Assessing the landscape for Public Communication of Science curriculum among Canadian undergraduate programs in the natural sciences.

Author: Adam Oliver Brown – Dept. of Biology (Faculty of Science) and Faculty of Education, University of Ottawa, Canada


  • Chantal Barriault – Science Communication Graduate Program, Laurentian University, Canada
  • Erin MacIsaac – Science Communication Graduate Program, Laurentian University
  • Sydney Smith – Dept. of Biology, University of Ottawa, Canada

The landscape for the Public Communication of Science (PCS) is rapidly developing in Canada, wherein it is seen as becoming increasingly important for scientists to communicate directly to the general public and to attempt to make their scientific knowledge accessible for informed decision-making by non-scientific citizens in society. Scholars of science communication note, however, that there are numerous, marked differences in the approaches and skills required for the effective communication of science between scientific and non-scientific audiences, as well as the unique challenges associated with communicating science across a number of media platforms. Furthermore, it is commonly recognized that undergraduate students of science do not receive much (if any) training for PCS skill development from traditional university programs in the natural sciences, despite the importance placed on science outreach from science professors, departments and universities. In order to assess the nature of the PCS skill-development offered to undergraduate students of science in Canada, we performed a nation-wide study to determine where and how these skills were being taught. We compared the reported learning outcomes offered on the websites of programs in natural science departments from all universities across Canada, as well as an analysis of directed surveys to all Faculties and Departments offering undergraduate programs inquiring about the nature and extent of PCS content in their programs. Using follow-up surveys, we directly polled professors involved in PCS curriculum offerings to give us more information about the nature and content of these activities. From these results it has been shown that professional attitudes towards PCS in Canadian academia are favourable and encouraging but that there is often a gap in the availability of curriculum that actively addresses learning of PCS skills among their programs. This study highlights the importance of curriculum development for PCS pedagogy in undergraduate science programs across Canada.

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Presentation type: Individual paper
Theme: Transformation