Science communication

Degree course: 
Corso di First cycle degree in Communication Sciences
Academic year when starting the degree: 
Academic year in which the course will be held: 
Course type: 
Compulsory subjects, characteristic of the class
Second semester
Standard lectures hours: 
Detail of lecture’s hours: 
Lesson (72 hours)

All courses offered during the first and second year of the degree program (particularly those related to the history of science) will represent a key conceptual basis for dealing with the topics taught in the course.

Final Examination: 

The final exam will be subdivided into a written test and an oral test, both aimed at making sure that the needed knowledge and skills have been acquired.
The 1-hour long written test will be composed of 6 questions (from 0 to 4 points each), all of which are intended to assessing the students' knowledge of the PowerPoint slides shown during classes.
Those who gain a minimum of 14 points in the written test will be having access to the oral, during which students will be asked two questions (maximum 6 points overall) based on the exam's textbooks. The final grade will represent the combination of the grades obatined during the written and oral tests, respectively.

Voto Finale

The course is aimed at providing students with a broad conceptual framework about the main aspects and tools of science communication, from the editorial and news media perspective, as well as in terms of the possibilities for communication offered by science museums, the new and social media. Another major goal is to offer critical tools for analyzing and interpreting the media representation of newsworthy scientific topics. Students will have a chance to gain practical knowledge necessary to move the first steps into science communication at the institutional level, as well as in newspaper press-rooms and museums.

Learning objectives will be:
- To gain knowledge of basic science terminology in relation to climate risks, geo-environmental hazards, nuclear risks, biotechnology;
- To become able to understand and discuss social and media implications of the above scientific issues;
- To acquire the ability to start working as a freelance journalist/science communicator.

The course is broken down into a first section dedicated to the fundamentals of science communication, and a second, case-study based one.
The first section will be focused on:
a. History and evolution of science communication from the 1700s until today;
b. Background on the main channels of science communications: the print media, TV networks, magazines, science museums, the social media;
c. Fundamentals of Museology (Science and Natural History Museums);
d. The models of science communication;
e. The role played by science communicators;
f. Pseudoscience and pseudscientists;
g. Facts and news. Reporting, interviewing, investigative journalism.
The second section of the course will be centered on a few examples aimed at presenting different modes of communicating science, as well as fostering discussion about scientific issues and practices which are particularly relevant in terms of their potential social and ethical impacts:
- The Vajont landslide and tsunami(1963): the role of science and the media in the 1960s.
- The Chernoby nuclear disaster(1986) and its coverage by the italian media;
- Climate change and media coverage;
- The clash between science and the "no-vax" community in Italy;
- The stamina methodology: scientific evidence and media coverage;
- Movies and science. Critical analysis of movies centered on science topics: hydrogeological hazard (“Vajont”); climate change (“An inconvenient truth”); astrophysics (“The theory of everything”);space exploration ("Interstellar"), industrial risks ("Erin Brockovich").

For students who will be following classes:
1. Slides uploaded on the e-learning site at the end of the course.
2. S. Bencivelli, F.P. De Ceglia. Comunicare la scienza, Carocci, Roma 2013.
3. P. Bianucci. Te lo dico con parole tue. Zanichelli, 2008.

For students who won’t be following classes:
1. Slides uploaded on the e-learning site at the end of the course.
2. S. Bencivelli, F.P. De Ceglia. Comunicare la scienza, Carocci, Roma 2013.
3. A. Candela. Dal sogno degli alchimisti agli incubi di Frankenstein. La scienza e il suo immaginario nei mass media. FrancoAngeli, Milano 2013.

Throught he combination of lessons (60 hours) and tutorial activities (12 hours), students will be provided with specific guidelines to gathering scientific information from institutional websites and the available literature; basic techniques for writing short essays dealing with environmental risks and disasters will also be taught.

Office hours
Appointment, upon email request, during class intermissions and at the end of each class.