Night Sky

Understanding science within its wider social context

Module details

  • Offered to 1st years
  • Tuesdays 16.00-18.00
  • 8 weeks (Autumn term only)
  • Planned delivery: On-campus (South Kensington)
  • Non-credit only
How to enrol

This module is about understanding the impacts that science and technology have on society, a subject which is becoming more and more relevant to STEMM students as well as to society as a whole. We will focus on the risks, benefits and opportunities that science and technology may pose to democracy, human values, environmental sustainability and security using a variety of engaging case studies.

Science and Technology Studies (STS) is an interdisciplinary field, and during this short module you will learn about the intersection of science and technology with many fields, including philosophy, sociology, ethics, anthropology and law. This module is taught interactively and will be assessed through an essay where you can explore your area of interest within STS in more depth.

Information blocks

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module, you will be better able to:
  • Apply a variety of conceptual frameworks to demonstrate understanding of the interactions between society, and science and technology.
  • Integrate and apply key concepts from a variety of fields to historical or contemporary case studies using self-directed primary and secondary research.
  • Apply key concepts, research and feedback.

Indicative core content

  • Ways of understanding science and technology.
  • Interactions between science and society.
  • Drivers of scientific and technological innovation
  • The relationship between technology, social media, trust and democracy.
  • Ethics of CRISPR Cas9 and eugenics.
  • Evidence based policy and the role of the expert in governance.

Learning and teaching approach

Most classes include discussion time, organised group discussions around both pre-set and in-class reading. Sometimes you will be in self-selected groups, and sometimes you will be randomised into groups in order to attain better group cohesion. In some classes we undertake paired/group activities such as source identification, research in secondary literature, and presentation of findings to peers and the lecturer.
The VLE will be used for making readings, slides and handouts available to you: everything is available from the start of the module. Box of Broadcasts and Canopy are used to make documentaries available to you, and YouTube is also used in the class for you to watch and analyse historical documentaries and re-enactments. We will also deploy digital technology into learning and teaching, such as using Mentimeter for polling your responses to scenarios presented.
You will submit assignments through the module VLE, though which you will receive written feedback commenting your assessments. You will receive feedback within two weeks of submission.


  • Coursework: Essay (1,500-2,000 words) (100%)

Key information

  • ECTS value: 0
  • Requirements: You must be prepared to attend all classes and to spend about an hour a week preparing for each session
  • This module is designed as an undergraduate Level 4 course. For an explanation of levels, view the Imperial Horizons Level Descriptors page.‌
"I was pleasantly surprised by this course, the deep thinking involved meant I was excited to do the pre-lecture reading each week. The course content was interesting and the lectures were delivered enthusiastically."
"I particularly enjoyed the variety of topics within science that the course approaches."
"I would recommend it to friends in my course because it is interesting to get a break from the 'detail science' of chemistry with the broader nature of science... Reading was interesting, and the lectures varied, with discussion in several formats."
"Gives an overview of how research should link knowledge and society and it pushes those taking it to develop a critical approach within science. Would recommend it."