MSc
2022 start September 

Science Communication

School of Biosciences, Faculty of Science

Learn how to communicate science to the public from world-leading experts. You’ll explore the use of different platforms and methods, to find your voice within the science communication world.
Image of science Communication event

Course description

Taught in collaboration with the Department of Journalism, this course will help you to develop the skills to communicate science effectively to a wide range of audiences.

Through practical training, you’ll learn how to inform, educate and entertain people without the same specialist knowledge, covering the latest topics in science that interest you. Training sessions can cover writing skills, how to record and edit packages for film and television, social media, and event management. Regular small group workshops give you the time to debate and discuss topics, and practice key communication skills.

Throughout your course you’ll produce a portfolio of high quality science communication work, spanning science journalism, public engagement activities, and event organisation. This can give you a range of project and practical experience to include on your CV, as you consider the relationship between science, the media, and the wider public, and the role that science communication plays in society.

Your final project dissertation can be based around a print, broadcast or digital portfolio, an event you've organised or a work placement you've completed. This can be customisable to your interests and cover any STEM subject you’re passionate about. Previous students have based their dissertation around work they've completed at organisations ranging from National Geographic to the CERN research institute in Switzerland.

Example research projects include:

  • Let them lead the way: engaging children in climate policy
  • Science Communication in a pandemic: How effective are virtual conferences?
  • The role of social media in the dissemination of public health messaging
  • Writing women into the history of science; challenging the gender gap in STEM
  • Which paper is best? A study of comprehensiveness of news articles on gravitational waves
  • Investigating the quality and validity of Covid-19 reporting in the UK press
  • Animation as a form of science education; what determines successful education animations?

Teaching is led by expert scientists who have lots of experience of sharing their work with the public, and professional journalists with backgrounds in print, broadcast and online journalism, from Fleet Street to the BBC.

You'll be able to gain first-hand insights from industry professionals through our course seminar series – past speakers have included staff from national newspapers, film production companies, and the BBC. You'll also meet regularly with your designated personal tutor and your project dissertation supervisor.

At Sheffield we have a long track record of delivering excellent science communication and outreach work to a huge variety of audiences. Projects have included local and national festivals, schools activities and media work, giving you plenty of opportunities to get involved and put your skills into practice alongside your studies.

Intercalation

We accept medical students who wish to intercalate their studies. Find out more on the Medical School's website.

Apply now

Modules

The modules listed below are examples from the last academic year. There may be some changes before you start your course. For the very latest module information, check with the department directly.

Core modules:

Science Communication Skills

Science communication is a fast-paced and rapidly changing field. This module will introduce the latest technical, editing and media techniques needed to produce cutting edge visuals and audio for any online audience. The course will introduce a wide range of topics, designed to cover the huge breadth of science communication options in the Digital Age.

30 credits
Dealing with data for journalists

News reporting relies increasingly on knowing how to understand and analyse data. ¿Now that information is abundant, processing is more important.¿ (Philip Meyer). Data science is the scientific discipline that feeds into this new type of journalism. It provides methods for collecting and systematizing data, which is then analysed using a combination of statistical and machine learning techniques, and finally presented in an appealing and understandable format. This module will equip students with the confidence to appreciate and apply the most widely used statistical techniques, which constitute the very core of data science and, hence, facilitate responsible evidence-based journalism.

15 credits
Project Dissertation

The project exercise provides the student with a choice of three pathways to undertake a piece of scholarly research work in the area of Science Communication. These include critical analysis of the literature, developing experimental methods to test a hypothesis, or a practice based approach (which may include an optional work-placement).

60 credits
Research Methods

This module is designed as an introduction to social scientific research methods as applied in the communications, media and journalism fields. The module provides an overview of key research methods, and the different ways in which research can be conducted. Topics covered include surveys, questionnaire design, focus groups, interviewing, ethnography, content analysis, discourse analysis and different aspects of information search, reserach design, project management and research presentation. The module is designed to make students aware of basic skills in these social science research methods and to equip them to conduct small scale projects on their own, or in groups.

15 credits
Ethics and Regulation

This module examines some of the major ethical controversies in journalism. Students will explore debates about the tension between freedom of expression and the exercise of responsibility, and about the need to balance privacy rights with publishing material in the public interest. There will also be study of regulation, truth-telling, media representation of vulnerable groups and journalists' relationship with their sources. Students will explore how ethical behaviour is encouraged in journalism, and consider how the industry codes seek to achieve this in the UK.

15 credits
Topical Science

What are the current ‘hot topics’ in science? Why are these important? This module delivers the skills to take new scientific research and communicate it to a range of audiences. The module focuses on written communication, covering a broad spectrum from opinion pieces and blogs through to social media posts and press releases. The aim is to develop students’ abilities to research and communicate exciting new scientific research both within and beyond their own areas of expertise.

15 credits
Communicating with the Media

This module will provide students with knowledge and skills necessary to communicate messages through the media. Case studies and practical workshops will allow students to learn about the practice of media communication. They will learn how the media operates and how to communicate messages through interviews, press conferences and news releases. Topics covered in the module will include the development of communication strategies, the understanding of news values and news cycles and strategies for successful and ethical communication.

15 credits
Engaging with the Public

This group project works towards the planning, organisation and delivery of a public event/ Festival in Science. This will run in parallel with National Science week (usually in March). The delivery of this group project will be by the students, under supervision of the module co-ordinator. The group will develop and use their communication skills to liaise and engage with the public and prepare the materials and resources required to stage an effective event. This module will equip students with the skills required for an online-focused fast-paced social-media world. Primarily workshop and tutorial based, candidates will be introduced to film, audio and online publishing production, including editing skills.

15 credits

The content of our courses is reviewed annually to make sure it's up-to-date and relevant. Individual modules are occasionally updated or withdrawn. This is in response to discoveries through our world-leading research; funding changes; professional accreditation requirements; student or employer feedback; outcomes of reviews; and variations in staff or student numbers. In the event of any change we'll consult and inform students in good time and take reasonable steps to minimise disruption. We are no longer offering unrestricted module choice. If your course included unrestricted modules, your department will provide a list of modules from their own and other subject areas that you can choose from.

Teaching

Cutting edge research in science and journalism informs our teaching. You'll attend a mix of lectures, tutorials and seminars, as well as group projects, workshops and masterclasses. Many of our students take the opportunity to go on placement during their dissertation project.

Beth Dyson course director for Science Communication

Dr Beth Dyson, course director

Beth is a University Teaching Associate in School of Biosciences and Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, with a research background in plant physiology and environmental stress.

Beth has worked extensively throughout her career with outreach and public engagement, including taking events to the Edinburgh Science Festival, Jodrell Bank, The Big Bang events and the Chelsea Physic Garden. She has also developed events to facilitate conversations between scientists and the public on controversial topics, including the climate emergency and food security.

Her work with the Parliamentary Office for Science and Technology in engaging MPs and Lords with science resulted in the production of briefing papers, and the development of the Science in Policy group in Sheffield. This experience across the academic, policy and public spaces has shown a real need to train early career scientists to engage with different audiences if they are to have an impact on the future of science.

Her focus is on cutting across subject and faculty boundaries to bring together the technical and narrative skills to train the science communicators of the future.

Assessment

Assessment is 100% coursework based and includes, but is not limited to, a written and creative portfolio of print materials and digital content, reflective pieces, spoken presentations, practical exercises and a dissertation.

Duration

  • 1 year full-time
  • 2 years part-time

Your career

Through practical training and opportunities to get involved in science journalism, film and audio production, public engagement and event organisation throughout your degree, our graduates are in a great position to pursue exciting careers across science, technology and the media.

Previous graduates are now working in press offices, newsrooms, research institutes and charities, in roles ranging from marketing and communications, to planning, outreach and education. Employers include the Wellcome Trust, the NHS and the National Institute for Genomic Medicine.

If you choose to continue your research training to PhD level, this masters course will give you the skills to effectively communicate your own research to a wide audience.

Student profiles

Postgraduate science communication student, Marlja Popova showing exhibit to child

The MSc has opened so many doors for me. I had unsuccessfully been trying to get into medical communications for a few years before deciding to come to Sheffield. The course was so varied and provided me with plenty of new skills – from basic design principles and good science writing, to video editing and podcast production. There was a really interesting array of subjects including public engagement, ethics and regulation, and public relations on top of the communications modules which really made the course feel well-rounded. I now have a successful career with a medical communications agency that I know I couldn’t have achieved without this course.

Heather O'Donoghue, MSc Science Communication
Now: Junior Science Communicator, Enzyme Communications

Read more student stories

Entry requirements

You’ll need a 2:1 or equivalent in biology, chemistry, physics, psychology, mathematics, engineering or other science-related subject.

We also accept medical students who wish to intercalate their studies.

Overall IELTS score of 7.0 with a minimum of 6.5 in each component, or equivalent.

Pre-Masters programmes

If you're an international student and don’t meet our entry requirements, we offer a Pre-Masters in Science and Engineering programme through the University of Sheffield International College. The programme develops your knowledge of your chosen subject, introduces you to vital study skills and provides additional support to reach the English language level for the course, should you need it.

Once you complete your Pre-Masters in Science and Engineering and achieve the required grades, you can enter your chosen postgraduate degree at the University of Sheffield.

We also accept a range of other UK qualifications and other EU/international qualifications.

If you have any questions about entry requirements, please contact the department.

Apply

You can apply for postgraduate study using our Postgraduate Online Application Form. It's a quick and easy process.

Apply now

Any supervisors and research areas listed are indicative and may change before the start of the course.

Our student protection plan

Recognition of professional qualifications: from 1 January 2021, in order to have any UK professional qualifications recognised for work in an EU country across a number of regulated and other professions you need to apply to the host country for recognition. Read information from the UK government and the EU Regulated Professions Database.

Explore this course:

    Beth Dyson course director for Science Communication

    Dr Beth Dyson, course director

    Beth is a University Teaching Associate in School of Biosciences and Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, with a research background in plant physiology and environmental stress.

    Beth has worked extensively throughout her career with outreach and public engagement, including taking events to the Edinburgh Science Festival, Jodrell Bank, The Big Bang events and the Chelsea Physic Garden. She has also developed events to facilitate conversations between scientists and the public on controversial topics, including the climate emergency and food security.

    Her work with the Parliamentary Office for Science and Technology in engaging MPs and Lords with science resulted in the production of briefing papers, and the development of the Science in Policy group in Sheffield. This experience across the academic, policy and public spaces has shown a real need to train early career scientists to engage with different audiences if they are to have an impact on the future of science.

    Her focus is on cutting across subject and faculty boundaries to bring together the technical and narrative skills to train the science communicators of the future.

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