Science and Scientists


The student must be able to characterize and distinguish scientific knowledge, to discuss the peer review process, to find and face a scientific paper, to recognize different research methodologies and appreciate the validity of its results; to realize how external factors may affect researchers, to identify the main challenges of science communication by (or with) scientists.

At the end of this unit, the student will also be acquainted with some of the main scientific questions still unanswered and some basic concepts, which ought to make easier future incursions in scientific subjects and future interactions with scientists, in the course of science communication inititatives.

General characterization





Responsible teacher

Ana Maria Beirão Reis de la Fuente Sanchez


Weekly - 4

Total - 280

Teaching language





Beveridge, William I.B. (2004) The Art of Scientific Investigation Blackburn Press;
Forge, John (2008) The Responsible Scientist University of Pittsburgh Press;
Gauch Jr, Hugh G. (2002) Scientific Method in Practice Cambridge University Press;
Goldacre, Ben (2009) Bad Science Edição Portuguesa Ed. Bizâncio: Ciência da Treta 2009 ISBN: 978-972-53-0435;
Hargittai, István (202) The Road to Stockholm: Nobel Prizes, Science, and Scientists, Oxford University Press York;
Okasha, Samir (2002) Philosophy of Science: A Very Short Introduction Oxford University Press;
Perutz, Max (1991) Is science necessary?, Oxford: Oxford University Press;
Wolpert, Lewis (2000) The Unnatural Nature of Science. Harvard University Press.

Teaching method

Presentation of the essential contents of the syllabus complemented with examples to be discussed with the students. Learning will depend on student’s participation in classes and proposed activities, which will require a critical reflection on topics discussed in the classes.
Students will be challenged to reflect on the scientific process contacting with researchers in different areas, deciphering scientific subjects and realizing the inherent difficulties of science communication.
For each proposed activity students will write a short text to be published in a course weblog. The weblog will serve both as a discussion platform for the students and as a public communication platform itself to foster science communication.

Evaluation method

Evaluation method - Evaluation will assess the student commitment in the proposed activities (60%) and will grade a final written report (40%).(100%)

Subject matter

To communicate science one must know what science is. Who is involved, what is involved, how it’s funded, what makes it valid, what are the challenges and responsibilities of scientists? In this unit, students will contact with different aspects of the practice of science. Students will learn how scientific knowledge progresses and which are the constraints to that progress.
With a special focus on natural and exact sciences, this unit will cover the scientific method, the validity of results (introduction to the main statistical concepts), the peer review process, applied and pure research, the scientist’ responsibility, and the scientist role in science communication.
Moreover, this unit will include an overview of some research areas by invited researchers: concepts and difficulties will be discussed starting from a very particular unsolved problem at hand. Topics may include Molecular Biology, Evolutionary Biology, Neurobiology, Chemistry, Physics, Astronomy, and Immunology.


Programs where the course is taught: