Starting next fall, UC Santa Barbara will offer a writing minor for science communication, teaching students to share scientific information with a diverse audience.
The writing program has been developing the minor for 18 months and will accept applications in the fall for classes beginning in Winter Quarter. Interested students will be able to enroll in two new classes — scientific literacy (Writing 159A) and science communication for the public (Writing 159B) — after they complete a variety of prerequisite courses from the writing or science departments.
In addition to completing the prerequisites, students must also assemble a portfolio of past writing work to be considered for the minor.
Karen Lunsford, associate professor of writing, said students in the minor are required to complete an internship or a third “capstone” course, as well as create another portfolio that will “showcase [the] capacities and abilities” that students accumulate in the courses.
While several political changes are based on scientific research, “it’s not enough for our democracy to rely on just the scientists,” Lunsford said. Instead, she said all organizations must seek to understand science and its worldwide implications.
“We’ve seen, very recently, several discussions going on in both the news and among politicians about things like climate change, questions about vaccinations, questions about various topics … questions all about policy making,” Lunsford said.
Lunsford said students from all departments are encouraged to apply for the minor if they have an interest in understanding scientific research.
“As long as you’re interested in a S.T.E.M. topic, we can help teach you how to read that material,” Lunsford said. “It is a different route from someone who already has that major, but we do need people coming in from both directions, seeing what people can understand and interpret for another audience.”
Professor Doug Bradley, who will teach scientific literacy in the Winter Quarter, said his class will specialize in learning the basic concepts of science and how students can use multimedia to deliver the information to a large audience.
Bradley said course assignments will have students presenting data in “unique ways” to connect non-S.T.E.M. people to the science field through scientific and quantitative graphics.
“In terms of science communication, good practice would be to connect as efficiently as possible with your audience, a broad audience … and convey ideas and issues to them that will get them to orient their lives in ways that accord with rational scientific thinking,” Bradley said.
Professor Janet Mizrahi, who will be teaching science communication for the public, said her students will spend Spring Quarter writing press releases and news stories, creating websites and recording podcasts.
Mizrahi wants students to learn the best ways to communicate in the workplace through writing and technology, regardless of the career they eventually pursue.
“I hope they not only become better citizens and better writers, but also more marketable college graduates,” Mizrahi said.
Bradley said “it is particularly urgent right now,” for students to learn from the minor because UCSB was recently ranked eighth in worldwide research by the international Leiden Ranking system.
“That means our professionals need to make darn sure the information they’re conveying to the public is spot on target,” he continued. “We’re trying to support that leadership that the campus is already showing and push it out even further.”
A version of this story appeared on p. 6 of the Thursday, May 26, 2016, edition of the Daily Nexus.