Spring 2014

COM410: Science Communication

Assignments | Office Hours | Dr. Logan
Current Events
Dr. Patrick Logan
108 Davis Hall, Department of Communications Studies, University of Rhode Island, Kingston RI 02881
Phone: 401-874-2970; Fax: 401-874-4722
Email: mayfly@uri.edu


The evolution, craft, and status of communication within science discourse communities and with the public. Analysis of contemporary factors inhibiting public science literacy and science in policy and politics.


As a dominant 21st century discourse, science makes us aware of the world around us in unique ways. This course seeks to clarify how science came to its present state as a way of thinking about the natural world and how it evolved a distinctive means of communication, effective within science discourse communities but challenged in its ability to inform the public effectively in the public worlds of education, broadcast and internet media, and policy. Specifically, this course focuses on the following:



Classes use lectures and discussions. Readings are assigned in advance; they will provide the focus of most classes. Occasional reference to relevant current events will also enter classroom discussion.


Brief topical essays and a term paper will form the primary basis for a course grade. Attendance, participation, and evidence of preparation for class will also matter.


The course is intended for advanced undergraduate or graduate students in communcation studies or natural science.

SCHEDULE (Spring 2014)

Tuesday, Thursday, 11:00-12:15, 226 Wales Hall

The Nature of Science and the Science of Nature

Week 1 (Jan. 23)
Science, Discourse Communities, and the Public Sphere

Introduction: Logan: Introduction to Science and Science Communication. (notes)

Week 2 (Jan. 28, 30)
The Origin and Nature of Scientific Thinking

Dawn of a Scientific World View: Sleepwalking in the age of Aristotelian science.

Reading: Kuhn: Chapters 1-4.

Week 3 (Feb. 4, 6)
Modern Science, The Method, and Paradigm Shifts

Nevertheless, it moves! The Copernican crisis and the emergence of method.

I think, therefore I write: The Scientific Method and the Structure of Contemporary Refereed Science Articles.

Reading: Kuhn: Chapters 5-7.

When Scientists Communicate With Scientists

Week 4 (Feb. 11, 13)
Origins: Style, Presentation, and Argument in 17th and 18th Century Science

Epistolary Origins: Polite (and not so polite) Exchanges Among Natural Philosophers.

Dawning Scientific Awareness: Newton's Clockwork and the Great Cataloging

Emerging Elements of Style: Moving Beyond the Personal and Subjective to the Detached and Objective.

Reading: Harmon, Gross, and Reidy: : See assignment 2 for reading suggestions.

Week 5 (Feb. 18, 20)
Style, Presentation, and Argument in 19th and 20th Century Science

Contemporary Elements of Style: Formal Journal Articles and the Development of Modern Communicative (Style and Presentation) and Argumentative Forms.

Science Beyond the Looking Glass: Darwin's Dice, Einstein's Quantums, and Paradigm Shifts

Discourse Community Efficiency: Analysis of scientific style—nominalizations, passive voice, noun clusters, and specialized vocabularies.

Reading: Logan: The IMRAD content model of science journal articles: Introduction | Methods and Results | Discussion. Harmon, Gross, and Reidy: See assignment 2 for reading suggestions.

Science In the Political Arena

Week 6 (Feb. 25, 27)
Science Policy, Politicized Science, and Making Sense

Gidden's Climate Change Politics: Climate change, peak oil, green politics: How are we doing and what's the plan?

Principles for Action: The Precautionary Principle and its Detractors. Communicating risk in formulating public planning policy.

Reading: Giddens: Chapters 1-3 (pages 1-72).

Additional References: IPCC web site (ipcc.ch) | Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis—Summary for Policymakers (pdf)

Week 7 (Mar. 4, 6)
Implementing Change Through Policy

Persuading Action: Technology, taxes, adaptation, and international cooperation.

Reading: Giddens: Chapters 4-6 (pages 73-161).

March 10-16 is spring break

Case Study I: Climate Change—Communicating Planetary Risk

Week 8 (Mar. 18, 20)
The Academy Awakens

Problem Statements: A prominent social scientist addresses the need for public engagement.

Reading: Nordhaus: Parts 1-2 (pages 1-147).

Week 9 (Mar. 25, 27)
The Science and Mitigation of Climate Change

When Science Isn't Enough: Rhetorical strength of human economics in the formation of climate policy.

Reading: Nordhaus: Parts 3-4 (pages 149-290).

Case Study II: Darwin and the Rhetoric of Contemporary Monkey Business

Week 10 (Apr. 1, 3)
Antiscience in the Public Sphere

Ideologic Wedges and the War on Science: When Genesis meets Darwin.

Reading: Forest and Gross: Chapters 1-5.

Week 11 (Apr. 8, 10)
Conserving the Age of Reason in the Science Classroom

Science on Trial: When the Law intervenes between Church and School.

Reading: Forest and Gross: Chapters 6-9.

Science Communcation in the Information Age

Week 12 (Apr. 15, 17)
Practicing Science Communication

Scientists Communicating: Science communication as business; new communication technologies.

Communicating Across Disciplines: Disciplinary fragmentation; cognitive and social aspects of cross-disciplinary communication.

Reading: Selections from Holliman et al., Practicing Science Communication in the Information Age.

Week 13 (Apr. 22, 24)
Where Should the University Go From Here?

Practicing Public Engagement: Engaging science through public dialog.

Whither the Academy? The future of science communication in US universities.

Reading: Selections from Holliman et al., ibid; "Science Communication & Writing Curricula at Select Universities," by Pat Logan.

Week 14 (Apr. 29)

Classes end Apr. 29