PWR 91KS:  Design Thinking and Science Communication 

Instructor:  Kim Savelson


How can we draw on the techniques and habits of mind of scientists, and combine this approach with the habits of designers?   Scientists are used to designing experiments; design thinkers are used to thinking radically about innovation.  By acknowledging the value of collaborative design and scientific thinking, innovation and exploration can occur with far more effective results.  In this course, we will study the iterative process of design thinking that enables everyone, not just designers, to explore problems and creatively answer the question “how do we make it better?”  We will specifically study design thinking for science communication, so that students are better able to communicate new science knowledge to publics and to policy makers.  Our driving questions will be: how can design thinking, or human-centered design, inform communication strategies to promote public science understanding, and even acceptance for scientific consensus itself?  As a student in the course you’ll have the chance to learn the methods and reasoning of design thinking and how this process can be applied to create successful communication events among scientists, science communicators, policy makers and the public. 

Students will focus their research projects on real-world science communication situations that present a multidimensional design/communication challenge: superbugs, energy debates, evolution, climate change, nuclear power, vaccinations, predictive DNA diagnostics, epigenetics.

We will take a ‘real-world problem’ approach in our course; you will be engaged in problem-based learning, in collaborative groups, as you study the rhetoric of scientific discourse around a particular topic and then prototype (create) new communication artifacts designed to persuade and engage a real, specific community (the safety of childhood vaccines is a good example of a troubled area for science communication).  You’ll be encouraged to think big in this course—and draw on innovative mindsets—as you go forward researching and then “solving” a communication challenge.