UWA Handbook 2017

Unit details

SCIE4481 Good, Bogus and Corrupted Science

Credit 6 points
(see Timetable)
Semester 2UWA (Perth)Face to face
Details for undergraduate courses
  • Honours core unit in Sport Science, Exercise and Health [Bachelor of Science (Honours)]
  • Honours option in Science Communication [Bachelor of Science (Honours)]
Content In this age of unsurpassed scientific enlightenment, it is of concern that so many individuals, regulatory bodies, learned institutions and governments fall prey to the misleading messages of bogus science and corrupted science. The primary goal of this postgraduate/honours unit is to sensitise the research-trained students to this reality and provide them with the knowledge and skills to not only distinguish genuine scientific findings from spurious ones, but also understand why and how the industries and institutions supporting corrupted and bogus science are flourishing. Given that some of the proponents of bogus science rely on arguments inspired from the teachings of the philosophy of science and epistemology, the unit starts with an overview of the highly contentious philosophical problem of demarcation between scientific and non-scientific knowledge by providing a brief analysis of the work of Karl Popper, Thomas Kuhn and Paul Feyerabend and of more recent thinkers. It then explores how evidence-based knowledge arises in science and the role of peer review in the dissemination of scientific knowledge. After exploring how bogus science fails to meet these requirements, the unit examines how bogus science is promoted and made so appealing, and explore how and why even well educated individuals fall prey to it. Then, the unit addresses the importance of being critical of scientific knowledge as well. It explains the various forms of scientific misconduct, examines the issue of fraud in science, and explores the psychosocial underpinnings of corrupted behaviours. The unit also examines how ideological, political, economic and other interests impose themselves on scientific objectivity and integrity, and identifies the potential problems posed by the commodification of academic research. Finally, the unit describes the strategies often adopted to undermine scientists and society's trust in their work, and explores the ways science is manipulated by interest groups and by those making legal decisions and public policy.
Outcomes Students are able to (1) develop a critical attitude toward not only popular beliefs and fads but also scientific knowledge; (2) explain the problem of demarcation between science and bogus science and the ongoing academic debate this problem sustains; (3) explain the many opposing views about the epistemic status of knowledge in general, and scientific knowledge in particular; (4) explain the means whereby evidence-based knowledge is achieved in science, and the role of peer review in the dissemination of scientific knowledge; (5) explain the strategies adopted to make bogus science appealing and popular; (6) explain the cognitive and social determinants underlying people's belief in bogus science, superstitions and prejudices; (7) explain the different forms of scientific misconduct, and how and why some scientists abuse science and engage in corrupted science; (8) explain how and why ideological, political, economic and other interests are imposing themselves on scientific objectivity and integrity, and how they manipulate, bully and corrupt science; (9) explain the strategies adopted by interest groups to conceal and discredit unwelcome scientific discoveries and undermine scientists and society's trust in their work; (10) describe the means generally adopted to promote and protect corrupted science; (11) explain the different ways science is misused to dupe the population, and learn how to identify these abuses; (12) argue effectively (writing and oral) against bogus science; (13) argue effectively (writing and oral) against corrupted science; (14) write professional peer reviews of academic work; and (15) become agents with the capacity, skills and knowledge to detect and combat competently bogus and corrupted sciences.
Assessment Typically this unit is assessed in the following ways: (1) short essay(s) and essay evaluation; (2) oral presentation and participation; and (3) examination. Further information is available in the unit outline.

Supplementary assessment is not available in this unit.
Unit Coordinator(s) Professor Paul Fournier and Dr Peter Arthur
Unit rules
Prerequisites: enrolment in honours or postgraduate course
Advisable prior study: some background knowledge in research methods and design, or at least some experience in research, is advisable since this unit uses this knowledge to inform the many flaws associated with bogus and corrupted science
Contact hours seminars: 2 hours per week for 13 weeks—theory is provided by the unit coordinators and guest speakers; tutorials: 1 hour per week for 13 weeks—students present cases of bogus and corrupted science in classes, discuss further the material covered in the seminars, and are asked to support their learning with examples of their choice, thus guaranteeing a multidisciplinary flavour to this unit. The advanced academic training and research experience required of the postgraduate and honours students attending this unit provide the grounds for scholarly and informed discussions during the tutorials.
Unit Outlinehttp://www.unitoutlines.science.uwa.edu.au/Units/SCIE4481/SEM-2/2017

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