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Unit information: Communicating Science in 2016/17

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Unit name Communicating Science
Unit code BIOLM0012
Credit points 30
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Dr. Rands
Open unit status Not open
Pre-requisites

None

Co-requisites

None

School/department School of Biological Sciences
Faculty Faculty of Life Sciences

Description

Students develop an understanding of how scientists communicate with one another, and develop their ability to evaluate presentations critically. They learn by attending a range of talks and seminars, and are also exposed to primary research in a wide variety of topics. They write a critical review paper on a topic of their choice, and prepare and present a portfolio consisting of short critical pieces on 10 seminars/presentations, plus one longer New Scientist-style article on a topic chosen from the seminars attended. Students attend 3 lectures introducing the review and seminar portfolio elements of the unit, and one lecture by a professional working in communication of science, e.g. an editor, broadcaster, conservationist, or TV producer.

Intended learning outcomes

Having completed this unit, students will be able to:

  1. Describe how scientists communicate with one another, and how scientific topics are communicated to a wider audience.
  2. Evaluate oral presentations critically and formulate appropriate questions.
  3. Demonstrate an understanding of how to write a critical review for a specialist scientific journal.
  4. Demonstrate an ability to summarize information from seminars for a wider scientific audience, and evaluate information critically.
  5. Demonstrate their ability to present information to peers with confidence.
  6. Produce critical, but constructive, feedback for others and receive feedback, using it positively to improve their work.

Teaching details

Seminars, lectures, and self-directed peer-group discussion. Attendance at a scientific conference will also be encouraged, but will not be compulsory.

Assessment Details

Numbers refer to assessment of learning outcomes above. Formative assessment: Students attend seminars (1, 2), present their portfolios verbally to each other in self-organised sessions (5), and provide feedback and evaluation via Blackboard (6). Summative assessment: students write a 5000-word critical review paper on a topic of their choice in the style of an appropriate scientific journal (50%; 1, 3), present and discuss a portfolio (based on any 10 seminars attended; 4), and hand in the final version of their portfolio (6), incorporating feedback from peers (5, 6), for assessment (50%). Portfolio consists of short (500 words each) critical pieces on 10 seminars/presentations, plus one longer New Scientist-style article (up to 3000 words) on a topic chosen from the seminars attended (4).

Reading and References

Current reading will be recommended by the teaching staff, e.g.:

  • Divan A (2009). Communication skills for the biosciences: a graduate guide. Oxford University Press.
  • Goldacre B (2008). Bad science. Harper Perennial.

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