HPSC0019 Human Sciences in Society (Teaching)

HPSC0019 Human Sciences and Society, UCL Department of Science and Technology Studies (STS)

Science plays key roles in solving problems of global and local concern. But science never is the only force at work. Increasingly, science and expertise face stiff competition for influence. This module focuses on science when it is put to use in solutions. We concentrate on engagement between scientists and others within communities of interest coming together to solve problems in the human sciences. Think climate change, pandemics, earthquake prediction, or collapse of biodiversity as problems of global concern; or, air quality, water supply, nutrition, or pest control as problems of local concern. In this module, we explore the forces that can constrain or enhance science in these engagements. We investigate ways scientists can improve their effectiveness when engaging. We’ll ask if better engagement can circle around to improve science itself.

There’s more to science than data and hypotheses. There’s more to the life of scientists than time at the lab bench.

Human Sciences in Society

HPSC0019 is available only to Year 2 students in Human Sciences BSc. The timetable spans both Terms 1 and 2, mixing traditional lecture periods with active seminars and lab times. Assessment will focus upon group projects creating tools for engagement. As part of key skills development, this module aims to introduce careers involving science policy and science communication.

Professor Joe Cain teaches this module for UCL Department of Science and Technology Studies (STS).


  • CW 25% individual coursework equivalent to 1,500 words
  • CW 25% group coursework equivalent to 2,000 words
  • ORAL 50% group work culminating in oral presentations of 30 minutes


  • 1 x 1hr session once per week during Terms 1 and 2 (UCL Timetable)
  • time you arrange for group work projects 


  • 2021-22 syllabus for HPSC0019 taught by ProfJoeCain below

Preparation for Human Sciences Students

  • the best advice I can give is to read New Scientist. Read it every week. You can access the full on-line version through UCL Library. Most public libraries provide access to pdf-versions through their digital library (e.g., Camden Public Library Digital Library) and on site (requires a visit, e.g., where are Camden Libraries?). 
    -read the most up-to-date material
    -browse the back catalogue just to see what’s there
    -search for a key word of your choice


Science plays key roles in solutions to problems of global and local concern. But science never is the only force at work. Increasingly, it faces stiff competition for influence. HPSC0019 focuses on science when it is put to use in solutions.

The overall aim of this module is to investigate models for engagement when science is put to work to solve problems in the human sciences. Additional aims include:

    • what models help us understand the role of science in society?
    • which forces constrain science in these engagements?
    • how might scientists improve their effectiveness when engaging others in the task of problem solving?
    • can better engagement circle around to improve science itself?


By the end of the module, students should be able to demonstrate the ability to:

  1. interpret data from the perspective of multiple stakeholders
  2. work in an interdisciplinary, collective, and collaborative fashion
  3. apply evidence and argument to real-world problems
  4. integrate social, cultural, political, industrial and economic contexts of science
  5. communicate ideas clearly in ways appropriate to the context
  6. identify contrasting models of dissemination and engagement

Improving communication and engagement skills are key skill goals of this module for all human sciences students. By its end, students should be able to:

  1. demonstrate the ability to work effectively within groups
  2. describe technical and communicative strengths and weaknesses associated with the types of engagement products created in the module
  3. identify key differences between empathy and sympathy

Module plan

This module has two activities: class time and coursework.

Class time

This module normally requires one hour of contact time per week during Terms 1 and 2, plus additional project work during each week. Some hours will be lecture-based; others will be seminar or group work periods. Lectures will focus on two module elements: (1) core content related to public engagement, integrating science communication and science policy, and (2) skill development in support of coursework.


I’ll post more detail on these once they have been defined. We’re working to ensure they can be adapted to remote working in the event that recurs.

2021-22 syllabus for HPSC0019


HPSC0019 Human Sciences and Society syllabus 2021-22