MSc in Science Communication and Public Engagement

Core courses

Core courses currently on offer as part of the MSc in Science Communication and Public Engagement.

Semester 1

Principles and practice in science communication and public engagement (20 credits)

The fields of science communication and public engagement have undergone rapid development in the last decade and science communication and public engagement are emerging as areas of academic scholarship, grounded in practice. We will explore the key principles of effective engagement and consider evaluation methodologies and their role in the enhancement of quality science communication and public engagement. Personal attributes and the value of reflective practice will be explored and discussed using contextual examples.

Science, Society and the Media (20 credits)

This course explores the development of science communication particularly over the last 25 years. It considers the social, cultural and political context in which the public engagement agenda has emerged over the past 15-20 years. The course will examine the nature of scientific knowledge. It will explore the scientific method, reflect on established scientific knowledge and scientific uncertainty and the application of science in technological advances. Students will examine the communication of science within and beyond the academic community and develop an awareness of how perceptions and (mis) understandings arise. Using contemporary examples and contexts, students will discuss potential stakeholders for issues involving science and identify sources of information and misinformation available to the stakeholders. The course will explore the role of the media in science communication and the alignment and tensions between the objectives of the scientist and the media. Students will be taught by seminars supplemented by in-course reading and reflection.

The Role of Social Media in Science Communication and Public Engagement (10 credits)

This course examines the range of Social Media tools available and studies their use in a science communication/public engagement context. The opportunities and challenges of engaging in an accurate and approachable way through social media will be examined through group discussion. The sessions will explore how social media forms one aspect of science communication/public engagement programmes and how different channels can be combined effectively. The challenges of understanding the needs, expectations and concerns of specific audiences will be examined. The issues and ethics, accessibility and the appropriateness of using these media will also be discussed. We will look at how to find the right "voice" and tone for your audience.

Science Communication/ Public Engagement Placement (10 credits)

An eight week (one day per week) placement within a science communication/ engagement work-setting which will involve the completion and evaluation of a science communication task.

Semester 2

Dialogue for Science Communication and Public Engagement (20 credits)

'Dialogue' is an approach to communication that privileges mutual listening, learning and understanding. The practice of dialogue has been developed, with palpable results, in the arenas of public participation, organisational development and conflict resolution. And theorising about dialogue is now a recognised strand of scholarship within communication studies.

The role of science public engagement practitioners has evolved substantially in the last decade. In addition to their traditional work as science communicators, they are now also expected to act as facilitators of meaningful conversations between researchers, practitioners, citizens and policy makers. Often, those conversations aim to increase understanding and build relationships (dialogue). Sometimes, they also seek to inform decision-making processes (deliberative dialogue). In both cases, public engagement practitioners must be able to facilitate participatory processes that foster interpersonal communication across various divides (e.g. expertise, jargon, values, worldviews). Accordingly, this course enables students to become skilful and reflective facilitators capable of designing and facilitating dialogic processes.

Science Education (10 credits)

This theme will explore formal science education and science teaching pedagogy from the perspective of a science communicator. It will include an introduction to science curricula both national and international, theories of how children learn science, misconceptions in science, working with schools and teachers, managing groups and behaviour, enhancing the school science curriculum and the interaction of formal and informal science learning.

Science, Policy and Practice (10 credits)

This course will introduce you to the worlds of knowledge mobilisation and policy as practice. It will enable you to understand and develop your role as a knowledge broker in policy contexts, and will provide you with analytic tools and practical skills for reflective practice. In this course we actively explore, through theory and practice, the role of the knowledge broker as a practitioner who connects research, policy and practice by effectively mobilising knowledge and fostering interfaces between organisations (e.g. research centres, government agencies, public services), people (e.g. research and policy communities) and materials (e.g. research reports, policy documents). The course provides you with a grounded understanding of policy as a field of practice and policy-making as a rich, non-linear process, in which you can become an active agent. Accordingly, the course aims to enhance your capacity to critically analyse the interface between science and policy in your area of work, thus enabling you to develop the 'know-how' to actively engage in shaping it. The work of a knowledge broker unfolds at the junction of two current trends in terms of knowledge and policy, namely the research impact agenda and the evidence-informed policy-making agenda. This course's objective is to prepare you to thrive in such context by developing your analytical skills and capacity for reflective practice.

Choice of Elective courses (10 credits)

Choose one from our Elective courses, worth 10 credits.

Elective courses

Science Communication and Public Engagement Placement 2

An eight week (one day per week) placement within a science communication/public engagement setting which will involve the completion and evaluation of a science communication/public engagement task.

Learning Outcomes

  1. Demonstrate the successful application of guiding principles in science communication and public engagement
  2. Reflect on and improve one's own practice
  3. Successfully complete workplace tasks

Following Semester 2

Science Communication and Public Engagement Dissertation