Module and Programme Catalogue

Search site

Find information on

2024/25 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

HPSC3200 Science Communication: History & Theory

20 creditsClass Size: 50

Module manager: Jon Topham

Taught: Semester 1 (Sep to Jan) View Timetable

Year running 2024/25

This module is approved as a discovery module

Module summary

How have science, technology, and medicine been communicated to a wider public in the past? How have the processes and purposes of science communication changed over the last two centuries? What have been the consequences for science communication of the introduction of new media, ranging from the radio to the internet? This module addresses these questions by surveying the development of science communication since 1750, and by examining the changing theoretical perspectives that have underpinned these developments. Students will learn to re-examine the processes of contemporary science communication in the light of a deeper understanding of this history.


The module is designed to:

- outline the history of modern science communication, focusing on a range of different communication media and the ways in which they have been used;
- examine changing historical attitudes to the purpose and scope of science communication; and
- explore different theoretical approaches to the processes and practices of science communication.

Learning outcomes
On completion of this module, students should be able to:

- show a historical awareness of the development of science communication in the modern era;
- demonstrate a critical understanding of the ways in which science and technology have been represented in the media;
- analyse the historical role of innovative media technologies in modifying public perceptions of science; and
- articulate an understanding of specific historical controversies concerning the role of science in public culture.


This module will examine major themes in the history of science communication, including at least some of the following:

1. Theoretical perspectives on science communication;
2. Science communication at the end of the Enlightenment and the importance of notions of the public in the origins of modern science;
3. The development of new audiences for science in the nineteenth century and the emergence of new science communication media (e.g. mechanics' institutes, science journalism, public museums and zoos);
4. The advent of the figure of the scientist as public expert and the debate about 'Two Cultures';
5. The boom in new media during the twentieth century (e.g. TV, radio, press, and interactive museums) and their impact on science communication;
6. The growth of public scepticism about science - including the role of new media (e.g. internet) in democratizing science - and the attempts made to counteract such scepticism (e.g. the Public Understanding of Science movement).

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours181.00
Total Contact hours19.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Private study

- Reading lecture notes and preparing for seminars (2 hours/week) = 22 hours
- Reading for seminars (6 hours/week) = 66 hours
- Further Reading and Essay Preparation = 93 hours

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Students will have the opportunity to submit a 1000 word piece of work for formative assessment midway through the module. In addition, they will receive feedback informally during the course of seminars, when the leader will respond to your observations and questions. Students are also encouraged to seek such additional feedback as they may need during the module leader’s office hours or by arrangement.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay3000 words (end of module)100.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 29/04/2024 16:19:42


Browse Other Catalogues

Errors, omissions, failed links etc should be notified to the Catalogue Team.PROD

© Copyright Leeds 2019