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Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine

Science, the media and the public

HSTM20181 (10-credit); HSTM20681 (20-credit)
UCOL20181 (10-credit)

Semester One, Thursdays, 13.00-15.00 (to be confirmed)

Contact: Dr Jeff Hughes

Filming TV science


This course explores the structure, meanings, and implications of science communication through media by reading scholarly research and critically analysing media texts. We will look at the contexts for science in the media including the role that science serves in these texts, how they contribute to the entertainment value of media, and how they feed back to science itself. We will explore the themes of science and media across different media formats, historical periods, and cultural contexts. The course will focus on the differences between science communicated through the written word, visually, and aurally. We will also evaluate the differences between science communicated through news media and entertainment media.

Intended Learning Outcomes

Students will understand the communication of science, technology and medicine through media including the differences between various media formats, appreciate media’s impact on the cultural meanings of science, and comprehend the increasing blurring between fictional and non-fictional media with regards to science. They will also increase their media literacy and develop interpretative and analytical thinking. In addition, the 20 credit version of the unit will extend and develop students’ research and writing skills through an individual research project.

Lecture Content

Lectures form a connected series of case studies of various aspects of science in society and culture and will include guest lecturers from a range of science communication and media outlets. Lectures will cover the following indicative themes:

  • Introduction – Science and its Publics
  • News Content and News Production
  • Media Frames and Media Effects
  • Public Understanding of Science and Policy Making
  • Popular Science Books and Magazines
  • Science in Museums and Science Centres
  • Science Documentaries
  • Wildlife and Natural History Films
  • Literature, Films, Television and Science

Seminar Content

Seminars consolidate lecture material through group discussion of a set of weekly readings & media texts, group activities in class etc.


10 credit unit (HSTM20181) - group project (50%); coursework (50%)
20 credit unit (HSTM20681) - group project (25%); coursework (25%); 3000 word research project based on individual research (50%)


Students may ask questions at any time during lectures and seminars. Teaching staff can usually answer specific queries by email or during office hours, and will provide contact details in the course handbook or at lectures. All submitted coursework will be returned with annotations and an assessment sheet explaining the mark awarded.

Employability Skills

Oral communication - students will participate in group discussions and small group-work, allowing them to develop oral communication skills in an informal setting.
Written communication - students will produce short and longer pieces of written work as part of the assessment for this unit, and receive written feedback.
Group/team working - students will participate in group discussions and small group-work in class, and a significant part of the assessment for the unit is through a group project.
Project management - student groups are required to self-manage their group projects using social media or other techniques. Past students have found this an excellent way to use and develop their skills in these areas.
Leadership - students are sometimes required to act as leaders or spokespersons for their group. These skills can be developed in a friendly and informal setting.
Innovation/creativity - writing assessments and the group project encourage students to think creatively and analytically and to innovate within the general framework of the unit topic.
Research - the assessments for this unit require some independent research, generally on topics chosen by the student. A major part of the assessment for the 20-credit version of the unit is an individual research project.
Analytical skills - lectures and seminars encourage students to think critically and analytically about the relationships between science and the media, and about their place in contemporary society.



Recommended Reading

  • Bucchi, M. Science and the Media 1998, Routledge
  • Russell, N. Communicating Science. Professional, Popular, Literary. 2010, CUP.

Teaching Staff

Dr Jeff Hughes

A recent copy of the course outline is available to view (pdf). Please note that course content may change in the next academic year.