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Visualizing Science



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 fourth out of five StiS courses delves into the various ways in which visual tools and media are shaping knowledge and objectivity, and how they have done so 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, GIS data, and medical images, this course discusses 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

After this course students will be able to:

  • Describe the three most important shifts in the use of scientific images as evidence from the scientific revolution until the present, based on Daston & Galison’s book Objectivity (2007)

  • Distinguish at least 5 different ways in which scientific images are being produced

  • Critically assess the strengths and weaknesses of these 5 ways to produce scientific images

  • Relate these 5 ways to produce images to the different contexts in which they are used

  • Prepare an interview with a professional visualiser

  • Give a presentation in which s/he describes how the visualiser reflects on his or her professional practice

  • Write a short analytic paper (2000 words) on scientific visualisation that uses as its theoretical framework at least two articles or book chapters discussed in class



Assessment method

  • Obligatory attendance of the lectures and work groups;

  • Weekly assignments based on preparatory reading material.

  • An interview with a professional visualizer (f.i. a radiologist, science mapping expert, medical illustrator, 3D simulation specialist)

  • A presentation (25 minutes) with slides (Powerpoint, Prezi) on the basis of the interview with the visualizer.

  • Course paper: To complete the course, students have to hand in a final paper (2000 words) that addresses one or more of the course’s main themes or an issue identified by the student, and draws on the reading material for the course.


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

Reading list

Will be made available via Blackboard .


Students who want to take the full minor can register from 1 May to 31 July in uSis, using course catalogue code 6000MSCTSN or activity number 1402. Students who are only taking the course "Visualizing Science" can register for the course in uSis, using catalog number 6420VS13 or activity code 7471.

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.