Science Communication Certificate

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The science communication certificate provides an opportunity for students to develop their public communication skills, to interface with students and faculty across disciplinary and science-public divides, and to give students an edge in the job market where successful communication with a multitude of stakeholders is essential. As a discipline, science communication brings together theory and practice to communicate scientific information to the public, with an emphasis on two-way and strategic communication with the public.

This certificate is designed to encourage students who are interested in the intersection of science and society to pursue coursework that provides them with the skills to practice public-facing science and effectively engage the public around complex and sometimes controversial scientific topics. In addition, the certificate is designed to facilitate convergence across disciplines and encourage team-based collaboration at the undergraduate level.

The certificate is open to students of any major, but may be of particular value to students who are planning to pursue science, environmental, health or agricultural communication as a career or students pursuing a career in a science, engineering, math and other technical fields interested in strengthening their communication skills.


  • Encourage students to engage with community members, other students and faculty across interdisciplinary boundaries, diverse backgrounds, and divergent interests.
  • Prepare students to communicate scientific findings and technological advances in a clear and compelling manner while also encouraging inclusive communication that acknowledges others’ values and concerns.
  • Cultivate students’ understanding of the origins and dynamics of science related controversies and conflicts.
  • Challenge students to identify and address scientific misinformation, scientific skepticism, and science denial across social media, blogs, and other social and online networks.
  • Prepare students to engage in constructive conversations with diverse audiences over contested science, environmental, health, and agricultural topics.

Student Learning Outcomes

Students who complete the proposed science communication certificate will be able to:

  • Create, co-produce, and evaluate public-facing science communication
  • Understand and address the ethical, social, cultural, and historical factors that influence both the public communication of science and the rise and spread of science-related controversies
  • Promote public and cross-disciplinary understanding of scientific information
  • Co-produce knowledge with community stakeholders through public-facing projects
  • Create effective and appropriate science messages across diverse and emergent media platforms, addressed to diverse audiences
  • Critically analyze science messages addressed to public audiences around science
  • Identify and address misinformation across social media, blogs, and other social and online networks
  • Engage in constructive conversations about contested science, environmental, health, and agricultural topics

To prepare students for the challenge of communicating effectively at the intersection of science and society, students will take a core of 12-credits from the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication, the English Department, and the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies and 9-credits of electives from three tracks: science in practice, science and society, and communication in practice.

The certificate requires 21 credits, where 9 of the credits taken do not fulfill any other requirements for other majors or general education.
Students must complete ENGL 250 before enrolling in the certificate. 

Core Courses (12 credits)

JL MC/P R/ADVRT 200-level core course TBD3
PHIL 206Introduction to Logic and Scientific Reasoning3
ENGL 312Communicating Science and Public Engagement3
JL MC 347Science Communication3

Electives (9 credits)

Students will take one course from each of the three categories of electives: Science in Practice, Science and Society, and Communication in Practice.

  • 6 of the 9 credits must be at the 300+ level.
  • Students who engage in an internship or research experience (including those connected to courses) may seek approval from the steering committee to have this experience counted as an elective course. This experience must include a public-facing communication/outreach component, and the steering committee will decide which of the 3 categories of electives this experience would fulfill. Students who wish to count the internship toward the certificate must track their hours as well as complete a final paper about their experiences. 

Science in Practice - select 1 course

BIOL 173Environmental Biology3
BIOL 251Biological Processes in the Environment3
BIOL 355Plants and People3
ENSCI 250Environmental Geography3
ENSCI 360Environmental Soil Science3
ENSCI 384Introduction to Ecosystems3
GEOL 101Environmental Geology: Earth in Crisis3
GEOL 102History of the Earth3
GEOL 108Introduction to Oceanography3
GEOL 160Water Resources of the World3
GEOL 201Geology for Engineers and Environmental Scientists3
GEOL 324Energy and the Environment3
MTEOR 404Global Change3
MTEOR 406World Climates3
NREM 120Introduction to Renewable Resources3
NREM 380Field Ecology Research and Teaching3

Science and Society - select 1 course

EDUC 347Nature of Science3
ENGL 355Literature and the Environment3
HIST 362Global Environmental History3
HIST 367America Eats3
HIST 383Technology, Public Science, and European Culture, 1715-Present3
HIST 482Birth, Death, Medicine, and Disease3
JL MC 401Mass Communication Theory3
JL MC 474Communication Technology and Social Change3
JL MC 476World Communication Systems3
PHIL 331Moral Problems in Medicine3
PHIL 334Environmental Ethics3
PHIL 336Bioethics and Biotechnology3
PHIL 343Philosophy of Technology3
PHIL 380Philosophy of Science3
PHIL 389Philosophy of Psychology and Psychiatry3
PHIL 485Philosophy of Physics3
POL S 335Science, Technology, and Public Policy3
POL S 383Environmental Politics and Policies3
POL S 443Energy Policy3
SOC 382Environmental Sociology3
SOC 464Strategies for Community Engagement3
WGS 307Women in Science and Engineering3
WGS 320Ecofeminism3
WGS 380History of Women in Science, Technology, and Medicine3
WLC 484Technology, Globalization and Culture3

Communication in Practice - select 1 course

ENGL 309Proposal and Report Writing3
ENGL 314Technical Communication3
ENGL 332Visual Communication of Quantitative Information3
ENGL 350Rhetorical Traditions3
ENGL 411Technology, Rhetoric, and Professional Communication3
ENGL 477Seminar in Technical Communication3
ENGL 487Internship in Business, Technical, and Professional Communication1-3
LING 120Computers and Language3
NREM 330Principles of Interpretation3
P R 220Principles of Public Relations3
P R 305Publicity Methods3
P R 323XStrategic Communication in Agriculture and the Environment3
SP CM 212Fundamentals of Public Speaking3
SP CM 305Language, Thought and Action3
SP CM 310Rhetorical Analysis3
SP CM 322Argumentation, Debate, and Critical Thinking3
SP CM 327Persuasion and Social Influence3