to help the students to translate the theoretical knowledge acquired in the classes to their own empirical research. 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 when needed.

Assessment method

  • Weekly assignments based on preparatory reading material

  • A research proposal for a citizen science project of 4000 words.

  • A final presentation with slides (Powerpoint, Prezi) about the proposal for a citizen science project.


Next to Blackboard, the website Research Dreams will be used as a writing and publishing tool.

Reading list

Paul Wouters et al., Virtual Knowledge. Experimenting in the humanities and social sciences. (2013) MIT Press 250 pp.

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


Students can register from 1 May to 15 August via uSis. The course catalogue code is 6000MSCTSN, activity number: 1453.

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 Josephine Bergmans via This also applies to Exchange and Study Abroad students. For more general information for international students please see the Study Abroad website.

Contact information

For more information you can contact the minor coordinator Josephine Bergmans.