Core subject: Knowledge

Course content

The overall purpose of the course is to develop students' reflective and critical thinking skills in relation to their use of knowledge, expertise and data (in evaluation and other knowledge-based practices). To do this, the course introduces students to the primary debates in the fields of philosophy, science and technology concerning the nature, production, use and evaluation of knowledge. It also provides them with the practical and analytical tools with which to assess quantitative and qualitative knowledge on specific topics, as well as critically understand the practical, analytical, and political implications of these various approaches to knowledge.


To meet these learning objectives, the course cover five topics:


1. Introduction

Introduction to the sociology of science and technology


2. Who produces knowledge, and where?

Part two focuses on the relationship between science, expertise and professions, co-production of knowledge and ‘Mode 2’ knowledge production, actor-network analysis and scientific controversy.


3. How is knowledge produced (and used)?

Part three explores various epistemic practices such as quantification, classification, indexing, experimentation, benchmarking, standardization, visualization, etc.


4. The politics of knowledge

Part four explores the power relations in the production and sharing of knowledge, critically examines ‘hierarchies’ of evidence, and explores questions of positionality and the emancipatory potential of knowledge.


5. Conclusion

Finally, the course ends with a concluding discussion of knowledge practices and their consequences in various organizational, social and political contexts


Core subject in the core subject track Evaluation. The course can only be taken by students who are also enrolled on the core subject track.


NB! All exams (both ordinary and re-exams) will take place at the end of the autumn semester only, as the course is not offered in the spring

Learning outcome


On completion of the course, students should be able to:

  • Identify, summarise and differentiate between key theories of knowledge and of the sociology of knowledge;
  • Interpret and critically analyse the production, use and evaluation of different forms of knowledge using a range of methodological and analytical strategies;
  • Describe and evaluate the role of various actors and practices in constructing the value and use of different forms of knowledge;
  • Describe current and historical international trends knowledge production and use in areas such as science, politics and public policy.



On completion of the course, students should be able to:

  • Classify, compare and evaluate different elements of the research and knowledge production process;
  • Engage in critical and theory-informed debates about knowledge and its production and use;
  • Identify and explain the relationshis between different knowledge production methodologies and their implications for the nature and relevance of data generated;
  • Communicate complex arguments concerning the relationship between knowledge, research and evaluation.



On completion of the course, students should be able to:

  • Reflect on the different modes of knowledge production, use and evaluation;
  • Critically evaluate a diverse range of theoretical and applied literature on knowledge;
  • Critically assess the relevance and value of different knowledge production methods;
  • Plan and manage a written portfolio of work on knowledge evaluation;
  • Connect key concepts and theories of knowledge to areas of social science beyond that discussed in class.

Classes will comprise mini-lectures, small group exercises, presentations by students on the key reading or their portfolio topic, and frequent whole-group discussion.

At the end of Part 1, the students will be divided into groups depending on the specific knowledge practice they have chosen as the focus of their examination portfolio. They will then identify and discuss relevant experts, knowledge and forums for knowledge production in their self-selected case study (part 2), and finally analyze a specific knowledge ‘artefact’ (part 3). The two sub-assignments constitute portfolio examination.

The following is an indicative list of key readings associated with the course:


Resnik, D.B. (2000) ”A pragmatic approach to the demarcation problem”. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, 31(2), 249-267.


Baumberger, C., Beisbart, C., and Brun, G. (2016) ”What is understanding? An overview of recent debates in epistemology and philosophy of science’ in S.R. Grimm, C. Baumberger, and S. Ammon (eds) Explaining Understanding: New Perspectives from Epistemology and Philosophy of Science, pp: 1-35.


Sismondo, S (2008) “ Science and Technology Studies and an engaged program”, in Hackett et al, Handbook of Science and Technology Studies (3rd ed.), MIT Press, 13-31 (19 pp).


Kuhn, T (1970/1996) The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (2nd/3rd ed.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1-65 (65 pp)


Collins, H & Evans, R (2002) “The Third Wave of Science Studies: Studies of Expertise and Experience”. Social Studies of Science 32, 235-283 (49 pp)


Haas, Peter M. 1992. “ Introduction: Epistemic Communities and International Policy Coordination.” International Organization 46(1): 1–35 (35pp)


Gibbons M, Limoges C, Nowotny H et al. (1994) The new production of knowledge. The dynamics of science and research in contemporary societies, LA and London: Sage Publications. 1-45 (45 pp)


Etzkowitz H and Leydesdorff L (2000) ”The dynamics of innovation: from National Systems and “Mode 2” to a Triple Helix of university–industry–government relations” Research Policy 29(2): 109-123 (15 pp)


Jasanoff, S (2004) “ The idiom of co-production” & “ Ordering knowledge, Ordering society” In Jasanoff, S States of Knowledge: The co-production of science and social order. New York: Routledge: 1-45 (45 pp)


Knorr-Cetina, K (2001) “ Objectual Practice” Schatzki, T, K Knorr-Cetina, and E von Savigny, The Practice Turn in Contemporary Theory, London/New York: Routledge, 175–188 (14 pp)


Claudio E. Benzecry and Monika Krause (2010) ” How Do they Know? Practicing Knowledge in Comparative PerspectiveQualitative Sociology 33(4): 415–422 (8 pp)


Büger, C (2015) “ Making Things Known: Epistemic Practices, the United Nations, and the Translation of PiracyInternational Political Sociology, 9, 1-18 (18 pp)


Engle Merry, Sally. 2011. “ Measuring the World.” Current Anthropology 52(S3): S83–95 (13 pp).


Latour B (1995) ”Circulating Reference: Sampling the Soil in the Amazon Forest” in Pandora’s Hope, pp. 24-79 (56 pp)


Porter, T (1994) “ Making Things Quantitative.” Science in Context 7, 389–407 (19 pp).


Bowker, G and S Star (2000) “Introduction”, “Some tricks in the trade in Analysing Classification” and “Why Classifications Matter”, in Sorting Things Out: Classification and Its Consequences, Boston: MIT Press, 1-16, 33-50 and 319-326 (42 pp) ( library)


Fougner, Tore. 2008. “ Neoliberal Governance of States: The Role of Competitiveness Indexing and Country Benchmarking.” Millennium 37(2): 303–26 (24 pp.)


Sanín, Francisco Gutiérrez. 2010. “Evaluating State Performance: A Critical View of State Failure and Fragility Indexes.European Journal of Development Research 23(1): 20–42 (23 pp).


Dehue, Trudy. 2001. “ Establishing the Experimenting Society: The Historical Origin of Social Experimentation According to the Randomized Controlled Design.American Journal of Psychology 114(2): 283–302 (20 pp).


Guevara, Berit Bliesemann De. 2017. “ Intervention Theatre: Performance, Authenticity and Expert Knowledge in Politicians’ Travel to Post-/Conflict Spaces.Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding 11(1): 58–80 (23 pp).


Hopkin, Jonathan, and Ben Rosamond. 2018. “ Post-Truth Politics, Bullshit and Bad Ideas: ‘Deficit Fetishism’ in the UK.” New Political Economy 23(6): 641–655 (15 pp).


Rodgers, Dennis, David Lewis, and Michael Woolcock. 2008. “ The Fiction of Development: Literary Representation as a Source of Authoritative Knowledge.Journal of Development Studies 44 (2): 198–216 (19 pp).


Goldenberg, M.J. (2006) “On evidence and evidence-based medicine: Lessons from the philosophy of science”, Social Science & Medicine, 62(11): 2621-2632.


Longino, H. (1989) ”Feminist critiques of rationality: Critiques of science or philosophy of science?”, Women’s Studies International Forum, 12(3): 261-269.


Martin, K. and Mirraboopa, B. (2003) ”Ways of knowing, being and doing: A theoretical framework and methods for indigenous and indigenist re-search”, Journal of Australian Studies, 76: 203-214.

Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
Peer feedback (Students give each other feedback)


  • A portion of three weekly session will be devoted to discussing, in detail, how to plan and execute the two elements of the assignment (knowledge production and ‘artefact’ analysis);
  • Students will get informal feedback on their ideas and arguments in the course of class discussion;
  • Students will get informal and constructive peer feedback on their critical understanding of the reading after presentations and in the course of class discussion.
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Type of assessment details
Portfolio exam
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Criteria for exam assessment
  • Grade 12 is given for an outstanding performance: the student lives up to the course's goal description in an independent and convincing manner with no or few and minor shortcomings
  • Grade 7 is given for a good performance: the student is confidently able to live up to the goal description, albeit with several shortcomings
  • Grade 02 is given for an adequate performance: the minimum acceptable performance in which the student is only able to live up to the goal description in an insecure and incomplete manner
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 28
  • English
  • 28


Course number
7,5 ECTS
Programme level
Full Degree Master

1 semester

Department of Political Science, Study Council
Contracting department
  • Department of Political Science
Contracting faculty
  • Faculty of Social Sciences
Course Coordinator
  • Peter Dahler-Larsen   (3-746870446d6a77326f7932686f)

Emily St. Denny

Saved on the 28-04-2023

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