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eCAT: A catalogue of courses with e-Science content at Lund University

Background

e-Science is a collective term for approaches to science that use some form of “electronic infrastructure”, i.e., computers, storage, and networks, to solve research tasks, such as, performing calculations or simulations and acquiring, storing, and analysing data, including visualisation. A great number of research groups within the Lund University community need to employ such methods and tools as part of their research activity. Some of these researchers work to educate and train the next generation in these vital research techniques through undergraduate education and PhD student courses.

Today, e-Science elements are to be found in a diverse set of courses taught at many, if not all, of the faculties at Lund University. This diversity of educational provision is both a strength and a challenge: finding out what is available can be difficult for both students and teachers, especially when a course containing relevant material is offered by another faculty or when the e-Science component is disguised by a more general course title. The goal of eCAT is to alleviate this difficulty by providing easily accessible information concerning the e-Science content of courses offered at all faculties at Lund University.

The current version consists of lists of courses, organised by subject and amount of e-Science content, but there are plans to also introduce structure based on the type of e-Science taught.

Sources

The lists have been pooled from

Note that courses only available through the programmes listed in Lubas and not in the Lubas course listing have not been included. If a course title is given in the "other" language, it is because it only appears in the "other" version of the database and is probably only taught in that language.

Courses that could potentially contain e-Science were selected by searching for keywords in the course information, which was subsequently read to estimate the amount of e-Science, if any. Out of 2981 undergraduate courses at Lund University, 1084 matched keywords and 432 were deemed to contain e-Science, but it is likely that courses have been overlooked in this procedure.

The lists only contain specific undergraduate courses and not, for example, course codes corresponding to master's theses or very open projects. PhD courses will be added in the future.

Subjects

The courses in the Lubas database used to be sorted by subject and these subjects are also used in the eCAT listing, unless the subject has been declared in the database by giving a course title as a subject followed by a colon and a name. The LTH courses, however, are organised differently and in the eCAT listing they are instead collected according to which programme board has approved the course syllabus, which means that they are not always listed under the "true" subject, although some LTH courses are instead listed under a Lubas subject, such as the courses in Mathematical Statistics approved by the programme board of Industrial Engineering and Management. When it has been clear that the same course is delivered with different course codes at different faculties, both codes are given with each code linking to the syllabus of the corresponding faculty. If the same course has different names associated with the different codes, it is listed once for each name with a link only to that syllabus. There are probably more courses than the ones noted here that have code sharing.

e-Science Content

The courses have been classified by the estimated amount of e-Science content according to

  •     Central: > 80 %
  •     Partial large: 50-80 %
  •     Partial small: 20-50 %
  •     Peripheral: < 20 %
  •     Uncertain: More information is needed to perform the classification


A course in a specific discipline, such as physics or chemistry, normally also teach the basic science and therefore would often get "Partial large" rather than "Central", even if the course heavily features computational methods, while a course in Numerical Analysis is usually geared towards the computational techniques, even if it also contains basic mathematical theory, and would therefore have the e-Science content deemed "Central". The classification is only a rough estimate and not as absolute as the limits above might indicate.

e-Science in Education: Scope

In order to point to courses with an e-Science content, we also need to be clear about what we mean by e-Science. In the context of research, we may emphasise the science and say that e-Science is research performed with digital tools in the same way as an e-Mail is a letter transmitted through digital technologies. In this view, e-Science transcends the classical disciplines, but individual cases may still rely heavily on a discipline. For example, computational chemistry is still chemistry, just as an e-Mail is still a letter. However, when we are looking for courses it is more interesting to emphasise the "e", i.e., the methods used to perform the e-Science, than to look for the basic science that potentially requires digital tools.

Thus, when we denote that a course has an e-Science content, we mean that it contains an element that contains digital tools, either directly in a hands-on way or indirectly, for example, methods that are designed for computers or require numerical processing to be viable, even if the methods are just presented in theory. This still leaves a very wide field and we want to limit the scope further by reconnecting to the science part; i.e., the use of the digital tools should have a purpose or potential for investigation. The consequence is that we exclude digital tools used for manual design, as in the creation or manipulation of a piece of art or music or even the creation of a digital 3D model for manufacturing. The logic is that this is a unidirectional process guided by a person, while the potential for research would require some form of feedback with a possibility of discovery. Thus, digital 3D modelling as a means to visualise data would count as e-Science.  Also, when the design process requires some form of validation, for example, a structural mechanical calculation in the design of a bridge or building to guarantee that it does not collapse if built, this would be regarded as e-Science. Similarly, a course teaching a programming language would generally be considered an e-Science course, because the learned skills could be employed in the service of research, even if the examples of the course did not go that far. On the other hand, a course in programming a mechanical tool for manufacturing would not count, because it is also unidirectional, but in the context of automation and control, where there is feedback to adapt to a changing situation, it would be included, even if the intent is not research, because it may provide a skill set that could be handy in an experimental setup.

Another boundary is that e-Science is considered to be more focussed on the software used for the scientific study than the hardware technology and the software required to operate the hardware. Thus, for example, courses on basic electronics and network communication protocols are generally excluded, but there are aspects in processor technology, compiler design etc that can be useful to know in software development and optimisation and would be included.

These limiting rules are admittedly a bit fuzzy and perhaps even unfair, but they were used to at least have some kind of guidelines when trying to estimate the amount e-Science content in different courses. How they are implemented will be subject to an open discussion with those responsible for the courses and the annotation will probably change over time.

Contact

Anyone who wants to discuss e-Science in the education at Lund University is welcome to contact Magnus Ullner by email: magnus.ullner@teokem.lu.se.

Page Manager: Magnus Ullner