MINA320 Interdisciplinarity and Expert Disagreement on Sustainability

Credits (ECTS):5

Course responsible:Rani Lill Anjum

Campus / Online:Taught campus Ås

Teaching language:Norsk

Limits of class size:110

Course frequency:Annually

Nominal workload:125 hours

Teaching and exam period:The course will be taught and evaluated in the autumn parallel.

About this course

Research for a sustainable future requires that we synchronise efforts from multiple fronts. Yet, it is hard to find a topic on sustainability that is free from scientific controversy, political conflicts, or tensions in values. Priorities must often be made between environmental, societal, economic and political concerns. What appears to be the most sustainable solution for someone, somewhere, here and now, might have negative consequences for other groups, areas, places or times. For complex problems such as the climate crisis, loss of biodiversity and the transition to renewable energy, there are no simple solutions or answers. We depend on experts who are able to work together across disciplinary boundaries toward common solutions.

The students will analyse real cases of scientific controversies, expert disagreement and diverging value judgements related to sustainable solutions. The students will be given some conceptual and practical tools from philosophy of science to identify and reducing barriers for interdisciplinary communication and collaboration, starting from an increased awareness of basic implicit assumptions (BIAS) in their own and other disciplinary traditions.

Learning outcome

Knowledge: The students have knowledge about different traditions for knowledge production within philosophy of science. They are familiar with various basic implicit assumptions in science (BIAS), and how these can lead to conflicting conclusions about causality, risk evaluation, and weighing of scientific evidence. Students understand how such BIASes within their own and other disciplines can contribute to expert disagreement about sustainability, and how these can be used constructively for managing scientific conflicts.

Skills: The students can participate in genuine and constructive interdisciplinary dialogue and collaboration. The students are trained in identifying non-empirical sources of scientific controversy about sustainability through working with real and complex cases in interdisciplinary groups. The students are able to identify and reflect over BIASes in their own discipline.

General competence: The students have qualifications necessary for genuine interdisciplinary collaboration and have experience with transforming scientific controversies about sustainable solutions into constructive, transparent and respectful dialogue across disciplinary traditions. They can swap between different BIASes in ethical and scientific argumentation and evaluate sustainable solutions from different perspectives and priorities. The students can recognise and communicate their own BIAS openly and effectively.

  • The teaching is based on weekly lectures and discussion based seminars, and includes work on case analyses in interdisciplinary groups. Also the lectures are discussion based and are aimed at engaging the students in reflection about their own research traditions. There is time allocated for working on reflection questions in smaller groups in class. The students are trained in transparent argumentation, philosophical case analysis, and genuine interdisciplinary communication and collaboration. Emphasis is placed on recognising philosophical basic assumptions in disciplinary perspectives and tensions between research traditions concerning sustainability.

    Some of the material is offered as flipped classrom, and all activities that require collaborations across study programs will be included in the schedule.

  • Supervision and peer mentoring are offered. The teachers will be available for support and discussion throughout the whole course and facilitate group work and case analyses.
  • Total assessment:

    • Reflections notes on positions within philosophy of science (individual written delivery, 4 pages)
    • Participation in ethics debate on sustainability and value judgements (group work, primarily oral presentation)
    • Interdisciplinary case analysis of a scientific controversy over sustainability, presented in a final student conference (group work, digital format, peer mentoring)

    All activities and deliveries happen within the semester. The student conference is arranged at the latest in the final class. All evaluated elements in the course must be passed to pass the course.

  • An external examiner approves the course contents and evaluates the contributions to the student conference as part of an expert team. Internal examiners evaluate the reflection notes and contributions to the ethics debate.
  • The students must participate in at least 80 % of the teaching, and in all activities that are evaluated. Mandatory activities are valid for 2 years.
  • This course is recommended as January block (MINA321) if one wants to avoid timetable collisions with other (elective) courses. MINA is taught in English, but course material and lecture notes are available in Norwegian and all group discussions and one individual written delivery can be done in Norwegian.
    • Lectures: 2 hours per week, including flipped classroom
    • Seminars, group work: 2 hours per week
  • MINA's master's programs have priority to the course. Students from other programs can sign up for the remaining spaces.
  • The course overlaps 5 ECTS credits with MINA321.
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