Joint M.Sc. Science Communication: Module Information

  

NUS Core Modules

 

MW5201 Topics in Science Communication (4 MCs)

This module will consist of a series of lectures from across all disciplines of science. These lectures will highlight some of the current topics in science that are of major concern to the public and topics that are likely to come up in science education.

The lectures will present the fundamental science behind these topics and show how these topics have been communicated to the public. The bi-directional relationship between science and society will be explored and used to illustrate how science communication has evolved in recent history. Science communication in the past will also be discussed with particular attention given to the works of Galileo, Kepler and Darwin.

 

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.

The course will be run as a combination of online content, face-to-face or online classes and an intensive component on-campus.

 

 

NUS Elective Modules

 

MW5202 Innovations in Science Teaching

Students will be introduced to a wide range of current innovations in science teaching with emphasis on the usage of demonstrations, IT and on-line resources. Topics covered include: basics of designing scientific experiments or demonstrations in lectures, classrooms or exhibits; basic concepts of conducting interactive demonstrations; approaches to illustrate scientific principles; basic concepts and illustrations in teaching enhancements through IT and on-line resources. The topics will be introduced by lecturers who are known for their innovative teaching techniques and their experience, including lecture demonstrations, use of IT, and on-line teaching.

 

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

 

SCOM8020/ MW5150 Science Communication in Schools and Public

This course will deal with issues relating to the communication of science to various audiences including the general public and students. It will explore cultural issues in science and implications relating to the dynamic and uncertain nature of science and scientific methods. The current international focus on public awareness and science literacy will be explored and critiqued. This course will include aspects of modern classroom practice, including recent research into communication of science and methods for effective, creative teaching. In particular, strategies for translating research-based science into effective curriculum materials will be addressed. There will be a strong emphasis on practices, hands-on classroom experiments and demonstrations. The intensive course will be run as a workshop, with candidates being required to participate actively in discussions and activities designed to promote creative and confident science teaching and learning.

 

SCOM6031/ MW5151 Science, Risk and Ethics

Uncertainty is everywhere. However, in the sciences, the ramifications of poor risk assessment in science can have dramatic and 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 is it translated into the public domain? When does a risk become acceptable? Is it possible to speak about the "real" or "true" risks in science? How do the concepts of risk and ethics relate?

In recent years, issues such as global warming, environmental degradation and gene technologies have highlighted a critical need for society to question the risks and ethics if science and the way related matters are presented within societies. In this course, the practice and application of science is analysed from risk-communication and ethical perspectives. Consideration is given to how the history of scientific research might inform contemporary debates about risk. The concept of ethical research is analysed and challenged and the communication of risk and uncertainty among Western and non-Western publics is examined in detail. This course focuses on the creation of clearer and more effective ways to communicate more controversial, risky, and potential unethical scientific matters to larger audiences. It also considers the way in which prevailing social values influence the types of research that might be considered low risk and ethical. 

 

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 and Public Policy

The interface between science and public policy - between our key modern sources of knowledge and action - is of fundamental importance to modern society. Yet while our technologies and techniques of scientific enquiry have allowed us to learn ever more about the world, and our collective ability to enact change has become ever more powerful, the relationship between scientific knowledge and public policy action has never been entirely smooth. This course traces the dynamics, contours and fractures of this interface.

Topics covered include: policy for doing science and for implementing its outputs; appropriate science and technology policy and practice; the relationship between science priorities and government priorities; the implications of funding arrangements; science in the community; the differing languages and time frames of scientists and policy makers; practical techniques for community involvement; the tensions between what stakeholders want and what they need; and risk perception, analysis and communication.

 

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.

 

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.

 

SCOM6017/ MW5254 Public Events for Science Engagement

This is a practical course which aims to develop students' science event organisation, delivery and evaluation skills. The emphasis is on presenting science live, in a range of ways driven by theory and best practice, to a relevant general audience. Students learn to consider a relevant audience, and to design, plan, market, deliver and evaluate a science communication event relevant to that audience. 

 

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.