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MSc Communicating Science and Technology

Start date
September
Duration
1 year full-time, 2 years part-time
Course Type
Postgraduate, Taught
Fees

This programme will launch in September 2024. The fees for 2023 are available for guidance only.

How can you communicate complex scientific ideas and data effectively? What are the techniques and challenges of science communication in a globalised, polarised and rapidly changing world?

 

Launching September 2024

If you are interested in this course or have any questions, please contact us.

 

The MSc in Communicating Science and Technology offers you a solid grounding in the theory and practice of communicating science to a wide range of audiences and via a variety of media, old and new.

The course provides training in analysing public attitudes to science, practical skills in creating and communicating scientific content, and guidance in public engagement on contested subjects. Alongside these, it includes core content on equality and diversity in Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths and Medicine (STEMM) and innovation, the role of social identities and global dimensions in science communication, the function of the arts in communicating and interpreting science, and the critical importance of sustainability and social responsibility within science and technology communication.

Drawing on the multi-disciplinary expertise of the Institute for STEMM in Culture and Society (ISTEMMiCS) at the University of Birmingham, this programme bridges the gap between the arts and sciences. It is designed to equip students and professionals with a STEMM background with the skills to engage in science communication and enable people trained in the social sciences and humanities, or working in fields from media and the arts to public relations and policy, to apply their knowledge and insights to science and technology. 

At Birmingham, Postgraduate Taught and Postgraduate Research students also have the opportunity to learn graduate academic languages free of charge, to support your studies.

  

Please note: The MSc will be available for September 2024 entry. If you are interested in the course or have any questions, please contact us.

Why study this course?

  • Range of teaching and research expertise – Staff in the Institute for STEMM in Culture and Society manage multiple multi-million-pound international research projects and research, publish and teach across a wide range of areas. They have particularly strong teaching and research interests in future technologies, science and the arts, expertise in society, and diversity and inclusion in STEMM. 
  • Multi-disciplinary learning study – The Institute brings together staff from across the University of Birmingham’s Colleges, including Engineering and Physical Sciences, Social Sciences, and Arts and Law. Students taking this course will be taught by staff from across the whole University, creating a unique bridge between humanities, social science and STEMM disciplines.
  • Gain practical skills for your future career – The range of modules have been designed so that you will gain a rounded understanding of science communication and gain practical experience of communicating complex topics to a wider audience. This course is designed to help students understand the full range of career opportunities in science communication, including not only media and journalism but also different career pathways in industry and public relations.
  • Access to a wide range of services – as a postgraduate student you will have access to services such as the Academic Writing Advisory Service and the Bank of Assessed Work which will aid your transition from undergraduate to postgraduate level, or back into academia after a time away. 

The postgraduate experience

The College of Arts and Law offers excellent support to its postgraduates, from libraries and research spaces, to careers support and funding opportunities. Learn more about your postgraduate experience.

Modules

You will study six modules before either completing your 15,000 word dissertation or an independent practice focussed project.

Core modules

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

OR

  • 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.

Fees

This exciting new course launches in September 2024 so the fees below are presented as a guide only.

We charge an annual tuition fee. Fees for 2023 are as follows:

  • UK: £10,170 full-time; £5,085 part-time
  • International: £21,150 full-time

The above fees quoted are for one year only; for those studying over two or more years, tuition fees will also be payable in subsequent years of your programme.

Fee status

Eligibility for UK or international fees can be verified with Admissions. Learn more about fees for international students

Paying your fees

Tuition fees can either be paid in full or by instalments. Learn more about postgraduate tuition fees and funding.


Are you an international applicant?

All international applicants to this course will be required to pay a non-refundable deposit of £2,000 on receipt of an offer, to secure their place.

Find out more about the deposit >>.

Scholarships and studentships

Scholarships to cover fees and/or maintenance costs may be available. To discover whether you are eligible for any award across the University, and to start your funding application, please visit the University's Postgraduate Funding Database.

International students can often gain funding through overseas research scholarships, Commonwealth scholarships or their home government.

How To Apply

This MSc will be launching in September 2024.

Applications for September 2024 entry will open in autumn 2023. If you are interested in the course or have any questions in the meantime, please contact us.

Our Standard Requirements

We usually require an upper second-class Honours degree, or equivalent, in any academic discipline due to the interdisciplinary nature of this course. Appropriate work experience will also be taken into consideration.

International/EU students

Academic requirements: We accept a range of qualifications from different countries - use our handy guide below to see what qualifications we accept from your country.

English language requirements: standard language requirements apply for this course - IELTS 6.5 with no less than 6.5 in any band. If you are made an offer of a place to study and you do not meet the language requirement, you have the option to enrol on our English for Academic Purposes Presessional Course - if you successfully complete the course, you will be able to fulfil the language requirement without retaking a language qualification.

IELTS 6.5 with no less than 6.5 in any band is equivalent to:

  • TOEFL: 88 overall with no less than 22 in any band
  • Pearson Test of English (PTE): Academic 67 in all four skills
  • Cambridge English (exams taken from 2015): Advanced - minimum overall score of 176, with no less than 176 in any component

Learn more about international entry requirements

International Requirements


Course delivery

We have two teaching semesters per year, the autumn semester and spring semester. Semester dates can be found on our website.

As a full-time student, you will typically take three modules in each semester, followed by your dissertation or research project. 

Each module represents a total of 200 hours of study time, including seminars, preparatory reading, assignment preparation and independent study.

Support with academic writing

As a postgraduate student in the College of Arts and Law, you have access to the Academic Writing Advisory Service (AWAS) which aims to help your transition from undergraduate to taught Masters level, or back into academia after time away. The service offers guidance on writing assignments and dissertations for your MA/MSc programme with individual support from an academic writing advisor via tutorials, email and the provision of online materials.

International students can access support for English Language development and skills through the Birmingham International Academy (BIA).

Preparing you for your future career

Due to the broad scope of interdisciplinary nature of this course, it will be ideal preparation for a range of careers. These are not just those specialising in science communication, such as journalism and museums, but also industries whose work involves communicating complex topics to the wider public.

Support from the Careers Network

Your degree will provide excellent preparation for your future career, but this can also be enhanced by a range of employability support services offered by the University and the College of Arts and Law.

The University's Careers Network provides expert guidance and activities especially for postgraduates, which will help you achieve your career goals. The College of Arts and Law also has a dedicated  careers and employability team who offer tailored advice and a programme of College-specific careers events.

You will be encouraged to make the most of your postgraduate experience and will have the opportunity to:

  • Receive one-to-one careers advice, including guidance on your job applications, writing your CV and improving your interview technique, whether you are looking for a career inside or outside of academia
  • Meet employers face-to-face at on-campus recruitment fairs and employer presentations
  • Attend an annual programme of careers fairs, skills workshops and conferences, including bespoke events for postgraduates in the College of Arts and Law
  • Take part in a range of activities to demonstrate your knowledge and skills to potential employers and enhance your CV

What’s more, you will be able to access our full range of careers support for up to 2 years after graduation.

 

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