MSc Science, Communication and Society

University of Kent, School of Biosciences

Program Description

MSc Science, Communication and Society

University of Kent, School of Biosciences

The Kent MSc in Science, Communication and Society gives critical, professional and practical perspectives on science communication.

Using the latest scholarship, we enable students to get behind contemporary and historic science to understand how knowledge is created and consumed within society. The course also features professionals from a range of sectors (medical writing, journalism, industry, policy). These bring real-life case studies that inform students’ critical perspectives on science communication. Practical and innovative assessments harness students’ developing knowledge to create a portfolio of skills that are highly valued by employers.

Science, Communication and Society is intended primarily, though not exclusively, for the following:

  • Science graduates intending to pursue a career within science but not in the laboratory
  • Humanities graduates with an interest in Science and Technology Studies
  • Practising scientists wanting a career change into media, education, policy or other communicational area of science

The programme is led by Dr. Charlotte Sleigh, Director of the University’s Centre for the History of the Sciences, and Dr. Dan Lloyd, Reader in the School of Biosciences. Both are active researchers with a passion for explaining their research to non-specialist audiences. They are also award-winning teachers; Dan has won a National Teaching Fellowship in recognition of his science communication work with undergraduates.

Programme structure

The MSc programme consists of two core modules (Autumn term), two optional modules (Spring term), and a project (Summer term and vacation). Each of the modules comprises 30 postgraduate credits, with the project comprising 60 credits. Part-time students undertake one module per term over a two year period

Core modules

Science@work - Science has a profound influence on professional practice in the private and public sector. This module considers the ways in which different professions interact with science and scientists, and their interactions with the public. The module includes seminars and discussions with active science communicators from diverse professional backgrounds (the media, education, industry, government, political lobbying, law). The speakers will illustrate their work and, using appropriate case studies, describe the role of science communication within their profession. This module will also give students an idea of the range of careers available to effective science communicators, and offers networking opportunities with its visiting tutors.

History of Science Communication - There is no better way to understand how scientific knowledge is made and consumed today than to look at how this happened in the past. Examples come from the 200 years ago up to the present day, and highlight how changes in the media of knowledge have shaped our understanding of science – the steam-driven printing press, public lectures, museums, TV and internet. How have audience needs and interests changed during this time, and what can we apply from this understanding to implement appropriate communication of today's scientific developments?

Optional modules

Science Communication in Practice - In order to communicate effectively with the public, we must understand what the publicis. Which groups are represented within this broad classification? Which are easiest and which are most difficult to reach? How do we tailor scientific information for these different groups? In this module, existing knowledge of science communication practices will be applied to practical exercises in communicating scientific concepts to different audiences using a variety of media, during discussion/group work sessions. The module will also consider how to evaluate the effectiveness of science communication activities using qualitative and quantitative methods, and how to apply these methods to students' own work.

Science, Ethics and Controversy - Science is often presented as a united body of knowledge, where serious instances of disagreement, exaggeration, fraud or malpractice are explained away as due to rogue practitioners or sensationalisation by the media. But actually, disagreement is a fundamental part of science, as the sociological case studies of this module will show. It considers the complex relationship between scientists and their peers, sponsors, and patrons (including the media) and examines problems in the ethics of research and publication through discussion of controversial examples.

Visualising Science - Graphs, drawings and photographs intuitively seem to provide very direct means of communicating and understanding science. However, the making and reading of pictures are in fact highly complex processes, behind which lie many hidden psychological and cultural assumptions. The module starts by discussing some classic scholarship that helps expose these assumptions. Armed with this more sophisticated ability to deconstruct pictures, we go on to consider such case studies as body-imaging, visualising ecology and evolution, Edward Tufte's 'beautiful evidence', science in adverts, and many more. Students emerge from the module able to understand how images work, and ready to use them wisely.

Students can also select from relevant modules offered on other programmes, currently:

  • Geiger Counter at Ground Zero
  • Science in translation: Western science in the non-western world
  • Deformed, Deranged and Deviant: Doctors & Difference 1850-2000

Research project

The Science Communication Masters Project is the culmination of the MSc programme, and students are expected to apply the knowledge they have gained from individual modules to examine an appropriate issue in depth, with a focus on its communication and interpretation. The project will take place during the Summer Term and during the Summer University Vacation. Each student will be supervised by a member of academic staff in either the School of Biosciences or the School of History, depending upon the nature of the project. Your supervisor will discuss your research and approach with you. In some cases, we may also use experience from contacts outside the University to assist with specific elements of your project.

Fees & admissions

The entry requirement for the programme is at least an Upper Second Class Honours degree. Given the multidisciplinary, integrated nature of the programme, we will not assume a high level of scientific knowledge or humanities experience amongst entrants, and are flexible about the subject of your undergraduate studies. We will expect students to have an enthusiasm for science, and a willingness to learn about scientific concepts. Similarly, science graduates will be expected to engage with perspectives from the humanities, and to avail themselves of the guidance and support provided in preparing extended essays and seminar material. The interdisciplinary approach will ensure that all participants will leave with significant transferable skills upon completion of the programme. The fees for this master's course are as follows:

£5,600 Home/EU students £13,340 International students

Fees for part-time study are half of the full-time equivalent.

Please note that the School of Biosciences has a number of funding and scholarship opportunities for master's students. Please visit the funding and scholarships page to review eligibility criteria and the application procedure.

This school offers programs in:
  • English


Last updated August 22, 2016
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This course is Campus based
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Aug. 2016
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1 - 2 years
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Full time
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Start date Aug. 2016
Place
United Kingdom Canterbury, England
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Duration 1 - 2 years
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