SCIENCE 7020 - Communicating Science

North Terrace Campus - Winter - 2014

Overview of science communication in the 21st century; Science writing: structuring articles and reports, writing effectively for both specialist and non-specialist audiences; Use of oral presentations and displays to communicate science; Use of emerging online social media in science communication.

  • General Course Information
    Course Details
    Course Code SCIENCE 7020
    Course Communicating Science
    Coordinating Unit Sciences General
    Term Winter
    Level Postgraduate Coursework
    Location/s North Terrace Campus
    Units 3
    Contact Up to 5 hours per week
    Course Description Overview of science communication in the 21st century; Science writing: structuring articles and reports, writing effectively for both specialist and non-specialist audiences; Use of oral presentations and displays to communicate science; Use of emerging online social media in science communication.
    Course Staff

    Course Coordinator: Associate Professor Natalie Williamson

    Course Timetable

    The full timetable of all activities for this course can be accessed from Course Planner.

  • Learning Outcomes
    Course Learning Outcomes
    1 an awareness and understanding of the background, fundamentals and theory of traditional and emerging media and how these relate to the communication of science.
    2 the ability to produce reports and written communications suitable for government and policymakers, newspaper articles and online publication.
    3 the ability to write a scientific paper suitable for publishing in a refereed journal.
    4 oral communication skills from speeches to soundbites.
    5 online communication skills from blog posts to viral videos.
    6 radio, print and television media management skills.
    7 the ability to build and maintain a network of contacts.
    8 an appreciation of the scope and diversity of science communication.
    9 development of responsible, ethical and respectful attitudes as the field undergoes disruptive change fuelled by rapid technology advancement.
    University Graduate Attributes

    This course will provide students with an opportunity to develop the Graduate Attribute(s) specified below:

    University Graduate Attribute Course Learning Outcome(s)
    Knowledge and understanding of the content and techniques of a chosen discipline at advanced levels that are internationally recognised. 1-8
    The ability to locate, analyse, evaluate and synthesise information from a wide variety of sources in a planned and timely manner. 2-6
    Skills of a high order in interpersonal understanding, teamwork and communication. 1-7
    A proficiency in the appropriate use of contemporary technologies. 4, 5
    A commitment to continuous learning and the capacity to maintain intellectual curiosity throughout life. 1-9
    A commitment to the highest standards of professional endeavour and the ability to take a leadership role in the community. 9
    An awareness of ethical, social and cultural issues within a global context and their importance in the exercise of professional skills and responsibilities. 9
  • Learning Resources
    Required Resources
    The Little Penguin Handbook (2nd Australasian Edition) (Lester Faigley: Longman; 2012)
    Recommended Resources
    Sharing Knowledge: A Guide to Effective Science Communication (Julian Cribb, Tjempaka Sari Hartomo: CSIRO Publishing; 2002) (Link to e-book from Barr Smith Library available on MyUni)

    Writing for Science (3rd ed; Heather Silyn-Roberts: Pearson, 2012)  (Available from the Barr Smith Library)

    Writing Scientific Research Articles: Strategy and Steps (Margaret Cargill, Patrick O’Connor: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009) (Available from the Barr Smith Library)

    Other required/recommended texts will be based on OER (open education resource) principles and will be available for free download online.

    Other reading material as provided by lecturers and/or made available on MyUni.
    Online Learning
    It is important that all students maintain active communication channels with the course coordinator and course teaching staff throughout the course. The primary communication channels from staff to students are email and MyUni for course-related announcements, teaching material and additional resources.

    The University's online learning management system, MyUni (, will be used to provide students with a variety of learning resources, including (but not limited to) the following:

    * Lecture notes
    * Assessment information
    * Marking rubrics
    * Links to other websites that may assist learning, or provide further information

    All learning resources will be provided electronically, and no printed copies will be supplied.

    MyUni will also be used on a regular basis to post announcements about assessment deadlines and other information related to the course and to send students emails to their University-provided student email account.
  • Learning & Teaching Activities
    Learning & Teaching Modes
    The course consists of 1 x 3 hour morning “lecture” block and 1 x 3 hour afternoon “workshop” block (or equivalent) for most days of the course.  The workshops will serve to reinforce the topics covered in lectures.  Some free afternoons have been built into the course structure to allow students time to assimilate knowledge and prepare for summative assessment tasks.

    The information below is provided as a guide to assist students in engaging appropriately with the course requirements.

    Learning activity Contact time Non-contact time
    Lectures 3-hour lecture block per day 2 hours preparation per lecture block
    (includes preparation for workshops)
    Workshops 3 hours per day
    (or equivalent)
    Blog posts - Approximately 1 hour per day
    Writing assignment - Approximately 10 hours spread over
    the duration of the course
    Presentations - Approximately 10 hours spread over
    the duration of the course
    Total hours per week Up to 6 contact hours per day Up to 5 non-contact hours (on
    average) per day
    Learning Activities Summary
    Lecture content:

    •    Background, fundamentals and theory of traditional media
    •    Background, fundamentals and theory of emerging media
    •    Writing skills
    o    Construction, use of appropriate language, editing
    o    Writing styles – formal and informal
    •    Oral communication skills – approaches, techniques, advice
    •    Online communication and emerging online social media – use in communicating science, approaches to using these techniques
    •    Radio, print and television media – different approaches for communicating science through different media, advice on how to manage aspects of these media outlets

    Several guest workshops will be run by visiting experts in one or more facets of the course objectives to support the lecture material.
  • Assessment

    The University's policy on Assessment for Coursework Programs is based on the following four principles:

    1. Assessment must encourage and reinforce learning.
    2. Assessment must enable robust and fair judgements about student performance.
    3. Assessment practices must be fair and equitable to students and give them the opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned.
    4. Assessment must maintain academic standards.

    Assessment Summary

    Assessment task Type of assessment Percentage of total assessment
    for grading purposes
    Blog post assignments Summative 50%
    Oral presentation 1 Summative 5%
    Oral presentation 2 Summative 15%
    Writing assignment Summative 30%
    Assessment Detail
    Blog post assignments (50% of the overall course grade)
    Students will be required to produce a blog post (no more than 1000 words) approximately every second day during the course, commenting on the day’s lecture content, or an area of science which is of interest to them (or both).  The blog post may incorporate video and/or other media content.  Students will receive regular online feedback for these blog posts, enabling them to chart their progress and improvement as the course progresses.

    Oral presentations (20% of the overall course grade)
    Students will be required to make two oral presentations over the duration of the course, enabling them to put into practice the communication skills they have been developing as well as demonstrate proficiency in the various technology and media available in presenting a topic to a live audience, engaging online participants and publishing appropriate records of the event online. The ability of a student to incorporate feedback by peers after delivery of a presentation will be addressed.

    Writing assignment (30% of the overall course grade)
    The writing assignment (word count approx 2000) will enable students to demonstrate their understanding of and ability to communicate science through the written word through any one of a number of potential outlets; for example, in the form of a text article, blog post or podcast.
    Extensions for Assessment Tasks
    Extensions of deadlines for assessment tasks may be allowed for reasonable causes. Such situations would include compassionate and medical grounds of the severity that would justify the awarding of a supplementary examination. Evidence for the grounds must be provided when an extension is requested. Students are required to apply for an extension to the Course Coordinator before the assessment task is due. Extensions will not be provided on the grounds of poor prioritising of time. The assessment extension application form can be obtained from:

    Late submission of assessments
    If an extension is not applied for, or not granted then a penalty for late submission will apply.  A penalty of 10% of the value of the assignment for each calendar day that the assignment is late (i.e. weekends count as 2 days), up to a maximum of 50% of the available marks will be applied. This means that an assignment that is 5 days late or more without an approved extension can only receive a maximum of 50% of the marks available for that assignment.
    Course Grading

    Grades for your performance in this course will be awarded in accordance with the following scheme:

    M10 (Coursework Mark Scheme)
    Grade Mark Description
    FNS   Fail No Submission
    F 1-49 Fail
    P 50-64 Pass
    C 65-74 Credit
    D 75-84 Distinction
    HD 85-100 High Distinction
    CN   Continuing
    NFE   No Formal Examination
    RP   Result Pending

    Further details of the grades/results can be obtained from Examinations.

    Grade Descriptors are available which provide a general guide to the standard of work that is expected at each grade level. More information at Assessment for Coursework Programs.

    Final results for this course will be made available through Access Adelaide.

  • Student Feedback

    The University places a high priority on approaches to learning and teaching that enhance the student experience. Feedback is sought from students in a variety of ways including on-going engagement with staff, the use of online discussion boards and the use of Student Experience of Learning and Teaching (SELT) surveys as well as GOS surveys and Program reviews.

    SELTs are an important source of information to inform individual teaching practice, decisions about teaching duties, and course and program curriculum design. They enable the University to assess how effectively its learning environments and teaching practices facilitate student engagement and learning outcomes. Under the current SELT Policy ( course SELTs are mandated and must be conducted at the conclusion of each term/semester/trimester for every course offering. Feedback on issues raised through course SELT surveys is made available to enrolled students through various resources (e.g. MyUni). In addition aggregated course SELT data is available.

  • Student Support
  • Policies & Guidelines
  • Fraud Awareness

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