On Being a Scientist


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On Being a Scientist will provide you with an overview of scientific conduct & ethics, what it means to be a scientist and allows you to become acquainted with academic practice, thus meeting a demand for increased awareness in scientific integrity.

This course is designed to inform you on topics as scientific integrity and social responsibilities of scientists.
Broad questions, which are inseparably linked to these topics are discussed: namely regarding the nature of science and the societal role it fulfills.

Course objectives:
After this course you will:

1) Understand the basic principles of science, and know what is "not done".

2) Have a realistic image of science and scientists.

3) Recognize integrity dilemmas, know how to respond in clear cases, and have the skills to respond prudently in unclear cases.

4) Know and understand the differences and similarities of various disciplines.

5) Have a basic understanding of the role of science in society, realise your own societal responsibilities, and are able to take a position in societal issues where science plays a role.

The course consists of a feature film, supported by short lectures, set to serve as a starting point for the discussions and assignments.


-Welcome! Before you start we invite you to first go through our introduction module and introduce yourself in the forum to meet your fellow learners. If you encounter any difficulties while studying, please let us know in the forum. For technical difficulties or questions regarding the course certificate, you can always contact the Coursera Learner Helpdesk. Good luck & we hope you will enjoy this course!

What is Science?
-This module discusses the nature of science, in particular the attempt by the philosopher Karl Popper to demarcate science from other kinds of knowledge. It also raises the question whether history is a science.

Scientific questions
-This module discusses the importance of posing the right scientific questions, as well as the nature of a good question. It also queries whether al scientific questions or research topics are allowable for an ethical point of view.

Scientific results
-This module discusses the scientific publication culture. It focuses on issues like authorship, choice of journal, the review process and citation scores as markers of scientific quality.

Scientific activities
-This module questions the notion of a single scientific method. It also discusses such issues as publication bias, confirmation bias and questionable research practices.

Academic differences
-This module discusses some differences between different academic disciplines. Apart from studying different subjects, using different methods, disciplines are also characterised by specific cultures (e.g. values, presuppositions and habits).

Academic careers
-This module discusses the different stages of an academic career and some of the major hurdles an aspiring academic may encounter.

Scientific misconduct
-This module discusses the three main types of scientific misconduct or fraud: plagiarism, and the falsification and fabrication of research data.

Science & the industry
-This module discusses the benefits and dangers of collaborations between science and industry.

Science & society
-This module discusses the social responsibilities of scientists, as well as the question whether in certain cases social activism is a possible or even proper stance for scientists.