MAQ-51803 Learn the Scientific Method in a changing climate


Credits 3.00

Teaching methodContact hours
Individual Paper1
E-learning material0
Course coordinator(s)dr. ir. AF Moene
Lecturer(s)dr. ir. AF Moene
dr. J Vilà-Guerau de Arellano
Examiner(s)dr. ir. AF Moene
dr. J Vilà-Guerau de Arellano

Language of instruction:


Assumed knowledge on:

MAQ-21806 Meteorology and Climate
MAQ-22806 Atmosphere-Vegetation-Soil Interactions

Continuation courses:

MAQ-31806 Atmospheric Modelling 
MAQ-32306 Boundary-layer Processes
MAQ-51306 Clouds in Present and Changing Climate


Many societal and scientific challenges relate to systems that are too complex to understand by simple reasoning. The unique path to unravel these systems is to apply the scientific method: motivating the research - posing a question and proposing a testable hypothesis - experimenting - analysing - confirming or refuting the hypothesis. These steps form a closed circle, which is the pillar of modern science. 
The best way to understand how the scientific method works is to actually do science. Therefore, in this course we introduce the scientific method and we combine it with actual research. This way, the students practice science and develop their own skills in working with the scientific method:
- The scientific method is a systematic way to perform research. Here, the historic and philosophy-of-science background is also taken into account.
- The students do research in order to answer the overall research question "How does cloud formation change in a changing climate ?".
- The research is performed using the conceptual model CLASS which servers as a virtual laboratory.  

The course consists of six modules. In the first four modules the students are step-by-step introduced into both the meteorological background of the topic, as well as into the logic and history of the scientific method. Besides, students develop their personal checklist of properties of good scientific research. The experiments with the conceptual model serve to illustrate and practice the steps in the scientific method. Initially students are taken by the hand, but gradually they get more responsibility in making their own choices in the design of their research. In the  final two modules the students design and perform their own research, supported by what they learned about the scientific method in the first four modules.

Learning outcomes:

After successful completion of this course students are expected to be able to:
- apply a systematic research cycle while working on a scientific problem;
- deduce a conceptual representation of processes in the atmospheric boundary layer combining theory and obtained results;
- formulate a research proposal with particular emphasis on the research question, hypothesis and experimental design;
- apply basic philosophy of science concepts to their research;
- reflect on their personal priorities for good scientific research.


This course is a blended course, which implies that it is a combination of an online course (on the EdX platform) and a few classroom activities. This setup makes it possible that students can study at the times and places that suit them best. The classroom activities are intended to discuss and reflect on what was done online.
The course consists of six modules, each containing a wide range of learning activities: texts and knowledge clips, discussions, assignments, guided and self-designed model experiments, and formulation of a personal checklist for good scientific research. The first four modules provide the foundation in terms of meteorological background and a thorough introduction to the scientific method. In the last two modules the students design and execute their own scientific research project, including the writing of a proposal and a final report.


The final mark is based on:
- active participation in the online course (15%);
- active participation in the class room sessions (10%);
- research proposal (25%);
- final report (50%).


All necessary material is contained in the online course. The following books can be used as background study material:
- J. Vilà-Guerau de Arellano, C. van Heerwaarden, B van Stratum and K. van den Dries; Cambridge University Press (2015). Atmospheric boundary layer: Integrating chemistry and land interactions. ISBN 978110709094.
- A.F. Moene and J.C. van Dam (2014). Transport in the atmosphere-vegetation-soil continuum. Cambridge University Press. ISBN: 9780521195683.