Award: 5 credits at level 4
Duration: 12 weeks
Start Date: 09/09/2013 (Semester 1)

ENVB40380 Managing the Interface between Science & Policy


This module is for students in Semester 1 of the MSc, Graduate Diploma or Certificate in Environmental Sustainability (Negotiated Learning) course.

What will I study?

The words ‘science’ and ‘scientific’ are often used to indicate authoritative knowledge gained independently of belief and world view by a group of initiated individuals – the scientists. This authoritative knowledge is now informing evidence-based policy making. However, when it comes to global environmental change, it has been found that science cannot answer questions that need urgent solutions and that scientific knowledge was misapplied because the context dependence of the evidence was ignored.

This module is a reflection on the role, methods and communication of science to address global environmental change. We will explore how scientists ask questions and generate knowledge and how this knowledge differs from other types of knowledge and beliefs. In the context of addressing global environmental change in complex socio-ecological systems, the role, methods and communication of scientific knowledge need to be adapted to a situation where scientists participate in an ongoing dialogue on potential mitigation and adaptation. This takes place in groups of stakeholders.

You will learn agent-based modelling as a means to capture knowledge on complex environmental issues for discussion in stakeholder groups. This will allow us to develop a new picture of what science is and how it can best support policy making in this area of global environmental change.

This module introduces students to a set of 7 topics which include:

  • What is science?
  • What are complex systems?
  • How can we study complex systems?
  • How do we decide on action in the context of complex systems?
  • Integration: a new task for scientists at the science-policy interface

How will I study?

The Science and policy module will include:
  • Specified readings
  • Interactive tools to facilitate the establishment of connections between new and prior learning
  • Use of software tool supporting modeling (Netlogo)
  • Interactive discussion boards

Expected Commitment

Students are not required to attend any lectures at the UCD campus as part of the module, though you will have to attend the final semester exam. Students are expected to spend a total 120 hours workload during the semester consisting of:
  • Online learning materials (throughout the semester): 24 hours
  • Reflection and continuous assessment (throughout the semester): 24 hours
  • Student Autonomous Learning (assigned reading): 72 hours

How will I be assessed?

In-semester continuous assessment: 40%

End of semester exam: 60%

On successful completion of this module I will be able to

  • Give an outline of how scientific knowledge is acquired.
  • Understand important properties of complex systems.
  • Use an integrative approach to address questions in the context of global change mitigation and adaptation.
  • Use agent-based modelling to develop alternative scenarios for mitigation and adaptation that can be discussed in stakeholder groups.

Am I eligible?

Applicants must hold a minimum of a 2.2 honours level degree in a science, engineering or related discipline. Otherwise, there are no pre-requisites for this module.