From 31 January 2020 15:15 to 27 November 2020 18:15

This Thing Called Science - REGISTRATION CLOSED

Course description

In modern life, science is everywhere. The products of biomedical science and technology may help achieve a healthy society and economic progress. They may prolong life and make it more agreeable at the same time.

  • But how much do we really know about the production, implementation and evaluation of scientific knowledge?
  • Who should we trust in case two scientists disagree in a hotly debated issue?
  • Is scientific knowledge something special to be emulated, or ‘just another opinion’?
  • Are scientific facts discovered or rather socially constructed and considered ‘true’ only after fierce debate
  • How are science and technology embedded in society and how do they change over time?

If you want to become a scientist – either an academic researcher or a scientifically educated professional with a job outside academia -, it works in your favor to be aware of these and similar questions. Outstanding scientists distinguish themselves by not just know about the contents of scientific knowledge, but about its context as well.

Every month, an expert is invited to speak about an issue in their field. Previously, prof. Jet Smit and prof. Jos Malda elaborated on the personal and political factors that were involved in their lives as scientists. Prof. Martijn Katan and prof. Johan Garssen discussed the influences of business models and valorization incentives on science. Prof. Gerard de Vries and dr. Hans Harbers initated the debate on the relation between science and society.

Learning objectives

This course sets out to create awareness, aiming for broad scientific literacy. During nine Friday afternoon sessions, the historical, philosophical, sociological, commercial, ethical, political and personal dimensions of the life sciences will be discussed. For those of you who are interested in a public debate that is now going on with regard to science and the university, see and

Instructional method

Speakers of the course will provide you with some pre-course reading. For every session, four participants will be appointed as (collective) chair. Together, you are responsible for the quality of the debate and the success of the meeting. They are expected to prepare for the meeting by formulating theses (stellingen in Dutch) on pre-circulated literature and post it to the community, in order to facilitate debate.

Socializing with drinks: after every session, there will be drinks and an opportunity to ‘meet the speaker’. Take this opportunity: these are experts in their field.


During each session two speakers, who are experts in their field, will set the scene for a highly interactive session.
Course coordinator: Prof. Frank Huisman, PhD - History of Medicine, UMC Utrecht

Group size            

35 to 45 participants

Number of credits                                 

2.0 EC

Course schedule

Day Date Start End
Fri 31/Jan/2020 15:15 18:15
Fri 28/Feb/2020 15:15 18:15
Fri 27/Mar/2020 15:15 18:15
Fri 24/Apr/2020 15:15 18:15
Fri 29/May/2020 15:15 18:15
Fri 26/Jun/2020 15:15 18:15
Fri 25/Sep/2020 15:15 18:15
Fri 30/Oct/2020 15:15 18:15
Fri 27/Nov/2020 15:15 18:15

Course certificate                                

You will receive a course certificate after actively participating in at least 7 out of 9 sessions. You are expected to be active as participant, which means that you prepare the topic and, even more important, that you take part in the general discussion.

Course fee

Internal PhD candidates: €0
UU/UMC academic staff: €560
External participants (space permitting): €935

  • Internal PhD candidates are PhD candidates who are registered with the Graduate School of Life Sciences via MyPhD. 
  • UU/UMC academic staff are PhD candidates of Utrecht University who are not registered to the Graduate School of Life Sciences via MyPhD, postdocs employed by Utrecht University or UMC Utrecht and other academic staff employed at Utrecht University or UMC Utrecht.
  • External participants are all other participants.

Our no-show policy

We are happy to offer courses and workshops for free to all GSLS PhDs. However: free of charge does not mean free of responsibility. Our activities tend to be fully booked well in advance. For every late cancellation or no-show we have had to disappoint others who would have liked to attend. 

This is how we work: 

  • Once you have signed up for a workshop, we expect you to attend;
  • If you need to cancel your registration, do so at the earliest possible moment, at least four weeks before the start of the course;
  • If you really have to, you are allowed to miss up to two sessions of this course in total. You always have to attend the first course session;
  • Not meeting the attendance requirements or cancelling within four weeks before the course starts means you will be charged no-show fee (€280 for this course);
  • We are unable to make any exceptions.
Do you have doubts, critiques or bugs about science? This is a good place where to address them. This course made me a better scientist, and a better informed layman. I strongly recommend it to anyone interested in science.
Becoming aware of these dilemmas really helped me to get a better idea of how science is evolving and it helped me decide if and how I would like to continue in academia. The course also encouraged me to reflect on the bigger picture of my own PhD project and guided me in the direction that I want to pursue the project.
Start date and time
31 January 2020 15:15
End date and time
27 November 2020 18:15
Entrance fee
Course fee for internal PhD candidates: €0. Course fee for UU/UMC academic staff: €560. Course fee for external participants (space permitting): €935.
More information
PhD Course Centre