Environmental problems: crossing boundaries between science, policy and society

Environmental problems: crossing boundaries between science, policy and society
Natuurwetenschappen | 5 EC | Voor dit product gelden ingangseisen
Code NM0102
Prijsindicatie € 324
Deze cursus heeft een vast startmoment. Kijk in het Jaarrooster wanneer de cursus van start gaat en wanneer de begeleiding is ingeroosterd.



This course investigates the role of science in environmental decision-making. Most environmental issues can only be problematized and quantified drawing on the natural sciences. Environmental decision-making therefore needs to be grounded in science. However, there is more than one science. Different disciplines have different ways of knowing and they may disagree about the nature of the problem. They may also disagree about how serious a problem is and which measures we should take. Another problem is that science often involves uncertainties. These uncertainties need to be communicated to policymakers and the public without exaggerating but also without downplaying real risks.
This course introduces to state-of-the-art theories and concepts that deal with the role of science in policy and society. We clarify what science actually is and how it produces its authority in the field of knowledge in processes of boundary drawing. We show which options there are to work across disciplinary boundaries. We also study how to integrate societal knowledge with more academic knowledge in participatory processes. Finally, we highlight the downsides of this plurality of voices, for example that decision-making will get a lot more complex. To apply theoretical concepts to a practical example, the controversy of the mussel fishery in the Dutch Wadden Sea is used as case illustration. In the final assignment of the course, the different theoretical approaches are applied to a concrete case.

After completing the course students are able to:
- recognise the boundary drawing practices through which science distinguishes itself as different from non-scientific knowledge and establishes its authority;
- explain the concept of frames (and how facts and values are intertwined in frames) and apply frames as analytical tool in case studies;
- describe the linear model of the relation between science and politics/society, distinguish it from the information deficit model and evaluate the analytic value of both models;
- describe and recognise three types of knowledge uncertainty: incomplete knowledge, unpredictability and ambiguity; evaluate and apply different strategies of dealing with scientific uncertainty;
- know strategies of developing ‘usable’ knowledge for decision-making that is credible, salient and legitimate;
- know and apply different strategies of interdisciplinary knowledge integration in order to deal with a plurality of scientific viewpoints;
- know the advantages and challenges of different tools for participatory (lay) knowledge production, and make a well-reasoned choice for a particular case study situation;
- define and recognize the roles an environmental expert can consider playing in a particular decision-making process; reflect critically on their own role as an expert;
- know strategies of democratizing environmental knowledge production, including how to set up transdisciplinary research using one or more of the tools presented in this course;
- conduct an academic literature search to identify relevant sources;
- develop a research question and provide an answer in an academic essay.



Aanmelden is alleen mogelijk voor opleidingsstudenten die formeel zijn toegelaten tot de masteropleiding Environmental Sciences.


Aanmelden is alleen mogelijk voor studenten die formeel zijn toegelaten tot de masteropleiding.

Toelichting aanmelden

Deze cursus start 8 februari 2021. We adviseren om uiterlijk zondag 24 januari 2021 hiervoor aan te melden zodat u tijdig het eventuele cursusmateriaal ontvangt, toegang heeft tot de leeromgeving en (indien van toepassing) ingedeeld kunt worden in een studiegroep. Bij aanmelding na 24 januari 2021 kunnen we dit niet garanderen. Aanmelden is mogelijk tot en met 7 februari 2021.

De Engelstalige cursus Environmental problems: crossing boundaries between science, policy and society is een verplichte cursus in de masteropleiding Environmental Sciences.

Heeft u interesse in deze cursus, let dan op het volgende:
- Bent u nog geen student? Vraag dan eerst een adviesgesprek aan.
- Bent u al student in de master Environmental Sciences? Neem dan eerst contact op met uw mentor.


Voor het bestuderen van deze cursus is het raadzaam dat u beschikt over kennis van het milieubeleid, bijvoorbeeld opgedaan in de OU-cursus Milieubeleid: theorie en praktijk (NB1102) en/of de OU-cursus Omgevingsbeleid: analyse, evaluatie, ontwerp (N232121). Affiniteit met wetenschappelijke methoden helpt om de aangeboden stof in context te kunnen plaatsen.



Deze cursus heeft een vast startmoment. Kijk in het Jaarrooster wanneer de cursus van start gaat en wanneer de begeleiding is ingeroosterd.

The course is taught from February to April (Q3). It has an introductory online class and a meeting in Utrecht at the ‘Themadag’ in May.


Dr. Stijn Neuteleers, dr. Judith Floor en prof. dr. ir. Dave Huitema.


Bereikbaarheidsinformatie docenten/examinatoren





In verband met de corona-crisis heeft de Open Universiteit in maart 2020 besloten om tijdelijk alle fysieke onderwijsactiviteiten en tentaminering te vervangen door een (online) alternatief. Meer informatie vindt u op www.ou.nl/informatie-coronavirus. De actuele tentameninformatie met betrekking tot deze cursus vindt u na aanmelding in de online cursusomgeving.

The final exam consists of two parts. First, you will write a 1,000 word paper for task 3. When you have passed this, you can begin the final exam paper. In the final exam paper of 4,500 words you will write for this course, you are asked to link the theories taught in this course to an empirical case. You will study in more detail the role of science and how it played out in your case. You can submit the essay in Dutch or English.


Volgens afspraak.

Meer info


Students of this course are required to read all 11 chapters of the course book ‘Environmental Expertise: Connecting Science, Policy and Society’. The book introduces to state-of-the-art theory and illustrates it with case studies. In the digital teaching environment the students are guided through the course material, with assignments, automatic feedback, and additional material such as videos and scientific articles. The course is structured in 6 tasks, for which you have to fulfill six small writing tasks.


Computer met internet.

Digitale leeromgeving

All up-to-date information about this course is available in the digital teaching environment.