Introduction

The Netherlands Graduate Research School of Science, Technology and Modern Culture (WTMC) is a collective effort of Dutch scholars studying aspects of the development of science, technology and modern culture. Science and technology studies form the core of the work, but there are also strong inputs from philosophy, cultural studies and innovation studies.

The activities of the School are twofold: 1) the Graduate Research School co-ordinates and stimulates research in the field of science and technology studies, innovation studies and cultural analysis of science and technology; 2) the Graduate School provides advanced training for PhD candidates. In the Netherlands, such Graduate Research Schools are an officially recognised element of the academic landscape. This brochure is meant specifically for those interested in the training programme.

History

Some collaborative training for graduate students in science, technology and society studies started in 1986, and was supported by a government grant till the early 1990s. Over the years, the graduate training network gained national and international recognition. In 1994, the graduate training network was transformed into a slightly different organisation: the Graduate Research School Science, Technology and Modern Culture (WTMC). The Graduate School has been officially accredited by the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) in 1995, and accreditation was reconfirmed in 2000.

Organisation

At present, the scientific director of the school is Prof. Dr. Stefan Kuhlmann from University of Twente. Prof. Dr. Paul Wouters, from Leiden University, chairs the board, consisting of members mostly drawn from participating academic groups.

The coordination of the training programme is in the hands of Dr. Bernike Pasveer, Maastricht University, and Dr. Govert Valkenburg, Leiden University.

Participating Institutions

University of Amsterdam, Maastricht University, University of Groningen, University of Twente, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam; Wageningen University and Research Centre; University of Leiden; Technical University Delft; Utrecht University, Virtual Knowledge Studio / e-Humanities Group (KNAW), Technical University Eindhoven, Radboud University Nijmegen and Rathenau Institute.

Research clusters

WTMC is organised around three clusters of questions. These also form the backbone of the training programme. Beside these clusters of questions, the Graduate School also pays attention to its founding disciplines, such as history, philosophy and sociology.

Diagnosis of the Modern Research System
This cluster focuses on the history of national research systems; and on the relationships between the different levels of the research system, system more generally and between science and society. The formation of new networks, systems and actors is a key aspect within this theme. This is studied from historical, sociological and cultural approaches perspectives, both quantitatively and qualitatively.

Technological Development and Societal Regulation
This cluster focuses on the role of technology in society and the way in which they co-construct each other. How do technical systems and technical artefacts emerge and develop, what is their role in modern society? These studies inform new perspectives on the politics of technological culture and new forms of technology assessment. The history of technology in the Netherlands has been an important topic.

Cultural Roles of Science, Technology and Rationality
This cluster focuses on the cultural, philosophical and normative consequences of the intertwinement of science, technology and modern culture. Questions related to this theme concentrate on the way in which boundaries between science, technology and society are generated, and how science and technology are represented and presented in philosophy and political writings.

The Graduate Training Programme

Aims of the Graduate Training

  • To get an overview of classical and contemporary approaches to the study of the relation between science, technology and society.
  • To learn how to translate these insights into one’s own research approach and research design.
  • To obtain insight into the relationship between current STS studies and disciplines such as philosophy, sociology and history.
  • To develop skills to use methodology and theory to study the relation between science, technology and society.
  • To develop skills necessary to communicate with and present one’s work to the international research community.
  • To develop skills to translate societal and cultural problems into questions of science and technology studies and vice versa.
  • To prepare for a professional career in which knowledge of the relations between science technology and society plays a role.

Local and National Component

PhD students who belong to one of the academic groups affiliated with WTMC obtain their training locally in their own institution and nationally from the Graduate Research School. The local component is provided by the local institution and in particular by the supervisor responsible for the PhD student. The local component includes supervision and the training to compensate for gaps in the students’ academic background. The national component is organised by the Graduate Research School WTMC. Central to goal of the national component is to familiarise students with the classical and recent theories and with methodology and approaches to study the interaction between science, technology and society, and to stimulate interaction and learning among the PhD students of the School.

Workshops, Summer Schools & Dissertation Days

The PhD graduate programme consist of two parts: The first two years of the programme introduce students into the broad field of studies of the relationship between science, technology and society, and train particular skills. During each of these first two years, students attend two workshops and one summer school. Workshops are organised around specific themes (linked to the three clusters of questions around which WTMC is organised), while the summer school is organised around both a theme and an anchor teacher (for examples see themes of workshops and anchor teachers of previous schools).

For workshops and summer schools students receive a reader with texts, well in advance and usually an assignment, to prepare in advance before the actual workshop or summer school. We expect students to prepare 40 hours for each workshop and 80 hours for the summer school. Workshops and Summer Schools are conducted in English and attract international participants.

In the next phase of their PhD research, students are expected to present their own written work for discussion at Dissertation Days.
Dissertation Days are held twice each year, once in the spring and once in the autumn. Students comment on each other’s work-in-progress and one or two senior discussants are invited. Texts are distributed in advance. The amount of preparation depends on the number of participants.

The development of general academic and professional skills is important in the WTMC graduate training programme. Workshops and summer schools invite students to reflect critically on theoretical and methodological approaches and on their own research design and findings. Interaction among the students is important which is why workshops and Summer Schools are residential.
In addition to a selection of research skills (such as textual analysis, network analysis, and ethnographic techniques), there is training in general skills (like how to structure the thesis, writing review articles, and writing research proposals for funding).

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Examples of Themes of Workshops:

    • Normativity
    • Heterogeneous practices of Knowledge Production
    • Utopianism, Postmodernism and cultural critique

Anchor Speakers of Previous Summer Schools:

Donald MacKenzie (1987), Harry Collins (1988), Roy Porter (1989), Helga Nowotny (1990), Steve Shapin (1991), Bruno Latour (1992), Brian Wynne (1993), John Law (1994), Trevor Pinch (1995), Karin Knorr-Cetina & Ted Porter (1996), Donna Haraway (1997), Sheila Jasanoff (1998) Tom Gieryn (2000), Aant Elzinga (2001), Steve Woolgar (2002), Lucy Suchman (2003), Andrew Webster (2004), Tom Misa (2005), Susan Leigh Star (2006), Steven Yearley (2007), Andrew Feenberg (2008), David Nye (2009). Michael Lynch (2010), Geoffrey Bowker (2011), Helen Verran (2012), Steven Epstein (2013), Gary Downey (2014), Mark Brown (2015), Ulrike Felt (2016), Christine Hine (2017)

Past workshops and summer schools

Workshop May 2017

Period: 1-3 May 2017

Theme: STS and Art

Summer School 2017

Period: 4-8 September 2017

Theme: Ethnography, Digital Objects, and STS

Anchor teacher: Christine Hine

Workshop December 2017

Period: 18-20 December 2017

Theme: (Re)inventing Responsibility and Innovation