Discover rights and duties in science and technology through an exploration of the relations between the laws of society and the laws of nature

Module details

  • Offered to 2nd Years
  • Mondays 16.00-18.00
  • Planned delivery: On campus (South Kensington)
  • 2-term module worth 5 ECTS
  • Available to eligible students as part of I-Explore
  • Extra Credit, or Degree Credit where your department allows
Degree credit module options by departmentHow to enrol

The laws of nature that regulate the cosmos are investigated by science and largely used by technology. But, like any other human enterprise, science and technology are also subjected to a different set of rules: those of law and ethics. The awareness of the possible impact of science and technology on our globalising human societies, has brought to an increasing regulation of their many endeavours. This module aims to provide you with the necessary knowledge and skills to address daily ethical and legal issues in the fields of science and technology.

Both fascinating philosophical questions and very practical problems will be analysed. What is the relation between the laws of nature and the laws of society? Is it possible to derive moral rules from the laws of nature? How many systems of law are there in the world and what are their distinctive features? What is the difference between rules and principles? What are the rights and duties in science and technology? How can we protect our rights effectively? How can we successfully fulfil our legal responsibilities? How can we negotiate an agreement effectively?

The module is divided in three parts: 1. Introduction to Law, Ethics and Skills; 2. Rights and Their Protection; 3. Duties and Responsibilities. The teaching methodology seeks to combine theory and practice in an interactive environment supported by discussion and role-plays. The assessment strategy consists of two practical problem-based exercises and a written essay. 

Information blocks

Learning outcomes

By the end of this module you will be better able to: 

  • Demonstrate an awareness of the functioning of different contemporary legal systems, with a particular focus on the English one
  • Demonstrate an awareness of ethical and legal instruments and frameworks relevant to STEM professions
  • Use fundamental legal terminology appropriately and discuss legal issues, relate with counterparts and negotiate a convenient agreement
  • Critically evaluate in written and spoken assessments meaning, purposes and foundations of social, legal and ethical rules and their relevance in science and technology
  • Find, read and interpret legal sources and materials independently and apply them to real-life problems laid out in assessments.

Indicative core content

  • Laws of Sciences and the Science of Law. An introduction to law for Sciences and Technology
  • The “Moral Landscape”. From the Laws of Nature to Codes of Conducts for Medieval Knights and Contemporary Professionals and Scientists
  • Legal Families of the World. The Colourful Diversity of Legal Traditions around the World
  • The Legacy of Magna Carta. The Rule of Law and Human Rights
  • The Cosmopolitan Lawyer. From the Internationalisation to the Globalisation of the Law
  • The English Legal System in a Nutshell
  • Skills session. Legal Method and Skills
  • Introduction Conflict and Dispute Resolution
  • Skills session. Negotiate This!
  • Science for Law. The Role of Science and Technology in Contemporary Legal Systems
  • Protecting your Rights – Part 1. Contract Law
  • Protecting your Rights – Part 2. Employment Law
  • Protecting your Rights – Part 3. Intellectual Property Law
  • Your responsibilities – Part 1. Business, Professional and Research Ethics
  • Skills session. Sitting in an Ethical Committee
  • Your responsibilities – Part 2. Tort Law
  • Your responsibilities – Part 3. Criminal Law
  • Skills session. Anatomy of a Murder or Vivisecting a Crime

Learning and teaching approach

Four ‘skills sessions’ will complement traditional lectures. These will be active sessions, covering legal sources, a mock team negotiation, an ethical decision-making scenario, and judging a criminal scenario. Students will be encouraged to discuss studies and materials in class.

Feedback is given on summative assessments via Blackboard, ideally within two weeks. Additional formative feedback includes in-class feedback from your lecturer on class exercises, and peer feedback on presentations and group projects.


  • Coursework: Problem-based exercise - 1000-1500 words (30%)
    You will be presented with a real-life scenario in class, then asked to research, analyse and write about this scenario as homework
  • Coursework: Essay - 2000 words (70%)

Key information

  • Requirements: You are expected to attend all classes and undertake approximately 85 hours of independent study in total during the module. Independent study includes reading and preparation for classes, researching and writing coursework assignments and preparing for other assessments.
  • This module is designed as an undergraduate Level 5 module. For an explanation of levels, view the Imperial Horizons Level Descriptors page.‌
"The module was well structured, the slides were helpful and they clearly summarized the main points of the lectures. I found the course really interesting."
"To the module leader: I would like to sincerely thank you for your spectacular teaching this year, I enjoyed it like no other Horizons previously and truly think I could not have chosen my module better. I am very proud of what I have achieved in your class, you played a crucial part."
"The use of real-life examples really helped illustrate concepts, keep us interested and make us think about the possible issues that could arise from that."