Introduction to Science Communication

Course Description

With the growing impact of science and technology on our society, the emphasis on communicating that science well has never been greater. But what is effective science communication? Is it ever ok to use jargon? Is it ok to say “I” in my research report? How do I communicate complex topics in simple, but accurate, ways?

In this course, we will explore the variety of formats that science communication can take — from technical research papers on particle physics to children’s books about genetics. We will explore how different audiences shape the way science is communicated, and we will develop a set of best practices for effective science communication. Students will then apply these strategies in their own science communication projects.

Main Assignments

  • Genre Analysis Discussion/Activity Leading: Coordinating with 2-3 other students, you will design and lead class discussion and activities to facilitate our investigation of different science communication genres, helping us to understand the rhetorical situations they have evolved to address and to consider their characteristic forms, techniques, successes, and challenges.
  • Literature Review: You will produce a literature review — a technical, written overview that draws from the existing literature — on a topic of your choice. You will pitch your topics early in the quarter and create a figure to accompany your review. Students in the past have written on topics such as: Google DeepMind and using gaming as a sandbox for AI development, tuberculosis in Tibetan refugee populations, and how visual prostheses and retinal implants could cure blindness.
  • Public Audience Text: You will distill your technical literature review for a non-specialist audience. You can choose the medium/genre you want to work with, either written or non-written (podcast, video, infographic, etc.). For example, students in previous classes have produced magazine-style articles, short science fiction stories, podcasts, recorded presentations, and video animations.