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Viewing: COM 289 : Science Communication and Public Engagement

Last approved: Thu, 22 Mar 2018 08:00:24 GMT

Last edit: Tue, 20 Mar 2018 13:08:02 GMT

Catalog Pages referencing this course
Change Type
Major
COM (Communication)
289
032584
Dual-Level Course
Cross-listed Course
No
Science Communication and Public Engagement
Science Com & Engagement
College of Humanities and Social Sciences
Communication (16COM)
Term Offering
Fall, Spring and Summer
Offered Upon Demand
Summer I 2018
Previously taught as Special Topics?
No
 
Course Delivery
Face-to-Face (On Campus)

Grading Method
Graded with S/U option
3
16
Contact Hours
(Per Week)
Component TypeContact Hours
Lecture3
Course Attribute(s)
GEP (Gen Ed)

If your course includes any of the following competencies, check all that apply.
University Competencies

Course Is Repeatable for Credit
No
 
 
Andrew R. Binder
Associate Professor

Open when course_delivery = campus OR course_delivery = blended OR course_delivery = flip
Enrollment ComponentPer SemesterPer SectionMultiple Sections?Comments
Lecture2424NoDuring a normal semester, we anticipate a typical undergraduate class size. The course could be scaled up to accommodate up 60-80 students if needed.
Open when course_delivery = distance OR course_delivery = online OR course_delivery = remote


Is the course required or an elective for a Curriculum?
No
This course is an introduction to the principles and practices of communicating scientific and technological issues to public audiences, through interpersonal discussion, mass media, social media, and other means. It is open to students in all majors who want to deepen and broaden their understanding of how citizens make sense of science and technology in their everyday lives. The course features a mixture of theory-based readings and discussion with practical skill-building for communication in real-world contexts. Equal emphasis is given to humanities and social science perspectives. The application of communication concepts to controversial science contexts is emphasized, including case studies of issues such as GMOs, climate change, vaccines, and gene editing. Theoretical perspectives covered include argumentation and debate; audience analysis (through quantitative survey data and metrics); philosophy and ethics of communicating science; using narratives, framing, and metaphors to communicate science; and the cultural image of science in popular media.

Science communication is emerging as a “grand challenge” in the American political system and civil society. What everyone seems to agree on—from opinion pieces in national publications to a recent National Academy of Sciences report—is that better communication is needed between scientists and the general public. What seems less clear is a firm strategy for achieving this goal.


The College of Humanities and Social Sciences has already made strides in enhancing interdisciplinary scholarship to meet this grand challenge by partnering in the Leadership in Public Science faculty cluster. The Public Science cluster aims to integrate cutting-edge communication research (from numerous perspectives) into research and educational programs here at the state of North Carolina’s premier STEM university. We are proposing COM 289: Science Communication and Public Engagement to extend the cluster’s work to the GEP undergraduate curriculum. Bringing together students in both communication and STEM disciplines, the course will prepare them to engage the grand challenge of science communication in their future careers.


In terms of educational practices, the course will have an in-depth focus on communicating science to broader publics. We see this as complementing both the general coursework of the GEP Introduction to Writing program, and the disciplinary coursework of the GEP Communication in the Major program, including ENG 333, Communication for Science and Research. The course will also employ an immersive and engaged pedagogy, drawing on the Public Science cluster’s network to take students to the NC Museum of Natural Sciences and to local media outlets. It will feature creative, project-based work such as recruiting volunteers for citizen science projects and designing public-facing communications of risk (e.g., cancer screening, Zika awareness).


As for student demand and enrollments, the course will fulfill high-need areas in university curriculum and function as a GEP course for undergraduate students under both the humanities and social sciences categorizations, as well as interdisciplinary perspectives. It will address identifiable needs of our students two ways. First, STEM students need more exposure to the challenges of communicating with broader publics, especially on controversial topics. Second, the education of students in the Communication major needs a more direct tie to the university’s science and technology mission. The course would also be sustainable; the Public Science cluster provides institutional stability for staffing the course and integrating resources from across NC State and broader community. In fact, we aim to use this course as the foundation for curricular innovations on science communication, building eventually towards an undergraduate minor. Because the cluster has faculty members from colleges across the university, we will have an enhanced ability to recruit students from various disciplines.


No

Is this a GEP Course?
Yes
GEP Categories
Humanities
Interdisciplinary Perspectives
Social Sciences
Humanities Open when gep_category = HUM
Each course in the Humanities category of the General Education Program will provide instruction and guidance that help students to:
 
 
Outline how different opinions on the value of scientific research can be attributed to differences in culture among individuals.
 
 
Students will answer a Midterm Examination question: How could one consider one viewpoint on a scientific issue to represent a culture distinct from others within our society? Using the concept of cultural cognition, identify at least two cultures. Discuss the values that these cultures reflect and explain how those values might lead to different perspectives on a scientific issue.
 
 
Assess the abilities of scientists to engage in science communication and public engagement exercises and formulate new recommendations based on your interpretation.
 
 
Students will write Homework Assignment #2 (Analysis Paper): Examine [give text of science communication, such as a news story about climate change]. Identify a major frame the author uses, and support your answer with two good arguments pointing to specific passages of the text. Next, identify another major frame, and again support your answer with two good arguments. Finally, reflect on your results. How can a communication analyst tell which frame is really there in the text?
 
 
Compare and contrast standard approaches to science communication and public engagement and evaluate the effectiveness and appropriateness of each.
 
 
Students will complete a report and presentation: Listen to a podcast episode from the list of options. How does the podcast reflect two distinctly different approaches to public engagement? How does the podcast episode exemplify a transmission model of communication versus an interactive model of communication? Explain the difference. In these circumstances, which approach is more effective? More appropriate? Support your answer.
Mathematical Sciences Open when gep_category = MATH
Each course in the Mathematial Sciences category of the General Education Program will provide instruction and guidance that help students to:
 
 

 
 

 
 

 
 

Natural Sciences Open when gep_category = NATSCI
Each course in the Natural Sciences category of the General Education Program will provide instruction and guidance that help students to:
 
 

 
 

 
 

 
 

Social Sciences Open when gep_category = SOCSCI
Each course in the Social Sciences category of the General Education Program will provide instruction and guidance that help students to:
 
 
Describe current social science perspectives on how human behavior and mental processes pertaining to science topics are related to trends in public opinion of science and technology.
 
 
Students will answer a Midterm Examination question: Explain the psychological basis for the spiral of silence. Describe how what happens inside the head of one person has ramifications for public opinion on a larger scale.
 
 
Explain the primary social science methods used in science communication research and examine statistical information reported in research conducted by social scientists.
 
 
Students will write Homework Assignment #4 (Summary Paper): Summarize the attached social science research report and provide your own description of the data analysis presented in the paper.
 
 
Apply communication theories to explain how confusion over science and technology topics might arise in public discourse about science.
 
 
Students will write Homework Assignment #3 (Case Study Paper) based on this prompt: Describe how the theory of the spiral of silence can explain the public controversy over genetic engineering.
Interdisciplinary Perspectives Open when gep_category = INTERDISC
Each course in the Interdisciplinary Perspectives category of the General Education Program will provide instruction and guidance that help students to:
 
 
Differentiate Communication and English perspectives in the study of science communication and describe the advantages and disadvantages of each.
 
 
Students will write Homework Assignment #6 (Synthesis Paper): What theories and methods do different scholars bring to questions about science communication? Think specifically about social science researchers, humanities scholars, and natural scientists. How are their approaches similar and how are they different?
 
 
Construct a diagram depicting the overlapping and unique viewpoints among science communicators from Communication (social sciences) and English (humanities).
 
 
Students will complete Homework Assignment #5 (Concept Mapping): Draw a conceptual diagram that depicts different aspects of science communication and explain . Which of these correspond more closely to the social sciences? Which of these are more closely aligned to the humanities? Think of a way to depict the similarities and differences between these perspectives in a visual way.
 
 
Generate an integrated solution to a science communication problem and provide examples of how disciplinary assumptions (Communication and English) may be used to build a holistic understanding of science communication.
 
 
Students will write a response to a Final Examination question: Consider the scenario surrounding the Monarch butterfly and Bt corn controversy. [Insert lengthy description of the case here.] Imagining you are a humanities scholar, answer the question, “What would successful science communication look like for this situation?” Make sure to identify three specific principles that a humanities (English) researcher would value in terms of how the people within the controversy would communicate their opinions. Once completed, answer the question again from the perspective of a social science (Communication) researcher.
 
 
Communication (social sciences) and English (humanities)
 
 
The co-instructors have carefully balanced the two disciplinary perspectives throughout the course readings, topics, and activities. The humanities perspective is embodied by course elements rooted in classical and contemporary rhetorical theory. Primarily interpretive in terms of methodology, this perspective will provide students with tools to critique, categorize, and synthesize various arguments over science topics that appear in public discourse. The humanities perspective will also cover ethical frameworks for evaluating the appropriateness of communications. The social sciences perspective is embodied by course elements rooted in human communication theory since the 1930s. The social science perspective will focus on frameworks for evaluating the effectiveness of communications. Based on a quantitative methodology, this perspective will provide students with skills to formulate hypotheses, read quantitative data, and estimate statistical relationships between variables. The synthesis of these two disciplines will take place toward the end of the course when we revisit several recent questions in scholarly debates over science communication and introduce holistic, interdisciplinary approaches to answering those questions. In addition, the course features a comprehensive treatment of multiple science issues from natural sciences disciplines and will feature discussions of how humanities/social sciences perspectives differ from researchers in the natural sciences. Conversations about case studies of real scientific topics will feature in-depth introductions to the actual method and evidence underlying those topics. The course will be co-taught in the Maymester 2018. In regular academic-year terms (spring and fall), arrangements will be made at the departmental level to maintain a co-teaching organization of the course with most responsibilities for course management falling on the one faculty member designated as instructor of record for the given term.
Visual & Performing Arts Open when gep_category = VPA
Each course in the Visual and Performing Arts category of the General Education Program will provide instruction and guidance that help students to:
 
 

 
 

 
 

 
 

 
 

 
 

Health and Exercise Studies Open when gep_category = HES
Each course in the Health and Exercise Studies category of the General Education Program will provide instruction and guidance that help students to:
 
 

 
 

 
 

 
 

 
&
 

 
 

 
 

 
 

Global Knowledge Open when gep_category = GLOBAL
Each course in the Global Knowledge category of the General Education Program will provide instruction and guidance that help students to achieve objective #1 plus at least one of objectives 2, 3, and 4:
 
 

 
 

 
Please complete at least 1 of the following student objectives.
 

 
 

 
 

 
 

 
 

 
 

US Diversity Open when gep_category = USDIV
Each course in the US Diversity category of the General Education Program will provide instruction and guidance that help students to achieve at least 2 of the following objectives:
Please complete at least 2 of the following student objectives.
 
 

 
 

 
 

 
 

 
 

 
 

 
 

 
 

Requisites and Scheduling
100%
 
a. If seats are restricted, describe the restrictions being applied.
 
N/A
 
b. Is this restriction listed in the course catalog description for the course?
 
N/A
 
List all course pre-requisites, co-requisites, and restrictive statements (ex: Jr standing; Chemistry majors only). If none, state none.
 
N/A
 
List any discipline specific background or skills that a student is expected to have prior to taking this course. If none, state none. (ex: ability to analyze historical text; prepare a lesson plan)
 
N/A
Additional Information
Complete the following 3 questions or attach a syllabus that includes this information. If a 400-level or dual level course, a syllabus is required.
 
Title and author of any required text or publications.
 
See syllabus.
 
Major topics to be covered and required readings including laboratory and studio topics.
 
See syllabus.
 
List any required field trips, out of class activities, and/or guest speakers.
 
See syllabus.
Faculty will be teaching this as part of their regular course load and requires no additional resources.

Upon completion of this course students will be able to:



  1. Define and describe the study of science communication and public engagement from multiple scholarly perspectives.

  2. Identify and analyze the attributes of appropriate and effective science communication.

  3. Synthesize the commonalities between science communication and public engagement. Explain practices that lead to ethical communications in both science communication and public engagement.


Student Learning Outcomes

  1. Outline how different opinions on the value of scientific research can be attributed to differences in culture among individuals.

  2. Assess the abilities of scientists to engage in science communication and public engagement exercises and formulate new recommendations based on your interpretation.

  3. Compare and contrast standard approaches to science communication and public engagement and evaluate the effectiveness and appropriateness of each.

  4. Describe current social science perspectives on how human behavior and mental processes pertaining to science topics are related to trends in public opinion of science and technology.

  5. Explain the primary social science methods used in science communication research and examine statistical information reported in research conducted by social scientists.

  6. Apply communication theories to explain how confusion over science and technology topics might arise in public discourse about science. 

  7. Differentiate Communication and English perspectives in the study of science communication and describe the advantages and disadvantages of each.

  8. Construct a diagram depicting the overlapping and unique viewpoints among science communicators from Communication (social sciences) and English (humanities).

  9. Generate an integrated solution to a science communication problem and provide examples of how disciplinary assumptions (Communication and English) may be used to build a holistic understanding of science communication.


Evaluation MethodWeighting/Points for EachDetails
Discussion15%Attendance and participation in class discussions
Quizzes10%Six Moodle quizzes on readings
Short Paper30%Six short topic papers
Project15%Podcast analysis and presentation
Final Exam30%Final written examination
TopicTime Devoted to Each TopicActivity
Introduction to the Course and First Case Study Week 1
First Case Study, continued, and Audience AnalysisWeek 2
Audience Analysis, continued Week 3
TV/Weather Field TripWeek 4
Conveying Statistical Information Week 5
Framing Week 6
Media EffectsWeek 7
Radio Field TripWeek 8
Review of Course Material and Midterm ExaminationWeek 9
ExpertiseWeek 10
Advocacy and Public Relations Week 11
Motivated Reasoning Week 12
Citizen Science + Museum Field Trip Week 13
Is There a Crisis in Science Communication? Week 14
Podcast Analysis and Presentations; Review for Final Examination Week 15
Final Examination Week 16

aeherget (Mon, 05 Feb 2018 19:26:27 GMT): AECHH: Uploading updated syllabus at instructor's request via email Feb. 5, 2018.
Key: 18720