Why would a university want to offer a science communication major?   If so, what is it likely to include, given how universities tend to work?

This past year, the University of New South Wales (UNSW), one of Australia‚s premier research universities, launched a new undergraduate program in science communication.    Students will complete a science major as  well  as  a  combined  major  in  communication  and  science  and  technology  studies  (STS).   What  exactly goes  into  each  subject,  though,  remains  open  to  negotiation,  debate,  or  covert  design.   Key  stakeholders seem to agree that communication about science occurs in the media, in individual interactions at work and at home, as well as in educational settings.   Thus, a multi-faceted program is called for, including a large dose of hands-on practice in science communication.

This new major, though, has not been driven solely by an altruistic sense that our society needs able science communicators  to  assist  the  public  in  understanding  science.   The  way  in  which  science  is  taught  and portrayed, some argued, is driving young people away from science before they reach university.   They ask, if too  few  students  are  majoring  in  the  relevant  sciences,  how  is  Australia  going  to  play  a  role  in  the biotechnology  revolution?   Science  communication  majors,  though,  could  teach  science,  be  science journalists, or work in science museums and thus Œadvertise‚ science as a desirable career.

Another  argument  for  the  new  major  is  that  science  enrolments  in  Australian  universities  are  declining.  Faculties  with  popular  majors,  like  informatics  and  commerce,  are  winning  larger  shares  of  university resources.   Some reasoned that more students might enrol in science subjects if they were offered a degree involving science that would not necessitate a future in the laboratory.   What kind of science communicators such economic forces are going to produce?

This Œpaper‚ will involve attendees in a quick role play of debate among the various stakeholders involved.  The aim of the role play is to define specific topics for students to study, drawing from ˆ or expanding on ˆ a list supplied by the facilitator.   The topics selected will serve ideal desires and real-world horse trading among different interests.
 
 


 


 


 
 

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PCST Network

Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Explaining, persuading, mediating or all three?
How stakeholders design a science communication degree

Will Rifkin   Science Communication Faculty of Life Sciences

Why would a university want to offer a science communication major?   If so, what is it likely to include, given how universities tend to work?

This past year, the University of New South Wales (UNSW), one of Australia‚s premier research universities, launched a new undergraduate program in science communication.    Students will complete a science major as  well  as  a  combined  major  in  communication  and  science  and  technology  studies  (STS).   What  exactly goes  into  each  subject,  though,  remains  open  to  negotiation,  debate,  or  covert  design.   Key  stakeholders seem to agree that communication about science occurs in the media, in individual interactions at work and at home, as well as in educational settings.   Thus, a multi-faceted program is called for, including a large dose of hands-on practice in science communication.

This new major, though, has not been driven solely by an altruistic sense that our society needs able science communicators  to  assist  the  public  in  understanding  science.   The  way  in  which  science  is  taught  and portrayed, some argued, is driving young people away from science before they reach university.   They ask, if too  few  students  are  majoring  in  the  relevant  sciences,  how  is  Australia  going  to  play  a  role  in  the biotechnology  revolution?   Science  communication  majors,  though,  could  teach  science,  be  science journalists, or work in science museums and thus Œadvertise‚ science as a desirable career.

Another  argument  for  the  new  major  is  that  science  enrolments  in  Australian  universities  are  declining.  Faculties  with  popular  majors,  like  informatics  and  commerce,  are  winning  larger  shares  of  university resources.   Some reasoned that more students might enrol in science subjects if they were offered a degree involving science that would not necessitate a future in the laboratory.   What kind of science communicators such economic forces are going to produce?

This Œpaper‚ will involve attendees in a quick role play of debate among the various stakeholders involved.  The aim of the role play is to define specific topics for students to study, drawing from ˆ or expanding on ˆ a list supplied by the facilitator.   The topics selected will serve ideal desires and real-world horse trading among different interests.
 
 


 


 


 
 

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.

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