School of Social and Political Science

MSc Science and Technology in Society

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Introduction

Applications for September 2024 entry are now closed.  We expect to open applications for 2025 entry in October. 

Science, technology and innovation are central to contemporary society, solving and creating challenges in equal measure

This MSc programme examines the social, political and cultural dimensions of science, technology and innovation. 

We study, analyse, and critically reflect upon the interplay between science (and technology) and society. While the course does not involve ‘doing’ science, we study the ways science is produced, used, regulated and, sometimes, contested. These studies require that we look at the manifold contexts in which science and technology ‘happen’ and that we make use of the full range of key theoretical perspectives developed in the field of Science and Technology Studies (STS).

Our department hosts one of the leading international centres of interdisciplinary research and teaching in science, technology and innovation studies. You will be studying as part of a vibrant community of scholars with over fifty years of international leadership within the field.

As such, you’ll be able to call on the expertise of our highly regarded academic staff, particularly in the areas of:

  • sociology and social history of science and technology
  • sociology and economics of the life sciences and medicine
  • social shaping of technology
  • science and technology for international development
  • management of technology and innovation
  • politics of public engagement with science and technology

 

Is this programme for you?

We welcome students from a range of disciplinary backgrounds with a keen interest in the complex and rapidly evolving relationships between science, technology and society. While this programme is primarily suited for those with some background in the social sciences, history and the humanities, we have students from a wide range of backgrounds. Our students are united by a desire to critically understand and reflect on science and technology in their social contexts.

You should be aware that this is a social science programme and that good writing skills displaying reflection, insight and analytical ability will be required.  You will be asked to read a significant quantity of complex texts on a weekly basis in order to engage in class debates and coursework. You will also need to write lengthy essays and a dissertation.

Aims

The programme offers a comprehensive introduction to the interdisciplinary field of science, technology and innovation studies, and is intended for students wishing to develop a theoretical and practical understanding of the role of science, technology and innovation in society.

The MSc Science and Technology in Society is a social science programme whose overall educational goal is to provide students with the knowledge and skills necessary to understand and critically engage with the societal role of science and technology in the modern world.

Structure

This programme is delivered through: 

  • lectures
  • seminars
  • group work
  • guided independent study

Core courses

In Semester 1, you will take three foundational core courses. These complementary core courses offer a shared understanding of the theoretical foundations and empirical scope of the interdisciplinary field of science & technology studies.

Optional courses

In semester 2, you will choose from a number of optional courses that allow you to tailor your studies to suit your own aims and interests. Optional courses will allow you to build an in-depth understanding of specific empirical areas while further developing your theoretical and analytical skills. These courses can be chosen from postgraduate offerings within the Science, Technology and Innovation Studies (STIS) subject group or more broadly from the School of Social and Political Sciences.

Dissertation

Finally, you will concentrate on researching and writing a dissertation of 15,000 words. Here, you will identify a topic chosen in discussion with your supervisor. The dissertation provides an opportunity to develop investigative and research skills, as well as honing critical and analytical abilities by undertaking an extended piece of original writing.

Programme structure overview

Further Details

  • teaching takes place primarily through a combination of lectures and discussion-based seminar sessions
  • the assessment of courses is based, in general, on a written essay, in some cases combined with a shorter piece of work such as a book review, policy brief or blogpost.

MSc Science and Technology in Society programme handbook

Introductory readings

Felt, U., Fouché, R., Miller, C. A., Smith-Doerr, L. 2017, The Handbook of Science and Technology Studies, 4th edition, The MIT Press: Cambridge, MA. Look at one or two entries that interest you.

Yearley, Steve 2005, Making Sense of Science: Understanding the Social Study of Science, Sage: London. Look at one or two chapters.

Deborah G. Johnson and Jameson Wetmore, 2021, Technology and Society - Building Our Sociotechnical Future, 2nd edition, The MIT Press: Cambridge, MA. Read one or more of the entries.

Career opportunities

This programme is ideally suited to students looking to enter a career in academia, science communication, policy and government, social research and analysis, and non-governmental organisations.

You will also develop a range of highly transferable skills, such as communication and project management, which can be applied to roles in any field.

How to apply

Find out more about how to apply for this programme

Personal Statements and what to expect from the programme

The personal statement (PS) is one of the central elements of your application. It should explicitly address the reasons why you think this MSc programme is the right one for you in relation to your own background, academic or professional interests, and future career aspirations. 

The programme and the discipline (STS – Science and Technology Studies) should take centre-stage in your personal statement, rather than appreciative statements about the city of Edinburgh, its University and academic staff. To make it clearer: saying that Edinburgh has been your “dream city to study in for many years” (or variations of this) will not get you very far, since it does not say much about why you are applying to this specific programme.

Your PS should, therefore, address the reasons why you think the social study of science and technology matters, as well as why you are interested in learning about it. You should discuss one (or more) dimensions of the interplay between science/technology/innovation and society and even reflect on why it is important to study these linkages. Explain why this subject matters to you.

Note that, while we have an interdisciplinary outlook, this is a social science programme and you will be studying social science/sociological subjects. If you are wishing to undertake further natural sciences or technology training (in for instance mathematics and computer science, software engineering, automation, electronics, financial mathematics, accountancy or mathematics and statistics – or any combination of these) you have most likely misunderstood the aims of the programme.

You don’t have to have a social science background to apply for this course BUT you must have a sensibility towards a social sciences approach and outlook. Your statement should reflect that. 

You are very welcome to contact the Programme Director ahead of your application if you have any questions (although they will not advise on writing a PS beyond what is stated here already). It is also recommended that applicants have a look at some introductory STS readings, particularly if they are new to the field and the social science approach, more generally. 

Tuition fees

AwardTitleDurationStudy mode 
MSc 1 YearFull-timeTuition fees
MSc 2 YearsPart-timeTuition fees