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Postgraduate Courses 2017/18

Science, Communication and Society - MSc



The MSc in Science, Communication and Society gives critical, professional and practical perspectives on science communication.

Using the latest scholarship, we enable you to get behind contemporary and historic science to understand how knowledge is created and consumed within society. The programme also features professionals from a range of sectors (medical writing, journalism, industry, policy). These bring real-life case studies that inform your critical perspectives on science communication. Practical and innovative assessments harness your developing knowledge to create a portfolio of skills that are highly valued by employers.

The MSc in Science, Communication and Society is intended primarily, though not exclusively, for the following:

  • science graduates intending to pursue a career within science but not in the laboratory
  • humanities graduates with an interest in science and technology studies
  • practising scientists wanting a career change into media, education, policy or other communication-based area of science.

National ratings

School of Biosciences

In the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014, research by the School of Biosciences was ranked 7th for research intensity and in the top 20 in the UK for research output.

An impressive 93% of our research-active staff submitted to the REF and 100% of our research was judged to be of international quality, with 88% of this judged world-leading or internationally excellent. The School’s environment was judged to be conducive to supporting the development research of international excellence.

School of History

In the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014, research by the School of History was ranked 8th for research intensity and in the top 20 in the UK for research power.

An impressive 100% of our research-active staff submitted to the REF and 99% of our research was judged to be of international quality. The School’s environment was judged to be conducive to supporting the development of world-leading research.

Course structure

The MSc has been developed by the School of Biosciences, a leading school in teaching, research and science communication, and the School of History, which has a dedicated research centre in the History of the Sciences. It integrates current theory and practice in communicating science with insights from historical and ethical perspectives. Two core modules have a case study-driven approach to science communication, learning from key scientific moments in history and from science communicators who work in a variety of different professions (eg, media, politics, education, journalism).

Two optional modules allow you to specialise in a particular area relevant to science communication, based on your interests and experience, focusing on either practical/scientific or humanities-based approaches to the study of science communication. An extended research project allows you to take a practical approach to science communication, or to do in-depth research on a historical or contemporary episode in science.

In some cases, these projects may be undertaken in conjunction with external partners, such as Research Councils, charities and NGOs.

You can opt to take only the core modules, resulting in a postgraduate certificate, or to take the compulsory plus two optional modules, leading to a postgraduate diploma.


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.

BI830 - Science at Work (30 credits)


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 contents, 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.

Themes and Topics

• The nature of “public understanding” and “public engagement”

• The current science communication “landscape”: existing schemes, government priorities, charitable organisations

• Review of recent surveys on public attitudes to science, scientists’ attitudes to communication, and related studies in the public domain

• Analysis of published science communication activities targeting different audiences

• Analysis of evaluation strategies from surveys of the published literature

• Case studies of science communication from practitioners in different professions: TV, science writing, media relations, politics, lobbying

Credits: 30 credits (15 ECTS credits).

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HI817 - Deformed, Deranged and Deviant (30 credits)

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


The development of forensic science


Dying and the rituals of death

Agency, freakery and the politics of display

Homosexuality as deviance

Madness and mental health

Credits: 30 credits (15 ECTS credits).

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HI857 - Geiger Counter at Ground Zero: Explorations of Nuclear America (30 credits)

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

Credits: 30 credits (15 ECTS credits).

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HI881 - Museums, Material Culture and the History of Science (30 credits)

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.

Credits: 30 credits (15 ECTS credits).

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HI883 - Work Placement (30 credits)

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.

Credits: 30 credits (15 ECTS credits).

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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

This programme aims to:

  • equip you to communicate science effectively in a variety of media
  • enable you to understand the social and professional processes by which scientific knowledge is made and communicated
  • give you an understanding of the process of scientific investigation
  • provide a stimulating, research-active environment for teaching and learning in which you are supported and motivated to achieve your academic and personal potential
  • facilitate a learning experience (integration and application of knowledge) through a variety of teaching and assessment methods
  • give you the experience of undertaking an independent research project or dissertation
  • prepare you 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 develop intellectual skills in:

  • how to understand the range and scope of teaching and assessment methods and study skills relevant to the programme
  • gather, organise and deploy evidence, data and information from a variety of secondary and primary sources
  • the ability to identify, investigate and analyse primary and secondary information
  • how to differentiate between arguments
  • how to present reasoned defensible arguments based on reflection, study and critical judgement
  • how to understand the needs of different modes of communication for different audiences
  • engagement in effective and intelligent discussion with people of varied training and perspectives
  • development of intellectual capacity and skills spanning humanities, sciences and social sciences.

Subject-specific skills

You gain subject-specific skills in:

  • how to develop 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
  • an understanding of the nature of science and its socio-cultural role, past and present
  • how to find information on science communication and the history of science from a wide range of information sources (eg journals, books, electronic databases) and maintain an effective information retrieval strategy
  • an understanding and application of scholarly methods and concepts used in the critical study of science, technology and medicine.

Transferable skills

You will gain the following transferable skills:

  • the ability to reflect on, and manage, your own learning and seek to make use of constructive feedback from your peers and staff to enhance your own performance and personal skills
  • independence of mind and initiative
  • self-discipline and self-motivation
  • the ability to work in a team and have respect for others’ reasoned views
  • communication: the ability to organise information clearly, create and respond to textual and visual sources (eg images, graphs, tables), present information orally, adapt style for different audiences
  • numeracy: the ability to read graphs and tables, integrate numerical and non-numerical information, understand the limits and potentialities of medical, scientific, legal and ethical disciplines
  • information technology: the ability to evaluate critically and communicate effectively in a number of the following formats: written documents, email, databases, spreadsheets, PowerPoint, web sites, social networking media.


The opportunities for careers in science communication are significant as professional science organisations recognise the increasing importance of public engagement. Graduates of this MSc bring together skills drawn from both sciences and humanities, and the programme is designed to build a portfolio of outputs that can be used in subsequent applications, including blogs, funding applications and the development of specific science communication events. Graduates from the programme have moved into roles in museums, medical writing agencies, research funding councils, public engagement roles in professional science organisations, as well as PhD positions in science communication.

Study support

Postgraduate resources

Both schools have a research-intensive environment. The School of Biosciences offers state-of-the-art research facilities, which have recently undergone a £1 million refurbishment. The research laboratories now house over 100 academic, research, technical and support staff devoted to research, of whom more than 70 are postgraduate students. Annual research funding is in excess of £2 million.

The School of History has around 25 research-active members of staff and 30 postgraduate students. It has an excellent library collection relating to science, past and present.

The programme benefits from an outstanding academic environment. Both schools have a vibrant postgraduate community, featuring seminar series, symposia and social events. A strong feature of the programme is the opportunities for community engagement and science outreach, including events during National Science and Engineering Week, science-art gallery exhibitions and links with local museums. These add to your portfolio of skills and experience and promote future 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 degree in a relevant subject.

General entry requirements

Please also see our general entry requirements.

English language entry requirements

For detailed information see our English language requirements web pages. 

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.

Research areas

Research in the School of Biosciences revolves around understanding and exploiting the impact of systems and processes in the living cell. Our expertise is in three overlapping disciplines and research themes of protein science, molecular microbiology and biomolecular medicine. Each group contains researchers active in science communication and public engagement.

The School of History has a dedicated Centre for the History of Science and Technology, with researchers working on individual and group projects in areas as diverse as human experimentation at Porton Down, steamships, literature and science, and public perceptions of nuclear technology.


Staff research interests

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

Dr Dan Lloyd: Reader in Pharmacology; National Teaching Fellow

Cellular responses to DNA damage, with particular emphasis on the repair of DNA damage in human cells induced by environmental and clinical agents; novel radiopharmaceuticals used in the imaging treatment of cancer.


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.


Enquire or order a prospectus

MSc Science Communication and Society


Read our student profile


Admissions enquiries

T: +44 (0)1227 827272


Subject enquiries

T: +44 (0)1227 827357
E: d.lloyd@kent.ac.uk

School websites


The 2017/18 annual tuition fees for this programme are:

Science Communication and Society - MSc at Canterbury:
UK/EU Overseas
Full-time £6500 £14670
Part-time £3250 £7340

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

The University of Kent makes every effort to ensure that the information contained in its publicity materials is fair and accurate and to provide educational services as described. However, the courses, services and other matters may be subject to change. Full details of our terms and conditions can be found at: www.kent.ac.uk/termsandconditions.

*Where fees are regulated (such as by the Department of Business Innovation and Skills or Research Council UK) they will be increased up to the allowable level.

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The University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7NZ, T: +44 (0)1227 764000