2016 Communicating Science and Engineering in Society

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Breadth courses
Hope Tom 
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Intensive ()  
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Course description and aims

Scientists and Engineers increasingly have to understand the foreseen and unforeseen consequences in society of the development of knowledge and technology, in addition to communicating research to others outside of their field or level of expertise.
In this short project-based course, students work together to understand a current transdisciplinary issue and help communicate it to a group of non-university students to help them do the same. The course is designed to engage students from different cultural, linguistic and disciplinary backgrounds in discussion. In the final session participants communicate their results to non-experts, a task that many will need to do in their future careers.

Student learning outcomes

By the end of this course, students will be able to:
1) Explain critically about some of the transdisciplinary aspects of science and engineering issues in society today
2) Understand and explain some of the challenges of communicating these issues to non-experts or those outside of their own discipline
3) Communicate more clearly with students from other cultures, ages and academic fields
4) Solve some challenges of communication of socio-technical issues


Science communication, transdisciplinary, cross-cultural, public understanding of science and technology, society

Competencies that will be developed

Specialist skills Intercultural skills Communication skills Critical thinking skills Practical and/or problem-solving skills

Class flow

Each class begins with a review of progress so far and consists of group work to understand a transdisciplinary issue and design an effective method of communicating aspects of it to non-experts. The class is in an active-learning style focusing on participation of all members (including non-expert participants in later classes).

Course schedule/Required learning

  Course schedule Required learning
Class 1 Introduction to the course and setting themes - Form groups and decide the transdisciplinary issue Understand the complex nature of socio-technical issues around the globe. Allocate roles of group members.
Class 2 Initial Ideas - Presentations of the initial explanation and suggested solutions to group issues Explain clearly the issue, suggested solutions and how you will help to communicate this to non-experts
Class 3 Discussing and forming unique responses - Developing responses to group issues involving non-expert members Engage non-experts into discussion on the issue. Use knowledge learned to develop a unique solution. Reflect on ways to improve communication.
Class 4 Presentations and reflection - Presentations by non-expert group members followed by Q&A and reflection session Respond to presentations with appropriate questions. Critically evaluate own group’s performance and offer advice to others.



Reference books, course materials, etc.

Students should examine science and engineering news in their own countries’ newspapers and popular science and engineering magazines.

Assessment criteria and methods

Active participation in group activities according to role (40%) Submission of a short video documenting the process (30%), a short reflective comment report (30%)

Related courses

  • LAW.X401 : Science Communication for Global Talents Overseas Programme
  • GEG.S411 : Global Science Communication and Engagement

Prerequisites (i.e., required knowledge, skills, courses, etc.)

Ability to communicate and discuss in English.

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