Teaching

Tjerk Jan teaches a wide variaty of (honours) courses as part of the master MPA. Below a selection of courses.

Managing Science and Technology in Society

At the dawn of the 21st century, technology and science have an enormous potential for transforming life on earth. At the same time, the dimensions of our human culture shape the directions in which science and technology develop. The production of scientific knowledge and technological artefacts can solve some of our problems, but at the same time they give rise to new problems. During this course student study the interactions of science and technology with society, and the various ways in which they mutually shape one another. These interactions invoke a lot of questions. Should we embrace genetically modified food? How do new human reproductive technologies interfere with the way we deal with sexuality and social responsibilities? The course helps students to get acquainted with a conceptual framework to critically assess these kinds of questions. It aims at understanding the intertwinement of science, technology and society, and the importance of a broad concern with these interactions, in order to shape our future in the way that we want it.

The ‘Managing Science and Technology in Society’ course is a compulsory course for second year students of the master ‘Management, Policy Analysis and Entrepreneurship for the Health and Life Sciences’. The course offers an advanced introduction into the academic field of ‘Science Technology & Society Studies’.

Honours course Communication and Innovation in Health and Life Sciences

Technological innovations have considerably contributed to economic growth and improved health worldwide. At the same time new technologies may also give rise to societal problems. Well-known examples are technologies such as genetic modification and nuclear energy, which have raised various ethical questions, and may negatively affect the environment and human health. Societal controversies concerning genetically modified crops in Europe have, for example, led to the prohibition of commercial production and import of such crops. The mutual attuning between technology and society is quite a complex process.

This course focuses on the question of how to realize the ambitious goals of science and technology in our modern knowledge and risk society, and how to critically analyze the pitfalls. Lack of appropriate communication between scientists, technologists, marketing specialists, policymakers, consumers, and the public at large is often mentioned as one of the main reasons for ‘failed’ technological innovations. Communicating technological innovations to a wide variety of actors, including the public, has become an essential enterprise for industry, research institutes, universities, government agencies, science museums and NGOs.

Traditionally the focus in science communication is on mass communication, and on informing the public at large about the validated knowledge that has been produced. Examples of the former are nation-wide information campaigns, while the latter refers to articles in the science sections of newspapers and popular science journals, and presentation on information days. However, the impact of these one-way, top-down communication activities on the mutual attuning of technological innovations and societal demands is not high. New approaches are recently developed to stimulate two-way (interactive) communication between scientists, entrepreneurs, policy makers and end users. For example, patients and health professionals meet with (bio)medical researchers in constructive dialogue sessions.

International comparative analyses of health care systems

All governments have some responsibility for health care either as an integrated public health system or a market based health system. The aim of the course is to critically examine healthcare systems, henceforth HCS, in both developed, transitional and developing countries. HCS are societal subsystems installed to provide health for the population that use financial and human resources to prove a bundle of quantity and quality health services. Due to demographical and epidemiological changes in the last decades, healthcare expenditure has reached levels which have made it incompatible with other political targets. This forces countries to reconsider the design and operation of their HCS (reform).  Descriptive studies show that HCS differ greatly in health provision, organization, regulation, methods of financing and expenditure, and also differ in their performance in terms of output, quality and productive efficiency (resources required to achieve health status).  However, closer examination of HCS suggests that beneath an apparent diversity, the sub-systems of finance, which is a highly important configuration in all HCS, is surprisingly similar.

Clinical Trials and Health Care

Clinical trials are a crucial step in the development process of many health interventions (e.g. new drugs, diagnostics, medical devices and therapy protocols). By setting up carefully designed quantitative experiments, new interventions are tested for safety, efficacy and cost-effectiveness on human beings (initially healthy volunteers, later patients). In many countries clinical trials are required before the national regulatory authority allows the drug, device or therapy to be marketed and used on patients. Clinical trials are, however, not unproblematic. There are various accounts of prematurely terminated trials because of serious side effects or high death rates in the interventional arm of the study. Furthermore, some of the tested interventions have raised ethical concerns, because they involved the use of a controversial technology like stem cell therapy, or were conducted in a developing country without appropriate safety measures. There are also difficulties encountered in recruiting sufficient numbers of volunteers in experiments. Frustrated by being only treated as ‘subjects’, patients increasingly demand a ‘say’ in the design and implementation of clinical trials. From a governmental perspective, the former innovative power that improved health care is now more and more seen as a financial burden. And last, there are severe problems for the industry that is behind these clinical innovations. The pharmaceutical industry is facing tremendous pressure, not only from payers, but as a result of public perception, regulatory hurdles, and the intricacies of research and development (R&D). Overall, medical (and especially drug) development has been stagnant in terms of innovation, and failure to innovate the developmental process itself will render the “big pharma” model unsustainable. How to deal with this?