Building competence in social sciences for students of medical sciences

Between paradigms: building competence in social sciences for students of medical sciences

Team Members: Judith Sim, Hannah Lesshafft, Sandalia Genus


Appreciation of the social and ethical context to scientific and medical research and development is increasingly required for a successful career in pure or applied science.  While the University of Edinburgh is increasingly responding to this through a relevant range of courses, challenges arise for science-based students in switching from the paradigm of natural to social science. Treating accounts of health and illness experiences as academic evidence, and building these into critical argument and discussion, can give rise to anxiety for those familiar with laboratory-based or experimental forms of enquiry. Such anxiety can overshadow the satisfaction many students encounter in adding the social dimension to the human bodies studied in the laboratory.

The proposed project, which entails collaboration between staff teaching social science-based courses in the Biomedical Teaching Organisation and former students of these courses, aims to address this through a) systematically and qualitatively identifying the challenges and anxieties encountered by students over the last two years; b) building on these findings to develop and evaluate a workshop to address these findings.  While this application takes as its focus two specific courses within the School of Biomedical Sciences, it addresses issues of wider resonance. Students in the world of work are increasingly expected to transcend the boundaries of the disciplines in which they are trained and formed, and equipping them with the skills to think critically across disciplinary paradigms is increasingly important. We envisage this project as an initial catalyst to further teaching collaboration between social and natural scientists.

Final Project Report

Presentation made to Biomedical Sciences Learning and Teaching Forum 2017 (PPT)