What you will study
In everyday life we often meet advances in science, usually through reports in the media. The way science is reported is important as it can influence decisions and behaviour. For example, the suggested link between the MMR vaccine and autism in the late 1990s illustrates how stories can develop far beyond the original scientific report and consequently influence the behaviour of the public. Therefore, you will appreciate that effective communication is essential for scientists. You will begin this module by exploring how science is peer reviewed and published before becoming news.
Next, you will study some recent original scientific research articles evaluating how closely they match some related news or other media articles. One contemporary topic we will use as an example is plastics in society, looking at the many multidisciplinary problems in their production, use and disposal, and, where possible, some potential solutions. You will choose one of the multidisciplinary aspects (such as the health effects of the leaching of chemicals from plastics, novel uses and recycling of plastics, or plastics in the environment and geology) to apply your evaluation skills.
As part of your evaluation of the science behind the news, you will then investigate the process of carrying out scientific research and how datasets are analysed and represented, an increasingly important area as more large datasets in science are being made available to the public. You will also be given the opportunity to work with some datasets in this module such as the level of lead in the blood of children due to environmental exposure.
For the later parts of the module, you will select one from several interdisciplinary scientific topics that you will individually investigate in more depth. Some examples of possible interdisciplinary scientific topics include antibiotic resistance, pollution from diesel vehicles, rare earth elements, moons and asteroids, The topic you choose should suit your interests and previous studies to allow you to apply your prior scientific knowledge to a contemporary real world issue. In parallel, you will also be encouraged to assess the wider implications in society of the science that you are exploring.
There is a popular online ‘science conference’ where you will utilise the skills learnt during the module to produce a scientific poster on your chosen topic. In addition, you will also adopt the role of a scientific advisor, presenting the findings from your chosen investigation as a separate briefing document. You will be fully supported in developing the important employability skills that you will practice and improve during these activities, such as presentation, critical thinking and analysis, awareness of societal impact, assessing risk, and decision making. The study materials work through some recent scientific topics and provide guidance on planning your own literature search, analysing data and communicating the information.
The module is ideal preparation for anyone planning a career in science, particularly those intending to go on to study one of the Science project course modules. As part of your first piece of assessment you will develop skills to deal with information that is not familiar to you and present your findings in a particular written style. Two intermediate submissions will help you to further develop important independent learning such as data analysis and presentation skills, and preparing a scientific poster with an accompanying recorded audio pitch, data analysis and presentation skills. For the final assessment you will present your findings as a short briefing document for a specific audience.
You are expected to check the S350 website and online forums frequently, and take part in group discussions in online tutorials. You will also be introduced to working with Open Studio, an online platform, to participate in a student conference involving peer support and feedback. Note the module is delivered entirely online, with no printed materials.
You will learn
By studying this module you will learn to:
- work independently with cutting edge scientific research
- develop and improve the knowledge, understanding and skills required to deal with scientific information
- present scientific information in various media.
By studying this module you will develop key skills including searching current research, critiquing and evaluation methods, risk analysis and decision making. There is a focus on the communication of science in the written form, as posters and orally. You will also explore different methods of collaborative working in a digital environment including giving and using feedback from your peers. All these skills are invaluable in interviewing and employment.