You will study six modules before either completing your 15,000 word dissertation or an independent practice focussed project.
You will study six core modules:
Science Communication in Theory and Practice 1
This module will guide you in understanding public attitudes toward science and technology, providing you with insights into the thinking behind today's science communication practice and the skills necessary to summarise and convey research findings from a range of different fields. You will trace the history of research into the public understanding of science and profile recent critiques of 'top down' models of science communication. In the process, you will explore different ways of thinking about the relationship between scientific knowledge and society.
You will become familiar with core academic and policy literature and be equipped with vital methodological skills that will allow you to assess a range of scientific literature and carry out research projects yourself. The module will also provide a broad introduction to setting where science communication takes place and to the various governmental, public and private stakeholders involved.
Assessment: A 2,500-word essay and a group presentation
Science and Technology in Culture, History, Literature and the Arts
This module will analyse the varied ways in which history, literature studies and the wider arts can inform science communication and understandings of science in society. The module will give an historical overview of the emergence of the idea of modern science, the role of the 'scientist' and the practice of science communication. It will provide you with an understanding of the social forces that led to the professionalisation of science and how these forces resulted in science, and the idea of the scientist, being presented to the public in particular ways.
In the process, the module will introduce you to the different cultural narratives that have become embedded within science communication, looking at the different strategies and moral or existential ideas that have been employed to make science appealing – or appalling – to the public. It will explore how these have emerged in a variety of media and cultural forms, ranging from literature and documentary programming to popular culture. At the same time, the module will explore how literature and art in diverse forms can play a role in attracting audiences to science and offering new and thought-provoking interpretations and inflections of scientific data and theories, technological innovation, and their significance
Assessment: A 1,000-word essay and a 3,000-word essay
Communicating Science in Diverse, Unequal and Polarised Societies
This module will focus on the challenges of communicating science within societies that are unequal, socially diverse and politically divided and where, as a result, expertise and 'official' forms of knowledge may be challenged or treated with scepticism. It will introduce research into, and current debates about, access, exclusion and discrimination in science careers and communication, enabling students to understand how inequalities associated with race, gender, sexuality and (non)religion have been embedded into scientific institutions historically, and how such inequalities impact upon trust in scientific institutions today.
It will critically examine work undertaken by policymakers and science institutions to try and break down barriers to science careers and institutions, as well as to make science communication more accessible, and acceptable, to people from a wide range of identities, backgrounds and political persuasions. It will enable you to better understand inequalities in the sciences by introducing them to concepts such as 'science identity', 'social capital' and 'racialisation'.
The module will focus primarily on science and science policy in the UK, but it will also look beyond the UK, considering how science institutions and inequalities differ across different national contexts and how transnational relationships and the legacy of colonialism continue to influence the reception of science knowledge
Assessment: 4,000-word reflective essay
Science Communication in Theory and Practice 2
This module will introduce you to the different methodologies that inform the way we think about science and publics, including quantitative and qualitative sociology, social psychology, media studies and historical research. The module will incorporate specialist lectures that introduce the theoretical contexts of different forms of qualitative and quantitative research and reflective seminar-based activities that will be designed to allow critical engagement with framing issues in STEMM research outputs. In particular, you will focus on developing the technical literacy and methodical skills necessary to read and critically engage with technical STEMM publications. This will train you to tackle complex STEMM publications in such a way that they can translate and communicate them in an accessible way to a wide range of stakeholders and publics.
This module will focus on teaching you to use methodological skills you gained in the first module to summarise and communicate scientific papers to a lay audience succinctly. It will also help you to devise a manageable research question, with appropriate methods, for your dissertation.
Assessment: 1000-word summary of a STEMM research article and a 3,000 word dissertation proposal
Sustainable Futures and Responsible Research
This module will focus on how science communication can influence public attitudes toward and debates about technology, the environment and sustainability, in both positive and negative ways. It will encompass a variety of themes – such as the use and disposal of plastics, zero-carbon initiatives, aviation, biodiversity and the climate crisis – and will explore how these raise questions about knowledge, trust, expertise and one-directional models of science communication. The module will explore the roles that local and national governments, private companies, inter-governmental organisations, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and issue- and geography-specific local, community or campaign groups have played and continue to play in science communication. It will also show how regional and state approaches to science policy have affected the scientific landscape of the UK and other states, as well as the promotion of – and resistance to – science and new technologies.
The module will pay particular attention to the idea of responsible research and innovation (RRI) as a recent approach to embedding democratisation within science communication and policy. RRI brings together researchers, innovators, publics, policy makers and business to work together in developing scientific and technological futures for the public good and seeks to engage publics while innovations are being shaped and prior to implementation. By exploring different examples of RRI, you will be able to evaluate the approach while also gaining insight into career pathways available in science communication.
Assessment: 2 X 2,000 word essays
Masterclasses in Communicating Science and Technology
This module will focus on the skills and principles that contribute to effective practice in science communication, with particular reference to the role of social identity in the communication of science and the challenges of communicating science to diverse and pluralistic audiences, both in the UK and internationally. It will challenge you to think about stereotypes and presumptions that science communicators might hold, and how these stereotypes might affect the way scientific concepts and new technologies are received by publics.
The module will look at past examples of science communication failures as well as successes from individuals from different sectors involved in science communication. It will examine the work of, and provide the opportunity to learn from, a wide range of science communicators working in a range of scientific disciplines, mediums of representation and national contexts. It will also provide you with opportunities to create their own science communication content.
Assessment: A portfplio of four pieces of science communication and a 2,000-word essay
Communicating Science and Technology Dissertation or Independent Project
In addition to your taught modules, you will carry out either:
- A research dissertation that involves investigating a subject of their choice relating to some aspect of science communication or the public understanding of science.
- One 15,000 word written dissertation presenting a research project
- An independent practice-focused project that involves creating equivalent science communication content or activities
- Original science communication content submitted alongside a 5,000 word reflective essay outlining the rationale informing the aims and production of the content.
Academic Writing Course
In addition, you will be offered a course in Academic Writing. Those whose first language is not English are particularly encouraged to follow this course.
Please note that the optional module information listed on the website for this programme is intended to be indicative, and the availability of optional modules may vary from year to year. Where a module is no longer available we will let you know as soon as we can and help you to make other choices.