PH219      Half Unit
Governing Knowledge: Foundational Issues in Science Policy

This information is for the 2014/15 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Peter Dennis


This course is available on the BSc in Philosophy and Economics, BSc in Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method and BSc in Politics and Philosophy. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit and to General Course students.

Course content

Policy makers typically take an interest in three aspects of scientific activity: agenda (What should be researched?); ethics (Which research practices should be permitted?); and dissemination (How should the results of research be made available?). We’ll investigate the extent to which policy makers should be allowed to exert influence in these areas, and what good policies might look like in each case. Topics include (inter alia) democracy and peer review; privatisation; 'useless' and 'forbidden' knowledge; clinical equipoise; science teaching in schools; and the role of public intellectuals.


10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of classes in the MT.

Formative coursework

Students will write a 2,000 word formative essay, due in week 5 of the Michaelmas Term.

Indicative reading

Brown, M. (2009) Science in Democracy. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Dewey, J. Democracy and Education.

Kitcher, P. (2003) Science, Truth, and Democracy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Neal, H., Smith, T., & McCormick, J. (2011) Beyond Sputnik: US Science Policy in the 21st Century. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Rescher, N. (1987) Forbidden Knowledge and Other Essays on the Philosophy of Cognition. Dordrecht: Springer.

Readings, TBC, from Hugh Breakey, Mark Brown, John Dewey, Heather Douglas, Benjamin Djulbegovic, Paul Feyerabend, Michael Fox, Benjamin Freedman, Joanna Kempner, Philip Kitcher, Janet Kourany, Ken Himma, Adam Moore, Robert Nozick, Robert Pennock, Alvin Plantinga, Thomas Pogge, Michael Polanyi, Peter Singer, Alexander Rosenberg, Robert Veatch, Jonathan Wolff, and John Worrall.


Exam (67%, duration: 2 hours).
Essay (33%, 2000 words) in the MT.

Key facts

Department: Philosophy

Total students 2013/14: Unavailable

Average class size 2013/14: Unavailable

Capped 2013/14: No

Lecture capture used 2013/14: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

PDAM skills

  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Commercial awareness
  • Specialist skills