BMS3016 : Science Communication

Semester 1 Credit Value: 10
ECTS Credits: 5.0


•To introduce science communication as a skill and as a career choice.
•To explore a range of careers in communication and understand the relationship of these careers to bioscience.
•To examine and compare the principles and techniques of science communication in different media and when catering to different audiences.
•To develop students’ communication, teamworking and overall employability skills by creating a short portfolio of work showcasing their skills in science communication.

Outline Of Syllabus

The module will include:
•How to write for the web
•Regular practice in producing web-based content
•Science communication and the public
•Science communication in the classroom
•Science communication in the media
Science communication within science
•Science communication and policy

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture81:008:00Including at least 7 guest lectures
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesPractical81:008:00Students blog after each guest lecture and discuss each other's blogs and receive online feedback.
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching11:001:00Small groups meet with Module Leader to discuss assignments.
Guided Independent StudySkills practice60:303:00Upload blogs/tweets
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops32:006:00Facilitated by guest lecturers
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study174:0074:00Independent study, assessment preparation
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures: the first to introduce the module; the remainder to be delivered by a range of guest speakers working in different roles in science communication. The guest lectures will showcase the range of careers in science communication, and will explain both the nature of each role and the communication techniques required, allowing students to compare and contrast science communication in different contexts.

Practical sessions: held after guest lectures. Students will work individually to structure and write posts for a university student blog, based on what they have learned from the guest speaker about their career. This will require the students to engage fully with each guest speaker in the lecture; reinforce the learning from the lectures; and allow the students to develop their written communication skills whilst producing a portfolio of their work. Peer feedback on these blogs will enable students to critically reflect on content and communication, enabling students to make an informed decision regarding which blogs to submit for assessment.

Workshops: The first will involve working with a freelance newspaper journalist, guidance on writing a press release will be given. This knowledge will then be applied throughout the workshop with the end result being the writing of press releases for practice and assessment based on a recent scientific journal article from Newcastle University. The second and third workshop will involve practicing good oral presentation skills and the session will cover voice control, body language and good presenting skills. Additional and optional further sessions will also be promoted within this module. New skills can then be applied in the oral presentations at the end of the course.

Small Group Teaching: Sessions with the module leader will allow for the discussion of ideas and assessments to take place.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Oral Presentation101A25Individual Presentation
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written exercise1M50Students submit two blog posts for assessment along with short reflection on what they have learnt about science communication.
Written exercise1M25Based on oral presentation above, produce an article for print media in the format of a press release.
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

Written exercise 1 (750 words): Based on the guest lecture and topic of science communication complemented by their own further research, students will individually write 250 word blogs after several of the guest lectures. Blogs must be based on the guest lectures / sessions or on the field of science communication. They will choose two of these for assessment, and will write a further 250 word reflective piece on what they have learned about the skills involved in science communication.

Oral presentation (10 minutes): identify and explain key scientific finding from a recent Newcastle University journal publication to a lay audience.

Written exercise 2 (250 words): using the same key scientific finding, develop a short press release as if produced by the University Press Office.

By focusing on the same issue in bioscience, the presentation and second written exercise will test the students’ practical understanding of the communication techniques required when working in different media, and when preparing information for different audiences.

Reading Lists