SCIENCE 4020 - Communicating Science

North Terrace Campus - Winter - 2021

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 4020
    Course Communicating Science
    Coordinating Unit Sciences General
    Term Winter
    Level Undergraduate
    Location/s North Terrace Campus
    Units 3
    Contact Up to 5 hours per day
    Available for Study Abroad and Exchange N
    Incompatible SCIENCE 2500, SCIENCE 3200, SCIENCE 7020
    Restrictions Available to Honours students only
    Assessment Blog posts, oral presentations, assignment
    Course Staff

    Course Coordinator: Dr Sara Krivickas

    Course Timetable

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

  • Learning Outcomes
    Course Learning Outcomes
    On successful completion of this course, students should be able to:

    1. show 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. produce reports and written communications suitable for government and policymakers, newspaper articles and online publication.
    3. demonstrate oral communication skills from speeches to soundbites.
    4. demonstrate online communication skills from blog posts to viral videos.
    5. demonstrate radio, print and television media management skills.
    6. build and maintain a network of contacts.
    7. demonstrate an appreciation of the scope and diversity of science communication.
    8. demonstrate responsible, ethical and respectful attitudes as the field undergoes disruptive change fuelled by rapid technology advancement.
    9. analyse several points of view on a potentially controversial scientific issue and integrate them into a commentary that considers a number of aspects of the topic without bias.
    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)
    Deep discipline knowledge
    • informed and infused by cutting edge research, scaffolded throughout their program of studies
    • acquired from personal interaction with research active educators, from year 1
    • accredited or validated against national or international standards (for relevant programs)
    Teamwork and communication skills
    • developed from, with, and via the SGDE
    • honed through assessment and practice throughout the program of studies
    • encouraged and valued in all aspects of learning
    Career and leadership readiness
    • technology savvy
    • professional and, where relevant, fully accredited
    • forward thinking and well informed
    • tested and validated by work based experiences
    Intercultural and ethical competency
    • adept at operating in other cultures
    • comfortable with different nationalities and social contexts
    • able to determine and contribute to desirable social outcomes
    • demonstrated by study abroad or with an understanding of indigenous knowledges
    Self-awareness and emotional intelligence
    • a capacity for self-reflection and a willingness to engage in self-appraisal
    • open to objective and constructive feedback from supervisors and peers
    • able to negotiate difficult social situations, defuse conflict and engage positively in purposeful debate
  • Learning Resources
    Required Resources
    The Little Penguin Handbook (3rd Australasian Edition) (Lester Faigley: Longman; 2014)
    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 Up to 6 hours (on average) 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:
         Construction, use of appropriate language, editing
         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
    Due to the current COVID-19 situation modified arrangements have
    been made to assessments to facilitate remote learning and teaching.
    Assessment Task Task Type Due Weighting Learning Outcome
    Blog Posts  Summative

    Week 4

    50% 1, 4, 7, 9
    Oral Presentation  Summative Date to be advised 20% 1, 3, 5, 7
    Writing Assignment  Summative Week 4 30% 1, 2, 7, 9
    Assessment Detail
    Blog post assignments (50% of overall course grade)
    Students will be required to produce 9 blog posts (approximately 1000 words each) every second or third day during the course, explaining a science topic which is of interest to them.  The blog posts may incorporate video and/or other media content and will allow students to develop and demonstrate their understanding of online media as a communication tool.  Students will receive regular online formative feedback for these blog posts, enabling them to chart their progress and improvement as the course progresses.  At the end of the course, each student’s collection of blog posts will be marked summatively as one body of work.

    Oral presentations (20% of overall course grade)
    Students will be required to make an oral presentation for the course at a later date (to be determined) This will enable students 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.

    Writing assignment (30% of 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 in the form of a text article.  Students will be provided with a list of topics (based on more complex scientific issues) from which to choose.  The writing assignment will be due approximately two weeks after the second oral presentation.
    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:

    M11 (Honours Mark Scheme)
    GradeGrade reflects following criteria for allocation of gradeReported on Official Transcript
    Fail A mark between 1-49 F
    Third Class A mark between 50-59 3
    Second Class Div B A mark between 60-69 2B
    Second Class Div A A mark between 70-79 2A
    First Class A mark between 80-100 1
    Result Pending An interim result RP
    Continuing Continuing CN

    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
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