Science Communication & Writing Curricula at Select Universities
Dept. of Communication Studies, Univ. Rhode Island
Public policy must be rooted in science in the face of challenges from climate change, pandemics, peak oil, overpopulation, etc. Polling suggests that neither the public nor their national representatives are adequately aware of critical contemporary science, nor do they sense urgency for public response to threats revealed by science. This paper assesses the current status of university programs for creating or maintaining the connection between science discourse communities, the public, and policy makers. Specifically, it asks:
- What special competencies do university communication and writing programs bring to the task of communicating scientific awareness, recognizing importance of vulnerabilities, and persuading social movements?
- What is the current status of science communication in the curricula of leading communication studies programs in leading research universities?
- What benchmarks characterize best practices for producing the Nation's most effective science communicators?
A database of departments and courses was constructed to help answer these questions.  Departments explored for the database include communication, journalism, writing, or English, and natural or social science departments that offer communication or writing courses. Departments were chosen from the 108 Carnegie classification  "very high research activity" and the 99 "high research activity" universities. This set also contains all of the 79 universities listed by the National Communication Association (NCA)  with departments or programs offering "Doctoral Programs in Communication."  The intent of the database is to approximate the current status and near-term future direction of science communication in a set of US universities most representative of the intersection of science and communication, as represented by sampled curricula. The list of courses within the selected academic units provides a starting point for benchmarking the approaches and topical foci of contemporary courses in science communication.
The intended audience for this survey is anyone assessing the state of science communication and writing as found in communication, journalism, and writing programs. This audience includes academics with interests in communication and also those whose scientific awareness—of matters such as climate change, peak fossil energy, human health, or the fate of food, water, and natural resources—drives them to search for better means to connect science discourse communities to the public sphere. More effective science communication informs citizens and elevates representative government. Stimulation of discussions leading toward this goal provides an overarching purpose to this exercise.
A sampling of contemporary curricula reveals the most popular areas of emphasis within and across institutions and the presence of potential growth areas. In most communication studies programs, course offerings are congruent with NCA's self-definitional "What is Communication: Areas of Emphasis." That is, there is a clear national norm which most communication studies faculty would recognize as a traditional teaching component of the communication discipline. NCA's "Interest Group Descriptions" and "Doctoral Programs Research Areas of Interest" help identify potential areas of change-in-the-making. 
Method: Sampling plan [5b]
University websites were searched for colleges, departments, and courses. Units labeled School or Program were treated as though they were either a college or a department.
Universities: Universities were chosen for their current importance to US science and engineering and to communication, as follows. Of the approximately 4500 degree-granting colleges and universities in the US, about 2775 are four-year colleges.  Much of the Nation's science and engineering (S&E) research and development (R&D) is performed in a relatively small number of these. NSF reports that in FY 2012, 907 institutions reported spending at least $150,000 on S&E R&D. Of these, the top-spending 20 accounted for 31% of total academic R&D spending and the top 100 for 79% of all academic R&D expenditures.  The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching lists 108 universities, based in large part on relative expenditures on research, as "very high research activity (RU/VH)," and another 99 as "high research activity."  These were all surveyed here.
In US Research universities, research is the primary vehicle for graduate education. Accordingly, universities important to science research also tend to produce the bulk of the Nation's future science PhDs. Of the 52,760 science doctorates awarded in 2013, 73.1% came from RU/VH and 90.6% from RU/VH + RU/H Carnegie institutions. 
The National Communication Association recognizes 790 member communication departments. 79 universities include 100 doctoral-granting programs, most with a single PhD program per department, with a few departments offering more than one doctorate and a small number of departments sharing a common degree. Most departments from the universities containing NCA-listed PhD programs were already included in the sample group of research universities, and the remainder were all added. [4b]
The universities included in the database produce most of the Nation's future life and physical science PhDs, the future faculty of American universities. These same universities also produce most of the Nation's future communication studies faculty. By assessing the curricula available to these PhDs, we can guage the current potential exposure of scientists to communication and the exposure of communicators to science. The overlap of science with communication, of course, depends on the willingness of the respective science and communication discourse communities to collaborate in the education of their doctoral candidates, and the actual connections of science and communications are undoubtedly considerably limited, possibly rare. One indicator of this willingness is the presence of science communication courses within departmental course listings, as surveyed here. The potential vital roles of non-doctoral feeder schools may (or may not) be appreciable, but that assessment is beyond the scope of this survey.
Departments: In seeking information about courses and communication curricula, each university was searched for colleges or departments or programs with likely names. The NCA found 116 names for 790 departments, of which six, all containing the word "communication," were used by 607 departments (77%):  In general, these departments were located in Colleges of Arts and Sciences / Liberal Arts, etc., or in hybrid or autonomous colleges or schools of their own (e.g., Mike Curb College of Arts, Media, and Communication (Cal. State Northridge); College of Communication (several)). There were a few instances where a department of communication was located outside a similarly named school or college (e.g., two separate units using "Communication," one in a College of Communication & Media and another in a College of Arts & Sciences). NCA maintains lists of departments, separated into Bachelor's, Master's, and doctoral programs in communication.  Again, All NCA doctoral granting departments were included in the survey (ref. footnote 4b).
Each university was also searched for a department or program in journalism. If a department in neither communication nor journalism was encountered, the department of English or the terms "science communication" and/or "science writing" were also searched in an effort to find an academic unit offering science communication coursework.
Category labels were added for all departments. For the 347 departments surveyed, 214 were categorized as "communication" departments. Other department categories were "journalism (61)," "writing (15), "media (42)," and "English (23)". In addition to communication and writing departments, a few science communication courses were also found within science or other departments, including departments categorized as "natural science (42)" or "social science (14)." Several departments fell into more than one category. There were 19 departments which were both communication and media, for example; this is usually clear from the department name.
Courses: Most departments provide a link from a home page to a course listing, with descriptions, or to the university's database of course descriptions. In general, course titles are congruent with NCA areas of emphasis  or with NCA doctoral programs research areas of emphasis . The database displays a link to the departmental or university courses list. Courses selected for the database were restricted to those providing a clear focus on both science and communication. 384 courses are included in the database.
Courses were categorized for communication focus and topic focus. Communication focus includes "science communication (196 courses)," "science writing or journalism (177)," and "film or media (67)." Courses pursue communication, writing, or media goals using content that explores a common set of topics. Here, course topics categories include "environmental science (168)," "politics and public policy (51)," risk (25)," "sociology or social movements (48)," "sustainability (24)," "science ethics (18)," and "science, technology, and culture (62)." Courses could, of course, use multiple topics (e.g., "environmental policy" or "ethics for science, technology, and culture").
Where it could be determined, courses were also categorized, based on title or course description, as focused on communication or writing for the public (217), for scientists (56), or both (32).
Analysis: Analysis is limited to frequency analysis and cross tabulations in search of answers to basic questions. These include "How common are science communication courses", "Are the courses equally common across communication, writing, or media programs," or "Are any particular topic foci (e.g., environmental or risk communication) more frequent than others." For programs considering starting or expanding offerings in science communication, stronger programs and curricula are highlighted as potential benchmarks to be considered for wider emulation.
Table 1 shows frequency of all departments—categorized as communications, journalism, media, English, Natural Science, and Social Science (lower left diagonal matrix)—and frequency of courses—classified as communication or writing, by departmental categories. The frequency of departments for which courses are found are given under the department totals as "(total with 1 or more science communication course / total with 1 or more science writing course)." Note that departments categorized in two or more categories cause row or column sums to exceed the total numbers of departments or courses.
Table 1.Department Category and Course Focus Frequency Matrix. Lower left diagonal is frequency of department by category: upper right diagonal is frequency of courses categorized as focused on communication / writing. There are 347 total departments and 214 communication and 15 writing courses in the database.
SocSci Social Science
NatSci Natural Science
Courses on Science Communication
Under development, here....
Table 2a & b. Department category and course focus frequency, comparing NCA and non-NCA departments. Percentages compare NCA and nonNCA to totals (e.g., % of departments teaching communications courses relative to all departments teaching communication courses).
SocSci Social Science
NatSci Natural Science
2a. Department frequencies
|All Departments||NCA Only Departments||Non-NCA Departments|
|All||100 (0%)||42 (0%)||18 (0%)||-100 (0%)||-42 (0%)||-18 (0%)|
|COMM||85 (0%)||42 (%)||10 (%)||-85 (0%)||(%)||-10 (0%)|
|JRNL||100 (%)||42 (%)||18 (%)||-100 (%)||-42 (0%)||-18 (%)|
|Media||42||8||12||100 (%)||42 (%)||18 (%)||-100 (%)||-42 (0%)||-18 (%)|
|Writing||100 (%)||42 (%)||18 (%)||-100 (%)||-42 (0%)||-18 (%)|
|English||23||5||16||100 (%)||42 (%)||18 (%)||-100 (%)||-42 (0%)||-18 (%)|
2b. Course frequencies
|All Courses||NCA Only Courses||Non-NCA Courses|
|All||384||120 (31.3%)||84 (0%)||31 (0%)||264 (68.8%)||-84 (0%)||-31 (0%)|
NCA Doctoral Granting Programs: Of the 196 courses identified as "science communication" in the database, 84 (42.9%) are taught in 42 of the 100 doctoral-granting departments listed by NCA (Appendix 1). Of the 177 courses identified as "science writing," 31 (17.5%) are taught in 18 of the 100 NCA doctoral departments. 58 NCA doctoral-granting departments appear to offer no courses focused on science communication and 82 offer no courses on science writing.
- Only two of NCA's doctoral granting departments teach more than three science communication courses (fig. 1).
- 56 of the 84 courses are on communication to the public; 13 focus on scientist-to-scientist communication; 11 cover both.
- 43 of the 84 courses are on environmental communication and 5 on sustainability; 26 deal with sociology or social movements, 15 with politics or policy, and 11 cover science, technology, and culture (STC). 11 are concerned with risk communication. Courses on communicating science ethics are uncommon (n=1).
Fig. 1: Course codes and titles of science communication courses at Cornell and George Mason Universities (from appendix 1).
College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
Department of Communication
|George Mason University|
College of Humanities and Social Sciences
Department of Communication
Communication Departments not listed as NCA Doctoral Granting: An additional 84 courses on "communicating science" were listed in the database from 42 departments categorized as focused on communications, but not included in NCA's list of doctoral departments (Appendix II).
- Only two programs teach more than three courses and in both the curriculum is highly focused (fig. 2):
- Georgia Institute of Technology's School of Literature, Media, and Communication focuses on Science, Technology, and Culture.
- SUNY Stony Brook's new Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science (School of Journalism) offers a palate focused on presentation, tailored for both scientists and journalists.
- 61 of the 84 courses are on communication to the public; 16 focus on scientist-to-scientist communication; 12 cover both.
- 49 of the 84 courses are on environmental communication and 9 on sustainability; 13 courses emphasize policy or politics and 9 focus on sociology or social movements. 11 deal with risk communication.
- There are 28 courses categorized as having a focus on science, technology, and culture, including eleven from the Georgia Tech program.
Fig. 2: Course codes and titles of science communication courses at GIT and SUNY Stony Brook (from appendix 2).
|Georgia Institute of Technology|
Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts
The School of Literature, Media, and Communication
|SUNY Stony Brook|
School of Journalism
Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science
Science Communication Courses Outside of Communication Departments: Science communication is rarely taught as a formal course outside of departments that can be clearly categorized as focused on communication. The database includes 28 courses focused on science communication, taught in 16 departments not categorized as primarily focused on communication (Appendix III).
Of these courses, 20 were oriented toward communicating with the public, 5 toward scientists, and 4 toward both. Subject focus included 12 courses focused on the environment and 7 with emphasis on science, technology, and culture. No other subjects were emphasized in more than 3 courses.
Courses on Science Writing
NCA Doctoral Granting Programs: There were 177 courses in the database categorized as "science writing," taught in 102 departments, including 31 courses in 18 NCA doctoral programs (Appendix IV). 28 of the science writing courses taught in NCA doctoral programs were writing to the public. 18 courses focused on writing about the environment, 7 focused on science and technology (STC), and 5 emphasized policy or politics, with 1-2 courses each on risk, sociology/social movements, science ethics, or sustainability. None of these courses are categorized as being focused on both science writing and science communication.
Outside of the NCA doctoral departments, 146 courses in science writing are taught in departments of communications (n=44 courses) , journalism (n=46), English (n=22), natural science (n=41), or other (n=26) (note that some departments are listed under more than one category (e.g., a department of communications and journalism)).
Science Writing in Journalism Courses: There were an additional 46 science writing courses taught in 23 non-NCA doctoral granting departments categorized as "journalism" (Appendix V). All of these were focused on writing for the public (newspapers, magazines, etc.); five courses (four at Lehigh Universitys Department of Journalism and Communication) also addressed writing about science within science discourse communities. 22 courses were concerned with the environment (based on wording in course title or description). Other foci were limited to a handful (six or fewer categorized) of the 46 courses. There was little evidence that science itself was a focus other than indirectly or abstractly: This may be a function of the limited breadth of course descriptions, or it may be, as a course on "Science Journalism" from the University of Arizona suggests, that there are fundamental differences between "science communication" and "science journalism" such that the nature of science communication itself becomes beyond the scope of contemporary journalism pedagogy.
Under development, here....
Science Writing in English, Other Writing, or Science Courses: In non-NCA doctoral granting departments and departments with neither "communication" nor "journalism" in their name, 115 additional courses dealing with science writing were encountered (usually by searching the university site for "science writing" or "scientific writing" or by scanning the English department course lists), taught in 41 departments (Appendix VI).
Of these courses, 35 emphasized writing for the public and 23 writing for scientists or students of science (4 were both or non-specific). Eighteen courses emphasized environmental writing based on course title or phrases in the description. None appeared to emphasize writing about risks. Twelve addressed social concerns, as indicated by phrases within the course descriptions ("relationship with nature," "preparing briefing for policy-makers," "science journalists role in society," "political ... contexts of modern environmentalism," "cultural place of science in our society," "conservation movement," etc.).
Characterizing Core Communication Curricula: The future of science communication and writing curricula in communication or writing programs depends on myriad factors, including internal university resources and external marketplaces. Inertia tending to maintain a status quo comes from cultural senses experienced within the discipline, cultural in the sense that a shared consensus of the nature of a discipline is inheritable, with limited possibility of alteration, by each new generation of scholars. Cross-disciplinary exchange and intellectual fertilization experience resistance within disciplines, related to how the discipline is structured currently and how this structure is perceived by current faculty and students. The subject is as much a matter of working across disciplines to incorporate new material into communication and writing programs as it is a matter of studying communication between disciplines. In addressing the latter, Joachim Schummer shines light on the former.
In order to understand cross-disciplinary communication issues and the strategies to address them, we first need to have a better understanding of what disciplines are and how to describe their relations.
The English term 'discipline' (from the Latin, disciplina) has a complex meaning, as the following sentence illustrates: Students (disciples) learn a certain doctrine (a discipline) by obeying strict (disciplinary) rules of a school (a discipline) and by practising self-control (discipline). A discipline is not simply an abstract set of information, but both a body of knowledge that is taught at a school and the social context of the school. Disciplinary knowledge requires a social context of transmission and education and a social body that reproduces itself by educating students to become future teachers. A scientific discipline thus comprises both cognitive and social aspects.
The cognitive aspects of a discipline refer to a body of knowledge of three kinds: concepts and beliefs, including facts, classifications, models and theories (knowledge of the world); methods for increasing and validating the knowledge of the world and for problem-solving (knowledge of methods); and values for judging the relevance and importance of the knowledge (knowledge of values). Hence, two disciplines differ not only in the specific set of information and concepts about the world, but also in what they consider important research questions, how to approach the problems and how to assess solutions. Cross-disciplinary communication issues thus arise not only because of different terminologies and information about the world, but also because of a different understanding of values and methods.
The social aspects of a discipline refer to a social body or community of scientists who largely share the three kinds of knowledge and who feel committed to the community. The commitment includes active engagement in increasing and improving the disciplinary body of knowledge through research, in communicating it through publications and in teaching it to students. Like other social groups, a disciplinary community has rules for becoming a junior member (by graduation), for gathering (in society meetings), for distributing honour (through awards and society positions), for reproduction (through teaching appointments), for community-like behavior (through codes of conduct) and for representing itself to publics. Being a member of a disciplinary community does not per se pose specific cross-disciplinary communication issues. However, the commitment to the community reinforces the cognitive issues and, because groups tend to stick together, it reduces the experience of cross-disciplinary communication. 
An analysis of central foci of contemporary curricula can clarify forces of inertia, tendencies to keep doing familiar established practices within disciplines. It may also shed light on places where new perspectives may take place without fundamental cultural shifts. Such an analysis can proceed from many starting points, so long as the aim is to establish a center of focus. For communication, this is most commonly a curricular emphasis on public speaking and rhetoric. Creating speeches and delivering them to an audience has historically been an important component of higher education. The art of making the speech persuasive is as old as Aristotle's Rhetoric .
The use of course titles and descriptions gleaned from web listings or online course catalogs provides a lens with limited ability to provide insight into what is being learned within the nation's science communication and writing academic galaxy. But even Galileo, using Tycho Brahe's crude telescopic lens, created a vastly improved understanding of the medieval universe. Acknowledging the crudeness of the current effort, there are some things that seem clear about what we are, and perhaps more importantly, what we are not doing in U.S. universities to improve the connection between science discourse communities and the public sphere.
Core Communication Curricula
- Communication theory—The study of principles that account for the impact of communication in human social interaction.
- Applied communication—The study of how communication theory, research, and/or best practices help inform knowledge and theory about communication for practical issues.
- Interpersonal communication—The study of communication behaviors in dyads (pairs) and their impact on personal relationships.
- Small group communication—The study of communication systems among three or more individuals who interact around a common purpose and who influence one another.
- Speech communication—The study of the nature, processes, and effects of human symbolic interaction. While speech is the most obvious mode of communication, human symbolic interaction includes a variety of verbal and nonverbal codes.
- Rhetorical criticism—The process of defining, classifying, analyzing, interpreting, and/or evaluating rhetorical artifacts.
- Organizational communication—The study of processes used to analyze communication needs of organizations and social interactions, including how to improve communication between supervisors and employees.
Deferring any debate about particulars of this selection (and admitting infinite other possibilities), the point here is to establish a centrum  approximating a central focus for the communication discipline. The critical questions concerning the prosperity of any existing novel curricular element are 1) does the new element (say, a course, or a major topical component of a course) chance to survive, endure, and grow increase or decrease as other elements in the curricular environment increase in abundance (or "activity") and 2) does the abundance (or "activity") of the components in the curricular environment increase or decrease as the number of courses (or elements of subject matter) increases?
As disciplines and their containing departments or programs grow, growth itself may or may not create an environment for new courses or course content to take root. This is evident in larger programs, where additional areas of interest spring from the centrum. These include NCA interests: communication education; health, international, intercultural, or legal communication; mediation and dispute resolution; political communication and public address; performance studies, theatre and drama; electronic media, mass media and media literacy; public relations; and semiotics. . These outgrowths may remain within the same local academic unit, or they may branch off (e.g., a department of public relations, which may remain organizationally closely aligned with communication or may drift into, say, a college of business).
Rutgers, for example, has a mature array of courses within their Department of Communication, here aligned with NCA "areas of emphasis" as examples of species within genera :
|NCA Area of Emphasis|
|Applied Communication||Audience and Market Analysis|
Applied Study in Communication
|Communication Education||Communication and Learning|
|Communication Theory||Communication Theory|
Communication and Social Change
|Electronic Media||Introduction to Social Media|
|Health Communication||Health Communication|
Health Message and Campaign Design
Advanced Health Communication
|International and Intercultural Communication||International Communication|
Intercultural Communication Workshop
|Interpersonal Communication||Communication in Relationships|
Beginning American Sign Language?
Intermediate American Sign Language?
Communicating about Relationship Challenges
Communication and Gender
Relationships and Identities in Interaction
Advanced Interpersonal and Small-Group Communication
|Language and Social Interaction||Language and Communication|
Language, Behavior, and Communication
|Mass Communication and Media Literacy||Media, Marketing and Communication|
Crisis Communication and Public Information
|Mediation and Dispute Resolution||Mediated Communication|
Conflict Negotiation and Resolution
Mediated Communication in Society
|Organizational Communication||Parliamentary Debate Practicum|
Writing and Communication (business)
Information Systems and Communication
Principles of Interviewing
Organizational Reputation and Representation
Approaches to Leadership
Leadership in Groups and Organizations
|Public Relations||Message Design for Public Relations|
Principles of Public Relations
Public Relations Management
|Rhetorical Criticism||Persuasive Communication|
|Semiotics||Beginning American Sign Language?|
Intermediate American Sign Language?
|Small Group Communication||Group Communication|
Communication and Facilitation
Leadership in Groups and Organizations
Advanced Interpersonal and Small-Group Communication
|Speech Communication||Fundamentals of Public Speaking|
|Theatre and Drama|
|Visual Communication||Visual Communication|
Similar mappings may be made for other communication departments. Here, the diverse array of courses at Rutgers models a typical major department. "Missing" elements such as theatre and drama or legal communication may be covered elsewhere: Rutgers has a law school (Newark campus) and a separate Department of Theatre.
Links to additional examples similar to Rutgers may be developed in a later draft. Links within the database that accompanies this article may facilitate rapid locating or specific departments, course lists, and descriptions. 
Extending beyond the communication centrum, universities also have colonies of communication-related curricula scattered in the academic organization charts. Programs of writing and rhetoric, rhetorical writing considered within English departments, dedicated masters programs in science writing for the popular press, and science considered as a "beat" in journalism can extend or replace any consideration of science within the core communication program. Without generalizing about journalism or writing curricula, I'll limit this search initially to science in proximity to the core communication courses, and then extend the search with a focus limited to science writing.
Missing from the NCA areas of emphasis and from most curricula (e.g., the representative Rutgers curriculum) is any reference to or example of science communication (or of Environmental Communication, the NCA interest group ). Before arguing a case for increased emphasis on science communication (or on targeted topics integrated into communication courses), recall Schummer's dichotomy of the cognitive and social aspects of disciplines (above). . If communication curricula are a product of a recognized (and, via graduation, culturally transmitted) cognitive body of knowledge (of the world, methods, and values) and of a social understanding of the discipline (e.g., NCA's projection of a common set of emphases and interests), then consideration of science communication asks how can we improve interdisciplinary communication and make it manifest in curricula. Schummer suggests strategies of scientific reductionism (a shared knowledge base), simplification ("a common pool of useful metaphors and images and a common-sense understanding of what matters and what is sound..."), and modularization (..."subprojects, with well-defined types of information input and output from and to the other subprojects"  and a fourth strategy:
The fourth strategy, translation or mediation, requires a translator who should ideally be educated in all the disciplines involved. Moreover, because there is no simple translation between the knowledge types of all disciplines, the translator needs to mediate not only between different types of description but also between different opinions on what is sound and important and on how to tackle a problem to best effect. Of course this requires sophisticated social and communicative skills, and it allows the mediator to control the project to a considerable degree. Mediation and translation would certainly be the best cognitive solution to cross-disciplinary communication issues, in particular because mediators can additionally educate scientists from different disciplines to understand each other better. However, mediators are rarely available because there is neither a profession nor a specific education for cross-disciplinary mediation, which leads us to social strategies for improving cross-disciplinary communication. 
What is it about science that might command a presence in communication curricula? In a search for courses, a starting point is to establish three "prey" images: 1) Science knowledge, or the telling of things to create awareness of the domain of natural sciences; 2) Clarification of importance, seeking matters that require consideration in the public sphere (e.g., climate change, peak oil, food and water); and 3) Action in response to scientific awareness, and the rhetorical means to foster action via human regulatory mechanisms (i.e., economic, political, and social systems).
Status of Science Communication in the Curricula
Two-thirds of the 79 NCA doctoral programs offer no coursework at any level specifically focused on science communication. Of the remainder (26 departments), five have more than two courses, led by Cornell and George Mason's Departments of Communication. Cornell's program, it should be noted, has its roots in the agriculture college (George Mason in Arts and Sciences). American University, UNC Chapel Hill, and U Washington-Seattle also have broader (i.e., more than two) science communication course offerings. About half (26) of the 55 science communication courses encountered focus on the environment. Only eight courses address science per se and four of these deal with social impacts of technologies derived from science. Despite strong interest in Environmental Communication within the NCA, the core departments—those that will produce the next generation of communication faculty—pay generally weak and non-uniform attention to science communication.
In non NCA doctoral departments, Environmental Communication makes up more than half (34 of 59) of the science communication courses listed.
Course titles and descriptions provide few clues into any specific content covered in the "science" part of science communication. Queries for specific phrases in the 114 science communication course descriptions found a limited number of mentions of critical terms like "climate change" (6 records total, 1 from an NCA doctoral department), "sustainable"(2 total, 1 doctoral), "energy" (3,1), "peak oil" (1,1), "population" (2,1) , or "natural resources" (1,1) (Appendix VII). Certainly, a more exhaustive review of individual course syllabi would reveal at least some attention to these components of 21st century environmental concern, but none rose to the level of prominence implied by mention in a course description.
Status of Science Writing in the Curricula
There are very few science writing courses (16) taught within the NCA doctoral departments; the Department of Writing Studies at the University of Minnesota sets the bar with four courses. Most (13) of these focus on writing for the public, and about half (7) focus on the environment.
Although journalism is represented in some NCA doctoral programs, most of the science writing is outside the NCA doctoral group. As within the communication departments, about half of science writing courses (14 of 31 courses listed) emphasized the environment. Virtually none focused on science per se, which seems to be relatively invisible outside of topical writing in contemporary journalism.
Nevertheless, queries for specific phrases in the 112 science writing courses led to a relatively small number of clearly identified topics. "Climate change" was included in course descriptions four times (none from an NCA doctoral department), "energy" was found twice (0 NCA), "population" (in "population growth") was mentioned once, and "sustainable" and "peak oil" were not found (Appendix VIII).
Potential Areas for Growth of Academic Science Communication and Writing
For modern society to function, science discourse communities must communicate with the public with effective rhetoric able to inspire public action on climate change, post-fossil fuel energy, etc. Effective communication are certainly congruent with rhetorical traditions of the discipline and its contemporary academic bifurcations. It behooves university communication programs, through research and the classroom, to become active agents to guide this rhetoric. A necessary beginning is to address three primary inhibitors of effective science communication:
- The nature of science is not understood by the public, which tends to equate scientific discourse with discourses of religions, economics, social ideologies, or other bodies of collective human opinion.
- The language of science is impenetrably filled with specialized syntax and vocabulary such as to make it expedient for scientist initiates but generally inaccessible to the public.
- The culture of science, particularly within higher education, strongly inhibits engagement by scientists with the public outside of rigorous and generally inaccessible channels for promulgation. Scientists write almost exclusively for peer reviewed journals, which the public rarely consult, and are generally dissuaded from writing for non-academic audiences, particularly for the several years of graduate school through pre-tenure, after which the rigid academic mindset of perceived cultural norms endures. 
Nature of Science—Communicating Hard Science and Technology: As a focus for communication (including journalism, media, etc.), an understanding of science must include at least a core familiarity with a scholarly body of knowledge obtained from study of one or more science disciplines. Schummer's strategy (above) for improving interdisciplinary communication, applied to communication between discourse communities and the public, is a strategy of translation or mediation. Translation from a discourse community to another discourse community or to the public "requires a translator who should ideally be educated in all the disciplines involved." The translator must also be capable to mediate "between different opinions on what is sound and important and on how to tackle a problem to best effect." A core quandary for science communication is that "mediators are rarely available because there is neither a profession nor a specific education for cross-disciplinary mediation." 
One approach to addressing this quandary is to provide close access between communication curricula and science discourse communities. This may be more intrinsic in communication departments historically derived from within science programs. For example, this is a point of distinction for the Department of Life Sciences Communication (LSC) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, a department which also shows keen awareness of local natural advantages which bring potential for topical integration across disciplines .
Situated in the heart of College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, LSC benefits from close proximity to life science departments, and from an increasing number of double majors at the undergraduate level ( pursuing a simultaneous major in Genetics and LSC, for example) and from a graduate student body that includes science graduates.
Our faculty studies a broad range of science communication issues critical to the future of our state, nation and global community. Examples include combating invasive species in order to preserve environmental integrity, exploring how risk aversion influences public opinion of controversial science, and helping Native-American children relate tribal beliefs about the natural world to emerging scientific discoveries. We have notable expertise in framing messages to audiences facing bioterrorism threats, confronting products using nanotechnology, and wrestling with a fossil fuel crisis.
Note that the Madison's Department of Life Science Communication, which is not listed as an NCA doctoral program, does offer a doctoral degree; this suggests that the program is more likely than others less entwined with exposure to science to become a vital source of future seed stock for science communicators nation wide. The Department also coexists with the NCA doctoral listed Department of Communication Arts, found on the same campus, within the College of Letters and Science , a program of undoubted prominence, but one not currently positioning itself to contribute to any evolution of the discipline favorable to proliferation of new species of science communicators.
Cornell's (NCA doctoral) Department of Communication also resides within the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Hinting at a more traditional self-perception as a social science, the Department nevertheless also seems aware of its place as an agent of social engagement.
We are therefore committed to engaging in grounded, empirical research, drawn from an array of social science traditions and a variety of research methodologies, and both developing and applying novel theoretical perspectives to the most pressing social and policy issues of the day .
Arizona State's huge and relatively new (established in 2007) School of Sustainability, provides a similar stimulus for integrative learning, including a rich array of both undergraduate and graduate courses that could nurture a deep scholarship for any student in the (NCA doctoral) Hugh Downs School of Human Communication interested in science communication. The extent to which a student may become "ideally educated in all the disciplines involved" depends on the goals of the student and the receptivity toward or encouragement of a multidisciplinary learning environment within the communication and science departments, an assessment beyond the current study.
Nature of Science—Communicating Science as a Way of Knowing: Even when armed with competence in a knowledge base and techniques, students of science communication require a still deeper level of understanding. Risk communication, often associated with health communication, for example, extends into matters where science enters the policy arena. Often, these matters are in areas of critical national or global concern, such as energy (peak oil, nuclear, alternatives), food (GMOs, animal versus plant protein, eating disorders), population (birth control, tax dependencies), and, of course, climate change. Risk communication may receive less attention in science programs than it does in many communication curricula, where courses vary as to the nature of risk considered (health versus environmental, for example). The works of Sunstein or Slovic, for example, provide critical perspectives on communication of risk . Of particular concern for science communicators, concepts such as Sunstein's availability heuristic or probability neglect  are seldom part of science curricula.
Science communicators in public arenas are surrounded by systematic distortions and misuse of science in politics —for purposes of greed , ideology , or theology . Science is also under siege from the left, often from within the academies . Because, as Gross and Levitt point out, scientists generally ignore such attacks and carry on with their work blissfully, there are rarely any efforts to create awareness or strategic counter arguments within science or science communication curricula. This appears to be a serious deficit in preparation for those who would choose to practice science communication in the public sphere, but one that could easily provide topical material in a communication course on, say, political discourse or propaganda.
When science advocates perennially call out for an increase in production of scientists to meet myriad national needs , universities generally interpret this as meaning more attention to teaching the periodic table, molecular biology, or astrophysics, or their contemporary offspring in nano technology, genomics and proteomics, quantum cosmology, etc.. To bring the leading edge of science into the public sphere, science communicators must also understand the rhetorical roots and philosophical history of science, well taught by reference to the early astronomers, Descartes, Bacon, and Newton . Familiarity with Darwin—more specifically Darwinism, or the role of chance in natural selection, usually referred to a the Theory of Evolution— is not only a prerequisite to articulating contemporary science consensus on evolution (as a counter to theocratic, non-science intelligent design, for example), but also a requirement for understanding the differences between deterministic and stochastic views of nature; in turn, this is the starting point for communicating the importance of uncertainty and the tools used by policy makers for acting in the statistically "messy" real world. The essential training of a doctoral-level science communicator, accordingly, may well include history and philosophy to an extent rarely encountered in contemporary science departments (one can only speculate how many doctoral students could satisfactorily present an outline of the meaning, ontology, or vital contemporary relevance of the scientific method, for example) .
Language of Science—From Facts to Meaning: When Schummer calls for translation and mediation, he goes beyond asking communication to build definitional bridges from esoteric science discourse to publicly accessible language, although this remains a central focus of most science journalism curricula. A vexing question for modern modern science remains why the Enlightenment ("Age of Reason") so often appears to have failed to "stick" in the early 21st century. The usual scientific assumption—if we adequately present the data, the public will understand and eventually act appropriately (any further exhortations being "outside of the job description" of scientists )—falls short of explaining the effectiveness of anti-science politicians and their advisors .
Since antiquity, students of rhetoric have been schooled in the meaning of ethos, pathos, and logos. If the observations and reasoning of science (logos) and the (perhaps failing) credibility of scientists and academicians (ethos) are so easily dismissed in contemporary politics, students of communication know that a key to rhetorical weakness of raw science (presented as authoritative and factual) is in strong part due to failure to adequately understand the roll of emotions (pathos), including subconscious feelings. Relatively recent linguistic and brain physiology studies thus are an important foundation for those who seek to effectively translate and mediate. In part, this is a key to the relative (although not yet complete) success of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which provides equal attention to the presentation of basic scientific observations, interpretation of the consequences of observable trends, and encouragement for action to mitigate damages .
Effective science communication on matters such as climate change and future energy alternatives is critical to contemporary public engagements such as Hopkins' Transition Movement . Responses to information from science contribute to citizen motivation to explore new concepts of local community resilience, consumption, etc. Equally important, however, is an awareness of shared political and moral feelings. As communicators engage to persuade formation of such public movements, they will be well advised to acquire an understanding of the roll of mental frames of reference , the emotions—sub-conscious mental associations (a result of relatively recent work on brain physiology) and the concept of positive asymmetry as it affects public ability to comprehend natural disasters such as hurricanes Katrina or Sandy— and their role in contemporary politics .
Communication and the Culture of Science: Although it is very difficult to convey (reference to the Career of Carl Sagen is instructive ), the cultural pressures within universities and science guilds against engagement with the public is important for science communicators to comprehend if they are to understand the great reluctance of most scientists to speak out about the implications of their work on climate, energy, food, water, or the biosphere. Students of science communication may also benefit from awareness of the difficulties that scientists encounter as they venture from the relative refuge of life in the laboratory (both literal and figurative) into the wilds of public forums. Internecine warfare within the climate science community, for example, is vividly portrayed in Cooney's Storm World . The more disturbing politicizing of science at a federal level is also well captured in books on climate science in a political arena: studies of the experiences of James Hansen, Stephen Schneider, or Michael Mann are prominent examples .
Writing Science: Pragmatic reasons for increased attention to science writing have been put forth by science communicators such as journalist Chris Mooney.
If American science truly fears for its competitiveness in the global marketplace, it ought to be expanding and reinventing itself to incorporate new opportunities for young American scientists. The scientist who can write, or design a Web site, or understand patent law, or speak Spanish will be better equipped to face the competition than a scientist who only knows his or her discipline—not to mention a better science communicator. And in the context of the science-education pipeline, these alternative valves will alleviate pressure by opening new pathways for pent-up scientific talent to filter out into society. 
Others, such as English professor Michael Zerbe , see the need for greater attention to the rhetoric of science in composition studies as a matter of (the subtitle of his book) "engaging the dominant discourse." Why?
A mixture of desire to engage the dominant discourse and a pragmatic desire to turn out some of the nations best science writers informs to exemplary Science Communication Program within Kresge College at the University of California Santa Cruz.
Certainly, these themes are reflected in the quality writing programs of MIT's Graduate Program in Science Writing, found within the School of Humanities, Arts, and Sciences.
MIT, along with Georgia Tech, Stanford, and few others, represents the best of U.S. science and technology education, and the presence of a graduate level program dedicated to writing about science is particularly noteworthy. But especially remarkable is the dedication to writing for the public.
About Science Writing
Science writing means writing about science, medicine, and technology for general readers. It appears in magazines and newspapers, in popular books, on the walls of museums, on television or radio programs, and on the internet. It grapples with DNA, fractals, synapses, and quasars, but always with grace and style. Its practitioners worry as much about how to tell the story of science as the science itself–and yet, in maddening paradox, as much about the science as its telling. Science writing tackles big ideas, important issues. It's ambitious, creative, hard to do–yet utterly compelling.
What science writing is not is a technical report aimed at other specialists. Or a lab paper, or a how-to manual, or a peer-reviewed research article in even the most prestigious scientific journal. These are not the focus of this program.
Science writers address the larger public about the science and technology that shape modern life, as well as the broader social issues–nuclear power safety, for example, or bioethics, or the environment–that science so profoundly influences.
Science writers respect scientists and engineers, but don't treat their work as privileged, or as immune from informed criticism. Science writers never forget that the work of science takes place within a human and historical frame–and supply their readers with that context as needed.
Science writers may, or may not, hold academic credentials in science or engineering. But they are always humanists, one foot in the sciences, the other in the arts, as apt to be seduced by a shapely sentence as by an elegant scientific idea. 
If there is a national mood of despair about the role of science in contemporary journalism or writing programs, it is not reflected by the awareness or exuberance displayed by MIT and UCal Santa Cruz.
Conclusion: Beyond Environmental Communication
As American universities have evolved, particularly since the mid-nineteenth century rise of the public Land Grant Universities, a key to their international success has been the innovation of increasing homes for specialization of scholarship. Essential for individual researchers and teachers to focus their studies, the emergence of academic discourse communities also empowers claims to quality and distinction, a key source of the prestige that undergirds success in a competitive academic marketplace .
Communication's geneology extends to ancient Greece, where formalized education prepared citizens for vibrant civic engagement, citizenry contrasted with idiocy (a tendency toward concern with private—as contrasted to public—affairs) . Key to the education was rhetoric for public speaking. Ironically, the tendency toward disciplinary isolation that was a foundation for a rise to global preeminence for American higher education in the twentieth century, may be now showing signs of strategic stagnation in the face of the complex, multidiscipliary challenges of twenty-first century global society. Is the collective vision of contemporary communication too narrow, too overly concerned with a private, internally focused and overly narrow set of emphases? Or is communication on the verge of expanding its sense of wider engagement with a broader array of academic concerns, reestablishing a more central role as a critical agent of academic citizenry?
The current survey suggests both a culturally-rooted sense of a set areas of emphasis essential to disciplinary identity, and a dynamic response to the stimulative effects of new media technology, extending speech and writing in new and exciting ways. There is a justified sense of pride in the scholarship of communication research over a wide intellectual domain, and an awareness of the important contributions being made by the discipline as a vital source of public social commentary and criticism, an exercise of the highest democratic social function of modern universities.
The survey also suggests that there is still great potential for communication as a catalyst to reignite the Enlightenment by facilitating a return of science to public discourse. Through preparation of better educated citizens, more competent to assess the credibility of sources of scientific sense (and nonsense), and through preparation of a new generation of teachers and practitioners of science-infused social action, there is yet significant room for expansion of science communication within the Nation's curricula.
There are clear models in which collaborations or integrations of science and communication create benchmarks for others to emulate. There are focused programs that should inspire growth in science writing, and in the creation of hybrid science communication in new or evolving media. There is, it seems clear, an adequate seed stock of people and ideas from which a population of diverse and interesting species of science communicators can evolve.
If what we are seeing is evidence of potential for growth and refinement in what is recognized as science communication, then it may be correct to say that the discipline has adequate awareness within its current cognitive body of knowledge (using Schummer's analysis) for production of an expanded array of curricular offerings, adding to the traditional perception of the boundary's of essential science education an expanded diversity of communication curricula (further speciation, if you will) to include insights from the political implications of brain sciences (e.g., neuro networks, frames, the subconscious nature of thought, the role of metaphors, etc.), from understanding of human perceptions of risk analysis and the availability heuristic, and from an understanding of the asymetric nature of human emotional positivism.
Finally, while there are many academic arenas for experimentation with Schummer's social understanding of the discipline, we may as yet not have begun to understand the power of external influence on the nature of communication, or to forsee the future selective pressures for communication to become even more engaged as an agent of social change in response to planetary concerns which science is now bringing to our awareness. The need for going beyond the traditional tri-part land grant philosophy of teaching, research, and technical outreach will be explored in a separate appendix, an inquiry into communication as an agent of advocacy in a twenty-first century Rhetorical University.
Footnotes and References Cited:
See also "List of research universities in the United States." Wikipedia.
Note that this is a list of programs that have joined the NCA, not an exclusive list of all possible "communication doctoral" programs.
- "What is Communication?" www.natcom.org/discipline
- "Interest Group Descriptions" www.natcom.org/interestgroups
- "C-Briefs: Doctoral Programs Research Areas of Emphasis," April 2012, www.natcom.org/uploadedFiles/More_Scholarly_Resources/Data_about_the_Discipline/PDF-C_Brief-April_2012.pdf
(Access requires NCA membership.)
Referencing also U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2012). Digest of Education Statistics, 2011 (NCES 2012-001), Chapter 2 (nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d11/ch_2.asp).
"The Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education™ The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. classifications.carnegiefoundation.org
By field, the percentage of the Nation's PhD's produced by Carnegie RU/VH + RU/H universities:
- Life Sciences: 85.5
- Physical sciences: 97.0
- Social sciences: 86.5
- Engineering: 96.7
- Education: 87.7
- Humanities: 92.8
Life sciences includes agricultural sciences/natural resources, biological/medical sciences, and health sciences.
- Communication (342 departments, 43% of total)
- Communication Studies (158, 20%)
- Communication Arts (50, 6.3%)
- Communications (31, 3.9%)
- Speech Communication (16, 2%)
- Communication and Journalism (10, 1.3%)
- "Undergraduate Programs in Communication." www.natcom.org/uploadedFiles/More_Scholarly_Resources/BA%20Programs%20in%20COMM.xls
- "Master's Programs in Communication." www.natcom.org/uploadedFiles/More_Scholarly_Resources/MA%20Programs%20in%20Communication%202-2013(1).xls
- "Doctoral Programs in Communication." www.natcom.org/uploadedFiles/More_Scholarly_Resources/Doctoral%20Programs%20in%20Communication%204-19-2012.xls
Areas of emphasis:
Areas of emphasis (total # identified):
"The Centrum. There are two questions to be asked about any directly acting component of environment: 1) Does the animal's chance to survive and reproduce increase or decrease as the environmental component increase in abundance (or "activity")? 2) Does the abundance (or "activity") of the environmental component increase or decrease as the population increases?" (page 8)
As an example of cross-disciplinary mediation as a social strategy for improving science communication, see the example of Arkansas State University, Jonesboro, in Amy Pearce, Aldemaro Romero, and John B. Zibluk. 2010. "An Interdisciplinary Approach to Science Communication Education: A Case Study." In Communicating Science: New Agendas in Communication. Ed. by LeeAnn Kahlor and Patricia Stout. Routledge. 265 p.
Noretta Koertge. 1998. A House Built on Sand: Exposing Postmodernist Myths About Science. Oxford. 336 p.
See also, Frank Luntz, 2007. Words That Work: It's Not What You Say, It's What People Hear. Hyperion. 352 p.
 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. 2007. Group Report Summaries:
- "Synthesis Report"
- I—"The Physical Science Basis"
- II—"Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability"
- III—"Mitigation of Climate Change"
The IPCC has also made extraordinary effort to adopt a language tailored for the broad audience of scientists and policy makers, a model of writing for a well-considered audience. An update, the Fifth Assessment, will be released in the Fall, 2013.
See also, George Lakoff. 2002. Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think. Univ. Chicago. 471 p.
See also, Chris Mooney. 2012. The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science—and Reality. Wiley. 336 p.
Also, Karen Cerulo. 2006. Never Saw It Coming: Cultural Challenges to Envisioning the Worst. Chicago. 336 p.
Stephen Schneider. 2009. Science as a Contact Sport: Inside the Battle to Save Earth's Climate. National Geographic. 304 p.
Michael Mann. 2012. The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines. Columbia. 384 p.