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SCOM 406: Communicating Science


Scientists can surely communicate, so you might wonder if there is really any need for a paper such as this? The problem for scientists is that while the scientific methodology (the testable hypothesis; the keeping all variables constant and changing one kind of systematic approach) is a wonderful way of discovering "truth" about the world in which we live, the method scientists use to communicate amongst themselves (scientific papers) is a lousy way of getting information across to the non-specialist.

Cue this course, stage right. Whether you are a scientist or just someone interested in telling stories about science to the public, we show you how to make your stories more interesting and more readily able to impart the information they contain. There's some theory in this paper for sure - but, as with the rest of this programme, we concentrate on the nuts and the bolts, on putting words into action.


  • Understand basic concepts and principles of communication theory.
  • Develop a science communication awareness strategy.
  • Understand the elements of designing effective exhibitions, posters and interpretive displays.
  • Develop an awareness of the different outlets and opportunities for writing about science.
  • Appreciate the individual requirements for the different contexts of spoken communication.
  • Develop and analyse ways of effective communication in the press, on television and radio.
  • Understand how to plan and present a formal talk.
  • Examples of components of this paper:
  • Designing better museum displays and the like.
  • Dealing with the press.
  • Coming across well on radio and television.
  • A guide to being a better presenter.
Part of this paper includes working with personnel from the Otago Museum about the design or exhibitions and displays.

Examples of practical exercises associated with this paper:

  • Making a museum or interpretive exhibition.
  • Conducting a media interview.
  • Writing a popular science article.
  • Presentation of a public talk.


Available to ANY graduate-level (i.e. 400-level) student

Next Application Deadlines

Applications for PhD study can be accepted at any time.

New Zealand Resident Applications for second semester study (excluding Science and Natural History Filmmaking) close 2 June

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