Joint M.Sc. Science Communication: Module Information


NUS Core Modules


MW5201 Essentials of Science Communication (formerly Topics in Science Communication) (4 MCs)

Science communication is a vital skill for shaping public perception of innovation, adoption of technology, and resilience to misconceptions. This is important for journalists, public relations managers of technology firms/ R&D institutes, project managers, advertising and regulatory agencies. This course provides the essential skills and knowledge to help the learner use both mainstream and online media to communicate science. 

Course topics/activities include: written, oral and interview skills, public sentiment survey skills, and data analysis, visualization and presentation skills. The learner will also receive practical training in writing real articles for the public and may participate in 'live' media interview.  


ANU Core Module


SCOM8014/ MW5152 Communicating Science with the Public (5 MCs)

This course introduces students to the history, theory and practice of science communication at an advanced level. It covers contemporary competing theories of what constitutes 'best practice' in science communication, the historical roots of the discipline, fundamental practical skills for communicating science with the public, and a deep understanding of science communication professional practice. It provides a solid foundation for further studies in science communication, touching on multiple communication mediums, considerations of different aims and audiences, and some specifics of communicating particular kinds of scientific information. Students will develop foundational science communication research skills in this course.



NUS Elective Modules


MW5202 Innovative Strategies in Science Communication

Students will be introduced to a wide range of current innovative strategies in science communication with emphasis on the usage of demonstrations and technological resources to communicate and engage the public in Science. Topics covered include: basics of designing scientific experiments or demonstrations in lectures, classrooms or exhibitions; basic concepts of conducting interactive demonstrations; approaches to illustrate scientific principles; basic concepts, design in making online science videos for communication, developing STEM related IT-games to engage the wider public and illustrations in teaching enhancements through IT resources. The topics will be introduced by lecturers who are known for their innovative science communication techniques and their experience, including lecture demonstrations and use of technology. 


MW5203 Frontier Topics in Science

This is a proposed third module for the ANU-NUS Joint Master Programme in Science Communication, Frontier Topics in Science. It is a module that will present the latest and upcoming trends in scientific discovery with an emphasis to recognise and understand the scientific ideas behind the cutting edge discovery. The materials used in this module are those that non-specialised audience can relate to or has an impact on society. The scientific ideas in the development of the latest scientific technology and how they impact human society will be illustrated.

Each individual topic will be presented by either an expert scientist or the lecturer from an academic scientist point of view. The subject material will be pitched at the level where students of different scientific background or discipline can understand. Classes will be conducted in a seminar style, followed by a focus group discussion session on the impact of the science on society.



Research Project in Science Communication


MW5200 Research Project in Science Communication

All students are required to conduct a research project in any topic in science communication. They will submit a research proposal for approval and work on gathering data for their project. Students will decide on the semester of their exam, nominate examiners and submit a written report of their research question. In addition to the review of the report, the student will present their work during an oral exam to their examiner and supervisor. For more information, see Research Project Information.



ANU Elective Modules


SCOM6031/ MW5151 Science, Risk and Ethics

Uncertainty is everywhere. We casually and unknowingly take risks and accept uncertainty many times every day. However, in the sciences, we cannot afford to be so blasé. The ramifications of poor risk assessment (and communication) in science can and do have dramatic, global consequences. Risk is very hard to calculate, and even harder to communicate. What is risky, to whom and why? How is risk understood by experts? How does it manifest in public domains? When does a risk become acceptable? Is it possible to speak about "real" or "true" risks in science? How do the concepts of risk and ethics relate?

In recent years, issues such as climate change, environmental degradation and gene/ nano-technologies have regularly highlighted the need for society to challenge and address risks and ethics in the sciences. In this course, the practice and application of science is analyzed from risk communication and ethical perspectives. Consideration is given to how social, political and psychological context of scientific research influence contemporary debates about risk and ethics. The concept of ethical research is analyzed and critiqued and the communication of risk and uncertainty with lay publics is examined in detail. Throughout the course, significant attention is devoted to the consideration of clear and effective ways to characterize and communicate controversial, risky and ethically charged science-based matters in the public sphere. 


SCOM6015/ MW5255 Speaking of Science

This is a practical course which aims to develop public speaking skills. The emphasis is on presenting science to a general audience. Specialist training will also be given by a professional performer to provide skills in acting techniques applicable to public speaking.


SCOM6016/ MW5256 Science in the Media

This course examines the roles and relationships between science, the media and society. Topics covered include:

  • The style in which science is reported in the media, and how this is influenced by external, contextual factors
  • How to effectively communicate science using the media
  • An in-depth research project on a chosen topic of interest that analyses the coverage and treatment of science in the media and society

This is a skills-based course, the aim of which is to train students in the production of material suitable for publication or broadcast in the popular media. Students will have opportunities to practice the skills of this course in 'real life settings' gaining valuable industry experience and contacts. The major research project is a combination of individual and group work, with the option of submitting the final work to a professional, peer reviewed journal for consideration for publication.


SCOM6027/ MW5257 Science Politics (formerly Science and Public Policy)

The interface between science and political decision making is of fundamental importance to modern society. Yet while our techniques of scientific enquiry have allowed us to to learn more about the world - and our collective ability to enact change has become ever more powerful -  the relationship between scientific knowledge and political action has never been entirely smooth. Indeed, things may even be getting worse. This course traces the dynamics, contours and fractures of the interface between science and politics.

Topics covered include: uses of science in political decision making; differing attitudes to scientific advice and the values underpinning them; ways of countering hostility to science; the role of new technology in changing the dynamics of the relationship between science and politics. Case studies may include climate change, artificial intelligence, diversity in science, asteroid mining, recreational drugs, invasive species, genetically modified food.


SCOM6003/ MW5258 Science in Popular Fiction

How has Brave New World shaped the human cloning debate? Why did forensic science enrolments boom simultaneously with the popularity of CSI and Silent Witness? How is Doctor Who useful for engaging high school students in science learning? To what extent did Frankenstein establish a negative image of scientists? Why is theatre an effective HIV/AIDS education tool in South Africa and not in Australia? What role did Star Trek's Lt Uhura play in recruiting astronauts to the NASA space program? How might The Day After Tomorrow impact the public understanding of climate change?

This course provides an introduction to the impact of fictional representations of science and scientists on public perceptions of science. It introduces research, theory and methods from this growing area of science communication as applied to fictional works including films, television programs, plays, novels, short stories and comics. Students are encouraged to share their own experiences of science-based fiction and to pursue their areas of interest through assessment. The major piece of assessment is a research project testing students' hypotheses about the impact that a work of fiction might have on public perceptions of science. The research project will be completed individually, but the research ideas will be developed as a team with a view to obtaining publishable results.


SCOM6007/ MW5253 Science Communicatio Project Design and Delivery

 Science communication and outreach programs employ a range of methods to engage audiences, deliver impact and communicate science. From capacity building programs in the developing world to science puppet shows for early learners, science communicators employ different methods, often to better engage with underserviced audiences, create impact and social change, and explore topics in more intriguing ways. As part of this, they need to be skilled at conceiving ideas, logistics and program planning, 'selling' their ideas and securing funding, running events and evaluating their success. In this course, you'll come up with a novel program idea, trial it, report on your trial and then learn how to win funding for it through grant applications and a presented 'pitch'. This course is about creating your own original science communication project. It represents and authentic oppportunity to develop real-world skills that allow your ideas to become realities. As you'll discover in your future science communication careers, if you want to pursue your passions, your goals and your ideas, skills to develop them and just as importantly get them funded are critical. Many past students' ideas have turned into actual, fully funded, real-world ongoing projects that have had national and global impacts, so don't underestimate what you might achieve if you make the most of it! If you choose, this can be so much more than just another assignment.


SCOM6029/ MW5259 Cross Cultural Perspectives in Science Communication

This course will prepare students to communicate science across cultural boundaries. It will increase student's understanding about issues and effective strategies of communicating science and technology with culturally diverse audiences. Students will explore how values, beliefs and expectations differentiate science from other knowledge systems, and examine the Eurocentric privileging of modern science and its communication, which are integral parts of Western culture. In doing so, students will look closely at communities that are alienated from science, with particular reference to current science communication research.


SCOM6032/ MW5273 Making Modern Science

Politicians, chief scientists and others are increasingly calling for scientists to communicate their work with the public, but how, where and when did this start? Why have scientific societies like the Royal Society of London transitioned from doing scientific research in the seventeenth century to promoting the interests of science in the twenty-first? Are there parallels between eighteenth century amateur science and citizen science today, or between nineteenth century science popularisation and today's science journalism? How can we map institutional relationships between science and the bodies that promote it, popularise it, and link it to political processes? Is science communication an added extra in the world of science, or integral to its success and longevity? 

This course applies historical and institutional approaches to science communication to explore the big picture view of how this discipline and its professional practices have developed across the world and through time. Students will map the relationships between science and the science communication-type activities and organisations that have always surrounded and supported western science as an institutionalised pursuit -  scientific societies, advocacy for science funding, science professionalisation measures, science popularisation efforts of different kinds, science museums and centres, and more. Course assessment emphasises reflection on the significance of this big picture for professional practice in science communication, as well as developing science communication research skills.


SCOM6501/ MW5270 Strategies in Science Communication

The course focuses on the creation of clearer and more effective ways to communicate scientific matters to larger audiences. It provides participants with a thorough and practical understanding of the process used in developing a communication plan including the development of a strategic framework and accompanying action plan that allocates resources, responsibilities and timeframes. It has a strong emphasis on relating theory to current industry planning communication activities. The major project component is based around field work and evaluation of real life science communication strategies.


SCOM6012/ MW5271 Science Communication and the Web

The internet and social media sit at the heart of the modern communication of scientific information. But are you using the web in the best possible ways to communicate? This intensive course focuses on providing you with the skills and knowledge so you can triumph when using the internet to communicate your science. Topics include writing for the web, using analytics, best social media engagement, video podcasting, mapping and infographics, Wikipedia and the frontiers of social media.


SCOM6030/ MW5272 Science Dialogue Theory and Practice

This course will provide a detailed exploration of the role of science dialogue in relation to contemporary science debates and science and technology governance. As well as providing a theoretical understanding informed by Science and Technology Studies, this course will provide student with the skills to plan, design and run science dialogue. It will also give student opportunities to learn and practice skills needed to participate in and facilitate dialogue. Assessment items will require students to plan and conduct a mini-dialogue.

Science dialogue refers to communication about science that brings all parties to greater understanding. The key feature is that science dialogue is bi-directional - information and insights are gained on both 'sides'. In the case of dialogue between scientists or science communicators and members of the public, then, the public participants learn about the science and the scientists' aim and aspirations, and the scientists learn something from the public, about their concerns and aspirations and generally about the social context of the science, which informs their thinking, and potentially their decisions, about that science. Dialogue has a special place within science communication as a communication medium with particular aims that is increasingly being promoted as a best practice approach within government and community sectors.


SCOM8088/ MW5252 Engagement for Policy Impact

Scientists around the world consistently list achieving tangible impacts on policy and practice as a core career goal - yet few have the knowledge or skillset needed for turning this into a reality. This has arisen  because traditional scientific training programs rarely teach the skill set and competencies required to operate effectively at this interface. Thus, this course focuses on providing students with the theory, as well as the practical knowledge, skills and tools that are needed to operate more effectively at the science-policy-practice interface to achieve tangible impacts from their research. This will be achieved by drawing on current research from the fields of knowledge exchange and research impact, as well as the inclusion of guest lecturers from the realms of policy and practice so that students gain a first hand account of the practical ways in which they can bridge the gap between science, policy and practice.


POPH8115/ MW5264 Health Promotion and Protection

This interdisciplinary course examines the ways in which societies attempt to enhance and promote health in a range of settings, while critically assessing the associated risks and barriers. This course will provide a sound theoretical understanding of dominant health promotion and protection theories and models, as they relate to contemporary health issues in Australia and internationally. This course emphasises practical application of theory in a problem based learning scenarios. Students will gain a sound conceptual understanding enabling them to develop health interventions and communicate effectively with specialist and non-specialist audiences.


Any other modules as approved by the Joint Academic Board may be considered.

Not all modules are available in a single semester.

Selected ANU modules are available via ANU on-line facilities.