UCL Module Catalogue


Science, Art and Co-Design (BASC0019)

Key information

Faculty of Arts and Humanities
Teaching department
Arts and Sciences BASc
Credit value
This module is open to all UCL students in their 2nd year and above.

Alternative credit options

There are no alternative credit options available for this module.


This module will introduce students to the realms of citizen science, DIY science and community co-design as a pathway to understanding knowledge hierarchies and the role of learning outside of the academy in the social fabric of the city. The thematic focus of the course is food, as a topic that touches everyone and has multiple meanings and modes by which we can understand it.

The course comprises a lecture and seminar programme that elaborates on: theoretical underpinnings of participatory artistic research and its intersection with citizen science and DIY science; embodied knowledge and experiential learning; design and food aesthetics. Alongside theory, the course also incorporates a hands-on introduction to DIY chemical analysis techniques including the building of a DIY visible light spectrometer. It includes the development and iteration of DIY methods, critical and co-design methods, an introduction to multiple knowledges and the socio-politics of changing modes of producing knowledge. Students use practice based methods to gain personal insights into these topics.

We work in collaboration with a community of students from NewVic [http://newvic.ac.uk]. In a series of workshops held at NewVic, UCL students take the lead in disseminating DIY science methods within the community, and will explore with the community ways to gain knowledge about food, and its meanings to us. These explorations will draw on a variety of perspectives including scientific analysis, direct experience and cultural attitudes. Students will then co-design with the community a pop-up exhibition that draws on the participatory research carried out.

The key aims of the module are to introduce artistic interdisciplinary research through practice, and gain experience of participatory research through doing, while situating this practice in an understanding of its theoretical background and consequences.

Indicative Topics

The module will cover the following topics, which may be subject to variation depending on developments in academic research and the interests of the class:

  • Participatory Research including DIY and Citizen Science
  • Artistic Research
  • Food
  • Design
  • Working with communities

By the end of the module, you should be able to:

  1. Engage in reflective artistic research
  2. Critically appraise social interventions from a systems perspective 
  3. Build and use a DIY Spectrometer
  4. Plan and run a workshop
  5. Synthesise interdisciplinary learning into a creative or research output
  6. Have improved skills working with young people

Teaching Delivery

In the first 6 weeks of term, there is one lecture per week. Over the course of the term there will be four seminars (2 hours each) and 5 workshops (4 hours, location Newham Sixth Form College, Newham), alongside one tutorial per week.

Recommended Reading

In preparation for the module, we advise reading the following core texts. These can be found in the UCL Library:

  • The reproach of hunger: food, justice, and money in the twenty-first century by David Rieff  2015
  • Weighing in: obesity, food justice, and the limits of capitalism  by Julie Guthman; ProQuest (Firm) c2011 
  • Civic Science for Sustainability: Reframing the Role of Experts, Policy-Makers and Citizens in Environmental Governance in Global Environmental Politics by Karin Bäckstrand
  • Design activism: beautiful strangeness for a sustainable world by Alastair Fuad-Luke 2009
  • Taste as Experience: The Philosophy and Aesthetics of Food by Nicola Perullo

For further information on this module, please contact the named individual below.

Module deliveries for 2020/21 academic year

Intended teaching term: Term 2     Undergraduate (FHEQ Level 5)

Teaching and assessment

Mode of study
Delivery includes
Field Trips and Lab Work
Methods of assessment
40% Final Project (Equivalent to 6 Pages)
30% Reflective Report (1 Page)
20% Final Exhibition
10% Tutorials - engagement and participation
Mark scheme
Numeric Marks

Other information

Number of students on module in previous year
Module leader
Dr Katrina Austen
Who to contact for more information

Last updated

This module description was last updated on 5th March 2020.