Joint M.Sc. Science Communication: Module Information


The four core modules and research project in the joint degree programme are:

  • MW5201 Topics in Science Communication (4MCs)
  • MW5202 Innovations in Science Teaching (4MCs)
  • SCOM8020/ MW5150 Science Communication and Creative Teaching (5MCs, conducted in an intensive mode over a period of 2 weeks at Science Centre Singapore)
  • SCOM6031/ MW5151 Science, Risk and Ethics (5MCs)
  • MW5200 Research Project in Science Communication (12MCs)


NUS Core Modules


MW5201 Topics in Science Communication

This module will consist of a series of lectures from across all disciplines of science. These lectures will highlight some of the current topics in science that are of major concern to the public and topics that are likely to come up in science education.

The lectures will present the fundamental science behind these topics and show how these topics have been communicated to the public. The bi-directional relationship between science and society will be explored and used to illustrate how science communication has evolved in recent history. Science communication in the past will also be discussed with particular attention given to the works of Galileo, Kepler and Darwin.


MW5202 Innovations in Science Teaching

Students will be introduced to a wide range of current innovations in science teaching with emphasis on the usage of demonstrations, IT and on-line resources. Topics covered include: basics of designing scientific experiments or demonstrations in lectures, classrooms or exhibitions; basic concepts of conducting interactive demonstrations; approaches to illustrate scientific principles; basic concepts and illustrations in teaching enhancements through IT and on-line resources. The topics will be introduced by lecturers who are known for their innovative teaching techniques and their experience, including lecture demonstrations, use of IT, and on-line teaching.



ANU Core Modules


SCOM8020/ MW5150 Science Communication and Creative Teaching

This course deals with issues relating to the communication of science to various audiences including the general public and students. It will explore cultural issues in science and implications relating to the dynamic and uncertain nature of science and scientific methods. The current international focus on public awareness and science literacy will be explored and critiqued.

The course also includes aspects of modern classroom practice, including recent research into communication of science and methods for effective, creative teaching. In particular, strategies for translating research-based science into effective curriculum materials will be addressed. Some of the practical aspects of communicating science, particularly in the classroom, will be addressed. The course will be run as a workshop, with candidates being required to participate actively in discussions and activities designed to promote creative and confident science teaching and learning.


SCOM6031/ MW5151 Science, Risk and Ethics

Uncertainty is everywhere. However, in the sciences, the ramifications of poor risk assessment in science can have dramatic and global consequences. Risk is very hard to calculate, and even harder to communicate. What is risky, to whom, and why? How is risk understood by experts? How is it translated into the public domain? When does a risk become acceptable? Is it possible to speak about "real" or "true" risks in science? How do the concepts of risk and ethics relate?

in recent years, issues such as global warming, environmental degradation and gene technologies have highlighted a critical need for society to question the risks and ethics of science and the way related matters are presented within societies. In this course, the practice and application of science is analysed from risk-communication and ethical perspectives. Consideration is given to how the history of scientific research might inform contemporary debates about risk. The concept of ethical research is analysed and challenged and the communication of risk and uncertainty among Western and non-Western publics is examined in detail. This course focuses on the creation of clearer and more effective ways to communicate more controversial, risky, and potential unethical scientific matters to larger audiences. It also considers the way in which prevailing social values influence the types of research that might be considered low risk and ethical. 



Research Project in Science Communication


MW5200 Research Project in Science Communication

All students are required to conduct a research project in any topic in science communication. They will submit a research proposal for approval and work on gathering data for their project. Students will decide on the semester of their exam, nominate examiners and submit a written report of their research question. In addition to the review of the report, the student will present their work during an oral exam to their examiner and supervisor. For more information, see Research Project Information.



ANU Elective Modules


SCOM8015/ MW5255 Speaking of Science

This is a practical course given by a leading Australian science presenter which aims to develop public speaking skills. The emphasis is on presenting science to a general audience. A one day workshop on acting and personal presentation skills is also part of the course.


SCOM6016/ MW5256 Science in the Media

This course covers a variety of aspects of science in the media. Topics covered include an analysis of what types of science issues get attention in the media, how to research and write articles, how broadcast media works, formats for written articles, and science-media relations from both the scientists' and journalists' perspectives.

Guest lecturers include scientists, media managers, journalists, editors and commentators to provide a range of perspectives on science in the media.

The aim of this course is to train students to produce science-based material suitable for publication or broadcast in the popular media and to provide an understanding of how the media works. Students will have direct contact with working science writers and other members of the media to give them the opportunity to have stories printed or broadcast.


SCOM6027/ MW5257 Science and Public Policy

The interface between science and public policy - between our key modern sources of knowledge and action - is of fundamental importance to modern society. Yet while our technologies and techniques of scientific enquiry have allowed us to learn ever more about the world, and our collective ability to enact change has become ever more powerful, the relationship between scientific knowledge and public policy action has never been entirely smooth. This course traces the dynamics, contours and fractures of this interface.

Topics covered include: policy for doing science and for implementing its outputs; appropriate science and technology policy and practice; the relationship between science priorities and government priorities; the implications of funding arrangements; science in the community; the differing languages and time frames of scientists and policy makers; practical techniques for community involvement; the tensions between what stakeholders want and what they need; and risk perception, analysis and communication.


SCOM6003/ MW5258 Science in Popular Fiction

How has Brave New World shaped the human cloning debate? Why did forensic science enrolments boom simultaneously with the popularity of CSI and Silent Witness? How is Doctor Who useful for engaging high school students in science learning? To what extent did Frankenstein establish a negative image of scientists? Why is theatre an effective HIV/AIDS education tool in South Africa and not in Australia? What role did Star Trek's Lt Uhura play in recruiting astronauts to the NASA space program? How might The Day After Tomorrow impact the public understanding of climate change?

This course provides an introduction to the impact of fictional representations of science and scientists on public perceptions of science. It introduces research, theory and methods from this growing area of science communication as applied to fictional works including films, television programs, plays, novels, short stories and comics. Students are encouraged to share their own experiences of science-based fiction and to pursue their areas of interest through assessment. The major piece of assessment is a research project testing students' hypotheses about the impact that a work of fiction might have on public perceptions of science. The research project will be completed individually, but the research ideas will be developed as a team with a view to obtaining publishable results.


SCOM6029/ MW5259 Cross Cultural Perspectives in Science Communication

This course will prepare students to communicate science across cultural boundaries. It will increase student's understanding about issues and effective strategies of communicating science and technology with culturally diverse audiences. Students will explore how values, beliefs and expectations differentiate science from other knowledge systems, and examine the Eurocentric privileging of modern science and its communication, which are integral parts of Western culture. In doing so, students will look closely at communities that are alienated from science, with particular reference to current science communication research.


SCOM6032/ MW5273 Making Modern Science

Politicians, chief scientists and others are increasingly calling for scientists to communicate their work with the public, but how, where and when did this start? Why have scientific societies like the Royal Society of London transitioned from doing scientific research in the seventeeth century to promoting the interests of science in the twenty-first? Are there parallels between eighteenth century amateur science and citizen science today, or between nineteenth century science popularisation and today's science journalism? How can we map institutional relationships between science and the bodies that promote it, popularise it, and link it to political processes? Is science communication an added extra in the world of science, or integral to its success and longevity? 

This course applies historical and institutional approaches to science communication to explore the big picture view of how this discipline and its professional practices have developed across the world and through time. Students will map the relationships between science and the science communication-type activities and organisations that have always surrounded and supported western science as an institutionalised pursuit -  scientific societies, advocacy for science funding, science professionalisation measures, science popularisation efforts of different kinds, science museums and centres, and more. Course assessment emphasises reflection on the significance of this big picture for professional practice in science communication, as well as developing science communication research skills.


SCOM6501/ MW5270 Strategies in Science Communication

The course focuses on the creation of clearer and more effective ways to communicate scientific matters to larger audiences. It provides participants with a thorough and practical understanding of the process used in developing a communication plan including the development of a strategic framework and accompanying action plan that allocates resources, responsibilities and timeframes. It has a strong emphasis on relating theory to current industry planning communication activities. The major project component is based around field work and evaluation of real life science communication strategies.


SCOM6012/ MW5271 Science Communication and the Web

The internet and social media sit at the heart of the modern communication of scientific information. But are you using the web in the best possible ways to communicate? This intensive course focuses on providing you with the skills and knowledge so you can triumph when using the internet to communicate your science. Topics include writing for the web, using analytics, best social media engagement, video podcasting, mapping and infographics, Wikipedia and the frontiers of social media.


SCOM6030/ MW5272 Science Dialogue Theory and Practice

This course will provide a detailed exploration of the role of science dialogue in relation to contemporary science debates and science and technology governance. As well as providing a theoretical understanding informed by Science and Technology Studies, this course will provide student with the skills to plan, design and run science dialogue. It will also give student opportunities to learn and practice skills needed to participate in and facilitate dialogue. Assessment items will require students to plan and conduct a mini-dialogue.

Science dialogue refers to communication about science that brings all parties to greater understanding. The key feature is that science dialogue is bi-directional - information and insights are gained on both 'sides'. In the case of dialogue between scientists or science communicators and members of the public, then, the public participants learn about the science and the scientists' aim and aspirations, and the scientists learn something from the public, about their concerns and aspirations and generally about the social context of the science, which informs their thinking, and potentially their decisions, about that science. Dialogue has a special place within science communication as a communication medium with particular aims that is increasingly being promoted as a best practice approach within government and community sectors.


BIOL6191/ MW5121 Biology, Society and Ethics

This course examines biotechnologies, including genetic technologies and modern medicine in social, environmental and ethical contexts. Case studies will be presented for discussion from areas such as: genetic modification of agricultural crops and animals for food and production of therapeutic substances; genetic modification for pest control and environmental conservation; cloning of animals and humans; medical areas of genetic screening and gene therapy; human reproductive technologies; organ and stem cell transplantation; and the convergence of humans and machines to repair or enhance human function.

Lectures and seminars will raise broad issues, such as bioethics; risk/benefit assessment; intellectual property; regulation of new technologies; cognitive development and world view as these affect judgement. The course seeks to encourage the student to develop a deeper and more coherent understanding of the important implications that these technologies hold, not only for human beings, but for organisms in general. Both the promise and the threat of these new technologies will be considered.


BIOL8020/ MW5220 Genomics & Biotechnology

The aim of this course is to teach genomics and molecular genetic technologies using model organisms representing plants, animals and simple eukaryotes.

The course will cover recent developments in functional genomics, including:

  • DNA chip arrays
  • Directed and random mutagenesis
  • Analyzing and mapping genes
  • Strategies for cloning genes and determining their function
  • Genomics-based computing skills

An objective of the course will be to develop computing skills and critical thinking skills in experimental design within the context of learning about biological processes.


BIOL8021/ MW5221 Health and Disease in a Changing World

The course situates health and disease within the context of changing human ecologies, such as those being shaped by globalisation processes.

Topics covered include an exploration of the biological bases of human diseases and the impact they have on individuals and communities. It covers biological, ecological and socioeconomic aspects of infectious, genetic and lifestyle-associated diseases, along with strategies used for their control.

Emphasis is placed on critical examination of the relative importance of modern medicine, public health strategies, and economic development.

The role of scientific enquiry in the improvement of human health is discussed.


EMSC8015/ MW5244 Imaging Earth Structure

Most of our knowledge of the structure of the interior of the Earth comes from the analysis of seismic waves. The features of Earth structure are reflected in the characteristics of the seismic wave field and can be related to the properties of the silicate mantle and metallic core.

In recent years, imaging of the 3-D structure of the Earth through 'seismic tomography' has revealed large-scale variations in material properties and provided direct images of geodynamic processes such as subduction of plates with penetration deep into the Earth.


ENVS8005/ MW5245 Climate Change Science 

Global environmental change, and particularly climate change, as a result of human activities are now generally accepted as reality. While uncertainties remain as to the exact timing and regional character of many of the impacts of climate change resulting from the 'enhanced greenhouse effect', there is considerable scientific understanding of greenhouse processes.

Of equal importance are the social, economic and political implications of greenhouse change, and the ways in which we may attempt to manage and adapt to this change.

This course focuses on the science of greenhouse and greenhouse accounting, and provides a policy context for the science.

Topics covered include:

  • Greenhouse science and policy
  • The enhanced greenhouse effect and climate change
  • The terrestrial carbon cycle
  • Plants and greenhouse
  • Soil carbon
  • Measuring forest carbon
  • The post-harvest fate of forest carbon
  • Managing risk and uncertainty
  • Land management perspectives on carbon
  • Greenhouse and agriculture
  • Principles of carbon accounting
  • Practical work focuses on understanding carbon budgets and carbon accounting


MATH8001/ MW5236 Poetry of the Cosmos

This course discusses these topics:

  • The structure of the cosmos - from microbes to galaxies
  • History of science
  • The Copernican revolution and the Copernican Principle
  • The methodology of science and the nature of scientific laws
  • Relativity and the union of space and time
  • Gravity, the curvature of space and Black holes
  • Quantum theory and determinism
  • The arrow of time and causality
  • The philosophy of space and time
  • The Cosmological Principle and the nature of Cosmological models
  • Anthropic principles
  • Multi-universes - are they necessary?
  • The emergence of life and intelligence in the universe
  • Self-organising systems
  • Neural networks
  • Self-reproducing automata


MATH8020/ MW5237 Computational Science

Computer modelling, simulation and visualisation is significantly augmenting and even replacing standard scientific and engineering experiments.

In this module we will investigate the use of numerical modelling and scientific visualisation techniques to obtain a deeper understanding of the results of scientific investigations.

Students will gain experience in applying state of the art numerical software to the solution of real world problems using modern high level scientific computing environments.


PHYS8510/ MW5261 Lasers and Photonics

Photonics is the science and technology which underpins the information revolution, using light to transmit, store and sort information. Photonic devices find broad application not only in IT but in computation, sensing, fundamental physics, medicine and biology.

This course provides an introduction to the field and the device which is at its heart - the laser. It covers the basic optics and laser physics needed to understand the bahaviour and function of optical devices.

This course covers:

  • Light propagation in free space and through optical fibres
  • Polarisation
  • Reflection
  • Interference and diffraction
  • Resonator physics
  • Basics of the laser


PHYS8511/ MW5262 Optical Fibre Communications

The course provides an overview of optical transmission systems and concentrates on:

  • The transmission of light through high-capacity optical fibres
  • The light processing devices that are required for wavelength division multiplexing (WDM) to accommodate the exponential growth in bandwidth due to the Internet.
  • Course content includes:
  • Electromagnetic propagation of light through single- and multi-mode fibres
  • Ray tracing
  • Snell's and Fresnel's laws
  • Pulse propagation
  • Fabrication of fibres and planar waveguides
  • Sources and detectors
  • Birefringence and non-linear effects
  • Signal amplification and gain
  • Disperson compensation
  • Add/drop wavelength filters


Any other modules as approved by the Joint Academic Board may be considered.

Not all modules are available in a single semester.

Selected ANU modules are available via ANU on-line facilities.