MSc Science and Health Communication

Year of entry: 2022

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Course unit details:
Introduction to Science Communication

Unit code HSTM60561
Credit rating 30
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Centre for History of Science, Technology & Medicine (L5)
Available as a free choice unit? Yes

Overview

This assessed unit serves to introduce science communication studies at the start of the year. It has three main purposes: firstly, it serves as a general introduction to the subject for an MSc student who sees its relevance to their course of study. For students on the MSc in Science Communication, it serves two further purposes: to establish some common ground among students who will have come from differing educational backgrounds which may or may not have included science communication study; and to set out and differentiate the topics from which the students may choose in semester 2.

Topics are likely to include:

  • What is science communication for, and why is it important in our society now?
  • Defining science in the public sphere
  • Contemporary issues in science communication
  •  Introduction to science in museums
  • Introduction to science journalism and broadcasting
  • Activism and political engagement about science
  • Public attitudes and social representations
  • Health and medical communication
  • Environmental communication
  • Ethics in science communication
  • Science and entertainment media
  • Digital media
  • Popular Science Books and magazines

 

Aims

The unit aims to:

  • Introduce students to key ideas and findings in science communication studies
  • Introduce students to the range of disciplinary approaches available for studying science communication
  • Establish an understanding of the relationship between theory and practice in science communication studies
  • Enable students to understand and analyse critically the key literature in the field
  • Acquaint students with the range, scope and functions of science communication, now and in the past
  • Develop a sense of the political and economic context for science communication

Syllabus

This assessed unit serves to introduce science communication studies at the start of the year. It has three main purposes: firstly, it serves as a general introduction to the subject for an MSc student who sees its relevance to their course of study. For students on the MSc in Science Communication, it serves two further purposes: to establish some common ground among students who will have come from differing educational backgrounds which may or may not have included science communication study; and to set out and differentiate the topics from which the students may choose in semester 2.

Topics are likely to include:

  • What is science communication for, and why is it important in our society now?
  • Defining science in the public sphere
  • Contemporary issues in science communication
  •  Introduction to science in museums
  • Introduction to science journalism and broadcasting
  • Activism and political engagement about science
  • Public attitudes and social representations
  • Health and medical communication
  • Environmental communication
  • Ethics in science communication
  • Science and entertainment media
  • Digital media
  • Popular Science Books and magazines

Teaching and learning methods

The formal contact time will consist of a mixture of lecture-style presentations (incorporating some group discussion around case studies) with seminar-format group discussion sessions.  Students will engage in group discussions on BlackBoard and maintain the course blog.

Knowledge and understanding

  • Recognise the range of topics and approaches in science communication studies
  • Understand the important models, theories and perspectives
  • Have a sense of the emergence and social context of the field
  • Critically and comparatively appraise source texts
  • Identify and analyse critically a variety of different methodological approaches to research and argument.
  • Select and apply appropriate approaches, methods and theories and particular research questions
  • Understand the significance and potential of relevant disciplinary approaches
  • Identify a range of practices in science commuincation

Intellectual skills

  • Critically and comparatively appraise source texts
  • Identify and analyse critically a variety of different methodological approaches to research and argument
  • Select and apply appropriate approaches, methods and theories to particular research

Practical skills

  • Be able to locate and participate in science communication in the real world
  • Be able to locate and identify science communication learning materials in a range of repositories and media
  • Identify a range of practices in science communication

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Gain a sense of their own interests and potential in the field
  • Engage constructively in knowledge-sharing and collective judgement with their classmates

Assessment methods

  • Blog piece (500 - 750 words)  Weighting (10%)
  • Academic justification of blog piece (1500 words) Weighting (30%)
  • Academic Research Essay (2000 words) Weighting (30%)
  • Analysis of existing science communication product (2000 words) Weighting (30%)

 

Feedback methods

General comments on standard programme feedback sheet; specific notes via GradeMark; standard turnaround time applies.

 

Recommended reading

P. Bowler (2009), Science for All: the Popularization of Science in Early Twentieth-Century Britain (Chicago: University of Chicago Press).

J. Gregory and S. Miller (2000) Science in Public: Communication, Culture and Credibility (London: Plenum Trade).

B. Trench and M. Bucchi (2008, eds.), Handbook of Public Communication of Science and Technology (New York: Routledge).

A. Bell, S. Davies & F. Mellor (2008) Science and its Publics (Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Press).

P. Broks (2006) Understanding Popular Science (Maidenhead: Open University Press).

R. Holliman, et al. (2009) Investigating Science Communication in the Information Age (Oxford: Oxford University Press.).

R. Holliman, et al. (2009) Practising Science Communication in the Information Age: Theorising Professional Practices (Oxford: Oxford University Press.).

S. Allan (2002) Media, Risk and Science (New York: McGraw Hill).

R. Silverstone (1985) Framing Science: The Making of a BBC Documentary (London: BFI).   A. Hansen (1993) The Mass Media and Environmental Issues (Leicester University Press). D.A. Kirby (2011) Lab Coats in Hollywood: Science, Scientists, and Cinema (Cambridge, MA:MIT Press).

M. Bauer & M. Bucchi (2007) Journalism, Science and Society: Science Communication between News and Public Relations (London: Routledge).
 

Study hours

Independent study hours
Independent study 300

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Elizabeth Toon Unit coordinator

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