New courses take science in to the ‘real world’

Martin Westwell (cropped)
Professor Martin Westwell, Director of the Flinders Centre for Science Education in the 21st Century.

Brilliant scientists make extraordinary breakthroughs – but translating science into the real world takes a different set of skills and knowledge.

Two new courses developed by Flinders University aim to give science more “cut through” by providing graduates with the specialised skills needed to take science into mainstream society.

“Increasing the understanding and uptake of science goes beyond classrooms,” says Professor Martin Westwell, Director of the Flinders Centre for Science Education in the 21st Century.

“Australia needs people who can explain and champion science at all levels of society.”

This year, the Science21 centre is offering a one-of-a-kind Bachelor of Science (Science Policy and Communication) and will launch a Master of Science (Science Policy and Communication) in 2017.

“Society is facing more challenges than ever before,” Professor Westwell says.

“Science is the door that will lead us to ways of meeting these challenges, but communication is the key to helping people use science to make smart decisions about the way they live their lives.”

Both courses will be run by Dr Peter Tangney who comes to Flinders with a PhD in environment and political science and extensive experience advising industry and government agencies on environmental policy in the UK.

Other contributors, Kathryn Bellette and Rachel Crees, bring decades worth of industry and public sector expertise in scientific research, policy and communication.

The Bachelor-level course is for students who are interested in science and are also interested in how science fits into the world at large.

Studying the same majors as they would in a standard BSc with the inclusion of a stream of policy and communication studies means that graduates can work either as scientists or in a non-scientific environment.

“Scientists need to be change agents,” Dr Tangney says. “Simply knowing science and telling it to people is no longer enough – there is simply too much of it.

“Scientists need to communicate their evidence in a way that creates influence, not just interest.”

The Masters course is intended for working professionals who already hold a science qualification or equivalent, and is especially aimed at experts in policy environments in government and the corporate sector.

It will include a final six-month research project or “MBA-style” internship designed to let students implement their skills in real-world environments.

”Understanding the nature of science and how it works will give society the ability to use information to make decisions that meet our needs today, tomorrow and into future generations,” Professor Westwell said.

More details about the BSc (Science Policy and Communication) go to http://www.flinders.edu.au/science_engineering/science21/ and other new course information at http://www.flinders.edu.au/courses/new-courses-2016/

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