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 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. The contemporary topic we will use is plastics in society, looking at the many multidisciplinary problems in their production, use and disposal, and, where possible, some potential solutions. Aspects of plastics here will span several disciplines including:
- the health effects from the leaching of chemicals from plastics (for example BPA)
- the formation and properties of microplastics
- their environmental and ecological effects in the oceans
- their presence as an indicator in geological deposits
- novel plastic materials
- the science behind the recycling of plastics.
As part of your evaluation of the science behind the news, you will investigate 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.
As you proceed to a second contemporary topic in science, you will select one from several interdisciplinary scientific topics that you will individually investigate in more depth. The topic you choose should suit your 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.
Finally, you will adopt the role of a scientific advisor, presenting your own findings as a poster in an online ‘science conference’ for your fellow students and 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 analysis, awareness of societal impact and decision making. Furthermore, 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 given 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. For the final assessment you will adopt the role of a scientific advisor and present your findings as a short briefing document.
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
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.