Course in Public Health Science Communication

During fall 2012 a course in Public Health Science Communication was offered at the Department of Public Health at University of Copenhagen in Denmark. Below you’ll find descriptions of the background and course objectives.

To read blog posts related to the course please click here: Public Health Science Communication course. The literature for the course is available here: Syllabus as well as the final exam assignment. You can also read about experiences and course evaluation.

Background: Research is key to strengthening public health, but for research to be useful it must move beyond the boundaries of the work desk, the lab, the conference room and the scientific journal and reach the general public. However, public health scientists often lack experience in communicating with the public, with journalists, and with researchers in other fields connected with public health. Efficient science communication requires an understanding of which communication methods work and which do not work, what the constraints and possibilities of different kinds of media are, and what it is about science that can make communication difficult. The thrust of the course is that communicating science is more than adding a public element at the end of the research process; communication is integral throughout the research process, and treating it as such can bring great benefits.

Course objectives and content: The course will provide knowledge about the general principles of science communication for public health students. This will be useful both for students interested in pursuing a future academic career, and for those aiming to pursue more public health practice and implementation based careers. The course will explore what science communication means, who it is for, and what it can achieve. Motivations for researchers to communicate science, and the challenges of adjusting communication to different target groups, will be discussed. The course will also look at strengths and weaknesses of different media for communicating public health research, including social media, which offer extended possibilities both for disseminating research and for establishing dialogue between scientists and  public target groups, which in turn can be beneficial to the research process.

The course will cover the following themes:

  • What is science communication and how has it developed?
  • What is it we want to communicate? Which aspects of research are relevant to share with others?
  • How do you translate science for traditional (printed and electronic) media and how do you reach different target groups (the general public, decision makers, other researchers)?
  • How can communicating throughout the research process benefit science? Communication and interdisciplinarity.
  • When is communication used to encourage public debate, or canvas public opinion, and why? How does this affect the methods used?
  • How can Web 2.0, social media and other kinds of two-way communciation be used in public health science communication?
  • What are strengths and weaknesses of different science communication practices?
  • What ethical aspects should be considered when communicating science?

Entry requirements: open to BA-students, maximum number of participants: 20

Credits: 5 ECTS / 20 hours

Language: English, if attended by non-Danish students, otherwise Danish. If in Danish, single lectures may be held in English.

Course responsible: Nina Bjerglund Andersen, Medical Museion

Teachers: Nina Bjerglund Andersen, cand.scient.san.publ., fagjournalist, ( and guest teachers (assistant professor Louise Whiteley, assistant professor Adam Bencard, and professor Thomas Söderqvist, all from Medical Museion)

Form: The course will make use of lectures, group work and practical activities during class and in preparation for classes.

Examination: Course paper. Evaluated on 7-point scale.

A compendium with articles will be prepared

15 thoughts on “Course in Public Health Science Communication

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  3. Sliced Science

    I was browsing when I saw your post on Public Health here–and then once I came in I realised that you are from University of Copenhagen! I’m glad I found out more about the masters course here. Thanks!

    • You are most welcome. As you might have seen the course just finished for this semester and at this point in time there are not plans to repeat it for the coming semester: Should we return next fall, it will definitely also be announced here….

      All the best,

      • Sliced Science

        Thank you very much for letting me know. I’m glad I found this blog–the reading list and other information here was also very useful.
        Please take care and enjoy your week!

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