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  • General Orientation and Aims of Study

    © Universität Bielefeld

General Orientation

© Universität Bielefeld

Science as an organised and systematic form of knowledge production is one of the main pillars of our culture. From the Scientific Revolution up to the current formation of the knowledge society, it is moreover continuously promoting social modernisation. Since the beginning, this process is being accompanied by applause and disapproval. On the one hand, science is cherished as shaping the worldview, as a model for rationality and progress and for increasing prosperity. On the other hand, it is criticised as a tool of suppression, as a cause of social impairment and economic inequality as well as subjugation and exploitation of nature.

Both perspectives agree that science is one of the most important influences on the present world and that it affects human life in various ways. The Master's programme "Interdisciplinary Studies of Science (ISoS)" at Bielefeld University offers studies of science that aim to bring out essential characteristics of science. The objective is to analyse how science produces knowledge, what its institutional framework and economic structure are, and how it is part of a changing social context in past and present.

Interdisciplinary Approach

This analysis requires linking various disciplinary perspectives. Sociology of Science analyses the interrelations between science and its societal context. Philosophy of science focuses on the epistemic aspects of justifying knowledge claims and cognitive rationality and puts special emphasis on the ethical aspect of responsibility. History of science traces the historical development of science in its continuities and ruptures and points out their significance for economy and society. These disciplinary approaches complement each other and together contribute to a better understanding of science.

Aims of Study

The program has an interdisciplinary design, is internationally oriented and serves the following objectives: Students will

  • acquire knowledge about processes of scientific-technological innovation in the triangle of conflicting priorities between scientific issues, economic preconditions, and social compatibility;
  • develop an understanding of the social and economic conditions, acceptance, regulation, dissemination, and control which science and technology are subject to in the course of history;
  • become familiar with the epistemic criteria of justification, structures of theories, and explanatory ideals which science and technology pursue in their historical development;
  • become acquainted with concepts and methods of Social Studies of Science and recognize the links between science, politics and civil society;
  • elaborate on the ability to analyze changes in the landscape of science and the consequences of these changes for the relevant areas of society;
  • practice skills in interdisciplinary interaction against a broad background of various disciplines and research cultures.

The programme introduces students to scientific work. In addition to the ability to conduct research by applying pertinent methods, the courses also enable students to identify potentials for innovation, sets of problems and strategies of problem-solving at the interface of science and society. Independent judgment, deliberate use of concepts and the ability to convey knowledge confidently in writing and presentation are some of the key qualifications that are elaborated in this program for a subsequent professional career.

The current changes to the knowledge and information society are significantly shaped by science and technology and at the same time lead to new relationships between science and society. This generates an increased demand for expert proficiency in reflecting science. For this reason, the career prospects for the graduates of the Master's programme are good. Experience to date indicates that there is an increasing professional need for academics trained in the areas of organization and management of research and teaching, communication and acceptance of knowledge in the media and public, quality standards of knowledge and expertise, and participation of science in innovation networks.

Career Perspectives

The training in the ISoS Master's programme is aimed at creating abilities and proficiencies in science administration and science policy. The main fields of work are the following:

  • Research coordination and science management in complex research organizations (such as Max Planck, Helmholtz and Leibniz Society, and their institutes, universities).
  • Advising in funding organizations of science (DFG, EU, private foundations) as well as in evaluation and accreditation institutions.
  • Presenting and mediating in expert commissions.
  • Press and public relations work in ministries (state and federal governments) and in foundations dedicated to the promotion of science and education (inter alia Bertelsmann Stiftung, Stifterverband).
  • Media activity (science programmes on radio and television, press, archives, libraries, and museums).
  • Working in public and private organizations in the field of knowledge management.
  • Activity in knowledge management of business enterprises.

Above all, the degree program is distinguished not only by its interdisciplinary nature but also by its high practical relevance. Since an internship also proved to be a prerequisite for a successful start to a career, it was included in the curriculum.

Study information on HEPS/ISoS on the information pages of the Bielefeld Information System (BIS)

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