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School of Social and Political Science: Graduate school


MSc by Research in Science and Technology Studies

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The application deadline for this programme is 5 July 2021.

We warmly invite social scientists – and also historians, philosophers, natural scientists and engineers – to apply for the MSc(R) in Science and Technology Studies. The MSc(R) is aimed at students who intend to go on to pursue a research career, within or outside academia, in this interdisciplinary field. It is the normal point of access to a PhD in Science and Technology Studies at the University of Edinburgh or elsewhere. See what our alumni have to say about their experiences. Those wanting to apply should contact the Postgraduate Admissions Advisor as soon as possible and much earlier than the deadline stated by the University. Programme applications do not automatically come with funding, this needs to be applied for separately.

Science and Technology Studies

Edinburgh University has long been recognised as a centre of excellence that helped establish the young field of Science, Technology and Innovation Studies. It is the home for the internationally renowned "strong programme" in the sociology of scientific knowledge – that celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2016 – and of a long-standing tradition of studies in the social shaping of technology, particularly Information and Communications Technology. Other areas of significant strength include research on life science innovation, particularly in the Innogen Institute; on Energy and Environmental Sustainability; and on the History of Science, Technology and Medicine. The Science, Technology and Innovation Studies subject group (STIS), together with Sociology, were rated as first in the UK for quality and breadth of research in the Research Excellence Framework 2014 (REF2014). STIS hosts the Institute for the Study of Science, Technology and Innovation which brings together scholars and specialist groups from right across the University.

Access to this exceptionally large, interdisciplinary array of academic expertise in science and technology studies allows us provide training and specialized supervision for research students across a wide range of research topics. Lists of ongoing research projects in the subject group, of our academic staff and their interests, of current research students and of completed PhDs can be found at

Students planning to join our PhD programme will normally be required to first do the foundational MSc(R) in Science and Technology Studies (although some, with a solid background in STS, may be accepted directly onto the programme). The MSc(R) can also be taken as a stand-alone degree.


Students take a programme of coursework combining training in social science research methods with specialist courses that are specific to their needs. The dissertation at the end of the MSc(R) normally takes the form of a full research proposal that typically forms the basis for the empirical stage of the student's doctoral research.

A normal programme involves successful completion of the following training courses in the Graduate School of Social and Political Science:

Research Skills in the Social Sciences: Data Collection

Core Quantitative Data Analysis for Social Research

Research Design

and a selection of courses from those offered by the STIS subject group appropriate to the student's topic, background and needs. These courses include Science, Knowledge and Expertise; Understanding Technology; Innovation Systems: Theory and PracticeRisk, Regulation and GovernanceInternet Society and Economy; Energy Policy and Politics; Investigating Energy Consumption and PolicyGender, Science and TechnologyAdvanced Theory in Science and Technology Studies; Controversies in Science and Technology and Social Dimensions of Systems and Synthetic Biology.

In addition, students will work through the year with their supervisors on a systematic review of the secondary literature in their proposed area of research. Supervisors will also advise students of further appropriate  training in their area of research interest.


The dissertation constitutes the main work in which students demonstrate the extent to which they have achieved the crucial learning outcomes from the first year of research training. It can take the form of EITHER a small piece of independent research OR a detailed proposal for a PhD with the following components:

A review of the literature, both theoretical and empirical;

An outline of the specific questions to be addressed, a statement of research design and methods to be employed;

An evaluation of the expected contribution of the study to knowledge in the field;

Consideration of the practical, political and ethical issues affecting the conduct of the research;

A presentation of the schedule for the research, and (where appropriate) its estimated budget.

Where the degree is taken as a stand-alone degree, the dissertation normally includes a component of data collection and analysis, or selection of theoretical documents and analysis.

Further information

We are a recognised ESRC outlet for 1+3 and +3 PhD scholarships. This and other funding opportunities can be found here. Please, note that programme applications do not automatically come with funding, this needs to be applied separately.

In 2016, an award of £1000 will be offered to the strongest applicant for the MSc(R) in Science and Technology Studies under the Stewart Russell Memorial Fund.

For academic queries about applying for a Masters by Research in STS please contact the Postgraduate Admissions Advisor. This contact should be done well in advance to the University deadline, especially if applying for funding. It would be helpful if, at this stage, you can provide a CV and 1-3 page informal outline of your research interests. At this stage we do not expect a fully polished and finalised research proposal.

Further information on how to apply can be found here. Please do contact the Postgraduate Admissions Advisor above before formally applying to the University. Students who will need to apply for a visa to study in the UK should plan to apply at least three to four months prior to 1st September.

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