Students preparing for their graduation ceremony at Canterbury Cathedral

Science Communication - MA

2019

Do you love science but know that a career at the lab bench is not for you? An MA in Science Communication is the perfect step forward to broaden your skills and career options while developing your passion for science.  

2019

Overview

The Science Communication MA at Kent is unique in that it includes both practical and critical aspects of the subject. You engage with a variety of media, including print, audio-visual and web-based presentation. 

You are taught by lecturers in medical and science humanities, and by scientists. These include nationally recognised teachers, a blogger for a national newspaper, museum experts and regulars on national media.

Previous students have come from France, Germany, Sweden, Japan, Taiwan and more, bringing international perspectives and experiences to the group. For more information, including samples of student work and alumni profiles, see the Centre for the History of the Sciences blog or follow the Centre on Twitter.

About the School of History

The School of History at the University of Kent offers a great environment in which to research and study. Situated in a beautiful cathedral city with its own dynamic history, the University is within easy reach of the main London archives and is convenient for travelling to mainland Europe.

The School of History is a lively, research-led department where postgraduate students are given the opportunity to work alongside academics recognised as experts in their respective fields. The School was placed eighth nationally for research intensity in the Research Excellence Framework 2014.

There is a good community spirit within the School, which includes regular postgraduate social meetings, weekly seminars and a comprehensive training programme with the full involvement of the School’s academic staff.

National ratings

History at Kent was ranked 19th in The Guardian University Guide 2017. In the National Student Survey 2016, 94% of our History students were satisfied with the overall quality of their course. 

History at Kent was ranked 16th for graduate prospects in The Guardian University Guide 2017 and 17th for graduate prospects in The Complete University Guide 2017. Of History students who graduated in 2015, 92% were in work or further study within six months (DLHE).

Course structure

Modules

The following modules are indicative of those offered on this programme. This list is based on the current curriculum and may change year to year in response to new curriculum developments and innovation.  Most programmes will require you to study a combination of compulsory and optional modules. You may also have the option to take modules from other programmes so that you may customise your programme and explore other subject areas that interest you.

You take four modules including two compulsory modules (BI830, Science at Work and HI866, Science and Medicine in Context) and two additional specialist modules (to be chosen from a choice of variable yearly options). 

There may be other modules run by the School of Biosciences which may be relevant to you on this programme.

During the summer term and over the summer vacation you take the History Dissertation module, which involves writing a 15,000-18,000 word thesis. 

Modules may include Credits

There is no better way to understand how scientific knowledge is made and consumed today than to look at how this happened in the past. Our examples come from 400 years ago up to the present day, and highlight how changes in the media of knowledge have shaped our understanding of science – printing presses, public lectures, museums and TV. How have audience needs and interests changed during this time, and how has the medium affected the message?

Themes and Topics

• The printing press and the scientific revolution

• Cabinets of curiosity: the first museums?

• Science on display in the 18th century

• Science and the steam-driven press in the 19th century

• Science and film in the 20th century

• Science wars and the public understanding of science in the late 20th century

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Science has a profound influence on professional practice in the private and public sector. This module considers the ways in which different professions interact with science and scientists, and how this influences the work they do. Their interaction with the public will also be discussed. A series of speakers with diverse professional backgrounds (education, industry, government, policy making, the law, the media) will describe their work, the role of science in the profession, and the way in which science influences their actions and interactions with the public and other professions. This will relate to scientific content in a range of scientific contexts, including cancer, reproductive medicine, biotechnology and healthcare. This will be illustrated by case studies presenting challenges and dilemmas concerning the communication of science in the context of different professions and their target audiences.

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From those viewed as medical marvels in the nineteenth century to questions surrounding quality of life in the late twentieth century, the course explores the continuities and changes in the relationship between medical science and difference. Between the eighteenth and nineteenth century, and into the twentieth, the increasing influence of medical practitioners ensured that disability, deformity, disfigurement and mental illness were categorised through a medical perspective. Categories about the acceptability of physical and social norms were constructed from the eighteenth century, indeed, the term ‘normal’ was not commonly used in the English language until the 1840s. In the nineteenth century, the growth of capitalism and the concentration on industrialization, excluded those deemed different from the workplace and the community as they were not judged to be economically useful. In addition, philanthropic gestures which grew in the nineteenth century, saw people who were categorised as different, moved from mainstream society into institutions, which were often supported by the medical profession. Medical practitioners and the general public were fascinated by difference in body and mind, and often those considered different were observed, studied and experimented on. The influence of medical practice grew in the twentieth century and the course will explore this in relation to (amongst others) the two World Wars, the growth of special institutions and new types of therapy.

Overall, the course will investigate the ways that medicine has understood, categorised and treated those whose body or behaviour was considered different. It will also examine the body and mind as contested sites; spaces occupied by those considered different; the establishment of normality versus deviance; the changing conceptions of difference in this historical period and the shifting theories and methodologies of medical practice in relation to it.

Topics include:

The history of anatomy

Idiocy and feeblemindedness

Madness

The development of forensic science

Murder

Dying and the rituals of death

Agency, freakery and the politics of display

Homosexuality as deviance

Madness and mental health

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This module critically examines the surface and decay of Nuclear America in the twentieth century. Responsible for ushering in the modern atomic era, the USA is widely acknowledged as a pioneer in nuclear technology and weaponry. Receptivity towards the atom has nonetheless shifted over time: atomic materials once heralded the saviour of American society (through the promise of reactors delivering ‘electricity to cheap to meter’) have also been deemed responsible for long-term environmental problems and doomsday anxieties. Why the atom has received typically bi-polar and polemic responses is of great interest here. Along with events of global significance (such as the bombing of Hiroshima), the module also covers the more intimate views of American citizens living and working close to ground zero. Personal testimonies come from ‘atomic foot soldiers’ traversing blast sites in the 1950s and protesters trespassing across reactor sites in the 1970s. In particular, the module examines the role of media, propaganda and image in inventing popular understandings of the nuclear age, as well as the contribution of atomic scientists to national discourse.

Themes and Topics:

Popular and Scientific Ideas of Radioactivity

The Manhattan Project and the Decision to drop the Bomb

Cold War (1): The Rosenbergs

Atomic Veterans and explorations of Ground Zero

Civil Defence and Fallout Culture

Atomic Movies (1) Fantasy

Cold War (2): The Cuban Missile Crisis

Protesting the Peaceful Atom: Diablo Canyon and Three Mile Island

Atomic Movies (2) Realism and Survivalism

Cold War Memory, Legacy and Atomic Tourism

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This module will explore the physical things, from pencils and air pumps to buildings and particle accelerators, that are essential to making scientific knowledge and, therefore, to understanding and communicating its history and practice. It will explore the literature on using objects, images and buildings as historical sources and museological approaches to the collection and interpretation of scientific instruments and related objects. Students will visit museums and have the opportunity to talk to curators about their work, as well as reflecting on existing displays. The module will be assessed through a mixture of practical tasks, based on real objects and displays, and an essay, encouraging critical reflection on the scholarship and museum practice encountered over the term.

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This module is organised around a work experience placement, undertaken in an institution relevant to the student's Masters' programme. This may be a museum, archive, school or other institution involved in engaging or communicating history and/or science to specific audiences or the general public.

The curriculum is flexible to allow students to work around other modules, to adapt to the requirements of different placements and to follow their interests. Placements should, with support from teaching staff, be researched and confirmed in the Autumn Term, with tasks/projects agreed.

Seminar sessions on campus will be organised to reflect the placements, offering appropriate reading, discussion and critical reflection. They are an opportunity for students to feedback on work they have achieved, giving presentations to share their experiences with other students. There will also be an opportunity for one-to-one feedback and discussion.

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Scholarly knowledge, whether generated by historians or scientists, is in demand in many settings, including – but by no means limited to – digital media, short and long-form popular writing, audio-visual media, museums and galleries, and educational contexts. There is arguably a greater public appetite than ever before for specialist knowledge, appropriately mediated. At the same time, there has been a growth in scepticism concerning 'expertise' in general, whether from pseudoscientific sources or from neo-liberal attacks on the humanities. This module equips students to understand the place and value of scholarly knowledge in society; to critically evaluate it where it is communicated within their own particular field; and to develop their own capacity to communicate knowledge..

This module is organised around a series of themes, including education, popular writing, visual media, audio-visual media, new media, and exhibition. The curriculum is flexible to allow students to follow their particular interests.

Seminars will offer the opportunity to discuss appropriate reading, to reflect critically on acts of communication that have been observed, and to generate practical projects for assessment. They are an opportunity for students to receive and discuss feedback on work they have achieved, and for giving presentations to share their experiences with other students. There will also be, separate to the seminars, the opportunity for one-to-one feedback and discussion.

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Medicine has often been depicted as an objective science, a science that can accurately diagnose and effectively treat many illnesses and diseases. Yet, medicine is also big business, generating and/or costing economies and multinational companies billions of pounds each year. Drawing on a combination of medical, commercial and social history, this module will explore the multifaceted relationship between money and medicine in Britain and America since 1750. It will follow a broadly chronological structure charting the rise of the 'medical marketplace' in the eighteenth century to the current healthcare crisis in provision in Britain and America. Topics will include patent and proprietary medicines; quackery and unorthodox medical provision, such as homeopathy; the development of the pharmaceutical industry; the emergence of healthcare insurance and the NHS; and the 'golden age' of technological medicine since the 1950s. A central theme of the module will be the tension between the provision of healthcare as a universal right and as a commodity and the module will examine the ways in which this tension affects the quality and therapeutic effectiveness of the care and goods provided in the British and American contexts. The module will also make use of a wide range of source material. As well as newspapers, reports and textbooks, it will draw on advertising media, film, newspapers and patent records.

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All students on taught MA programmes in the School of History are required to complete a 15,000-18,000 word dissertation as part of their programme. The task of the dissertation is designed to provide students with the opportunity to articulate key concepts, ideas and theories underlying their creative work, as well as providing an in-depth contextual presentation of their work situating it within the current historiography. The dissertation involves student-directed learning and research with the aim of producing a structured and persuasive argument, demonstrating a command of the technical languages of a variety of historical approaches, and perhaps including the effective use of visual materials in support of their arguments.

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Teaching and Assessment

Continuous assessment throughout the year is diverse, innovative and context-driven, from short pieces of writing to longer essays, and from the development and evaluation of science communication activities to mock professional reports and grant applications. 

The aim of each assessment is not only to monitor understanding, but also to integrate information across modules and give you practical experience in a range of transferable skills for future employability. 

Programme aims

The programme aims to:

  • equip students to communicate science effectively in a variety of media
  • enable students to understand the social and professional processes by which scientific knowledge is made and communicated
  • give students an understanding of the process of scientific investigation
  • provide a stimulating, research-active environment for teaching and learning in which students are supported and motivated to achieve academic and personal potential
  • facilitate learning experience (integration and application of knowledge) through a variety of teaching and assessment methods
  • give students the experience of undertaking an independent research project
  • prepare students for further training and employment in science and non-science based careers by developing transferable and cognitive skills
  • develop the qualities needed for employment in situations requiring the exercise of professionalism, independent thought, personal responsibility and decision-making in complex and unpredictable circumstances Provide access to as wide a range of students as practicable

Learning outcomes

Knowledge and understanding

You will gain knowledge and understanding of:

  • significant episodes in the history of science, technology and medicine, from the scientific revolution to the present
  • the social and cultural mechanisms that have shaped and shape the production of scientific knowledge
  • the role of communicational media in propagating and shaping scientific knowledge
  • scholarly debates surrounding the philosophy of the public understanding of science
  • ethical context of the practice of science and its communication
  • the principles and theories of public engagement from a critical perspective
  • current theoretical perspectives on how to communicate science to the public
  • the impact of science upon a range of professional disciplines
  • how different professions deal with complex scientific information and disseminate this information to their clients and/or audiences
  • career opportunities in science communication
  • the social, political and economic impact of science
  • how research leads to knowledge.

Intellectual skills

You will develop your intellectual skills in:

  • understanding the range and scope of teaching and assessment methods and study skills relevant to the programme
  • gathering, organising and deploying evidence, data and information from a variety of secondary and primary sources
  • identifying, investigating and analysing primary, and secondary and tertiary information
  • differentiating between arguments
  • presenting reasoned defensible arguments based on reflection, study and critical judgement
  • understanding the needs of different modes of communication for different audiences
  • engaging in effective and intelligent discussion with people of varied training and perspectives
  • developing your intellectual capacity and skills spanning humanities, sciences and social sciences

Subject-specific skills

You will develop your subject-specific skills, including:

  • developing critical faculties to deconstruct and interpret aspects of scientific culture
  • an awareness of the various techniques and processes used in the production of scientific knowledge, whether for expert or lay audiences
  • understanding of the nature of science and its socio-cultural role, past and present
  • finding information on science communication and the history of science from a wide range of information sources (e.g. journals, books, electronic databases) and maintaining an effective information retrieval strategy
  • understanding and application of scholarly methods and concepts used in the critical study of science, technology and medicine

Transferable skills

You will develop the following transferable skills:

  • to reflect on, and manage, their own learning and seek to make use of constructive feedback from peers and staff to enhance their own performance and personal skills
  • independence of mind and initiative
  • self-discipline and self-motivation
  • ability to work in a team and have respect for others’ reasoned views
  • communication: the ability to organise information clearly; respond to textual and visual sources; present information orally; adapt style for different audiences; use of images as a communications tool
  • numeracy: the ability to read graphs and tables; integrate numerical and non-numerical information; understand the limits and potentialities of arguments based on quantitative information
  • Information Technology: be able to evaluate critically and communicate effectively in a number of the following formats: written documents; email; databases; spreadsheets; PowerPoint; web sites.

Careers

Careers are possible in the museum world, scientific lobbying, media and new media, journalism, science and medical writing, public engagement and outreach, and many more areas.  

Our previous students have gone on to work at CERN, the Wellcome Trust, the National Horseracing Museum, the Royal College of Pathology, and at science and medical writing agencies.

Study support

Postgraduate resources

The resources for historical research at Kent are led by the University’s Templeman Library: a designated European Documentation Centre which holds specialised collections on slavery and antislavery, and on medical science. The Library has a substantial collection of secondary materials to back-up an excellent collection of primary sources including the British Cartoon Archive, newspapers, a large audio-visual library, and a complete set of British Second World War Ministry of Information propaganda pamphlets.

The School has a dedicated Centre for the Study of Propaganda and War, which has a distinctive archive of written, audio and visual propaganda materials, particularly in film, video and DVD. Locally, you have access to: the Canterbury Cathedral Library and Archive (a major collection for the study of medieval and early modern religious and social history); the Centre for Kentish Studies at Maidstone; and the National Maritime Collection at Greenwich. Kent is also within easy reach of the country’s premier research collections in London and the national libraries in Paris and Brussels.

Dynamic publishing culture

Staff publish regularly and widely in journals, conference proceedings and books. Among others, they have recently contributed to: Journal of Contemporary History; English Historical Review; British Journal for the History of Science; Technology and Culture; and War and Society

Global Skills Award

All students registered for a taught Master's programme are eligible to apply for a place on our Global Skills Award Programme. The programme is designed to broaden your understanding of global issues and current affairs as well as to develop personal skills which will enhance your employability.

Global Skills Award

All students registered for a taught Master's programme are eligible to apply for a place on our Global Skills Award Programme. The programme is designed to broaden your understanding of global issues and current affairs as well as to develop personal skills which will enhance your employability.  

Entry requirements

Minimum 2:1 or equivalent in history or any science degree.

In certain circumstances, the School will consider candidates who have not followed a conventional education path. These cases are assessed individually by the Director of Graduate Studies.

All applicants are considered on an individual basis and additional qualifications, and professional qualifications and experience will also be taken into account when considering applications. 

International students

Please see our International Student website for entry requirements by country and other relevant information for your country. 

English language entry requirements

The University requires all non-native speakers of English to reach a minimum standard of proficiency in written and spoken English before beginning a postgraduate degree. Certain subjects require a higher level.

For detailed information see our English language requirements web pages. 

Need help with English?

Please note that if you are required to meet an English language condition, we offer a number of pre-sessional courses in English for Academic Purposes through Kent International Pathways.

Staff research interests

Full details of staff research interests can be found on the School's website.

Dr Rebekah Higgitt: Lecturer in History of Science

History of science, especially physical sciences, in 17th to 19th-century Britain; relationship between science, government and the public; scientific institutions; popular science; biography.

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Dr Charlotte Sleigh: Reader in the History of Science

History and culture of the life sciences in the 19th and 20th centuries; history of natural history; literature; gender.

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Dr Karen Jones: Senior Lecturer in American History

The American West; environmental history; the wolf: science and symbolism; hunting, nature and American identity; human relationships with animals; nuclear culture; parks and other tourist/heritage landscapes.

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Dr John Wills: Senior Lecturer in American History

Modern US history; environmental, cultural and visual history; American nuclear landscapes; California protest culture; Disney; theme parks; tourism; 1950s America; cyber-society (including video games).

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Fees

The 2019/20 annual tuition fees for this programme are:

Science Communication - MA at Canterbury:
UK/EU Overseas
Full-time £7500 £15700
Part-time £3750 £7850

For students continuing on this programme fees will increase year on year by no more than RPI + 3% in each academic year of study except where regulated.* If you are uncertain about your fee status please contact information@kent.ac.uk

General additional costs

Find out more about general additional costs that you may pay when studying at Kent. 

Funding

Search our scholarships finder for possible funding opportunities. You may find it helpful to look at both: