I want to unearth known unknowns

In May 2014 on May 7, 2014 at 1:26 pm

kirsti colourful petri dishes

Kirsti: Over the past 100 years, science and technology have changed our lives almost beyond measure.

In that same time period, tertiary education has become accessible by almost anyone with an internet connection. Courses are offered via a range of universities and other providers, including those with established integrity but also featuring those with little credibility at all. Whatever you choose to call it — whether it be off-campus, external, online or distance education — enrolments are UP and costs are DOWN.

So in an age when the ethical and accurate communication of science is so important, and you can virtually study anything from anywhere, I decided to search Australia. I looked for options in external postgraduate studies in science communication, and for a Masters or graduate Diploma course with flexible options. Why? So I could use my existing work, research and communication activities to learn……well, learn to do it better, learn more stuff, learn new strategies and unearth my ‘known unknowns’.

Is that too much to ask?!


The search was more complicated than I anticipated! Finally, I did manage to establish that you CAN do an external Masters of Science Communication through the Centre for the Public Awareness of Science at ANU. It’s a convoluted path to enrolment, and the webpage doesn’t explicitly state you can do it…..but you can.

Event if I was willing to move, my choices for science communication postgraduate studies would actually still be limited. Although there are Masters of Communication and Masters of Journalism available at universities across the country, many of them include aspects of communication not suited to me at the moment, like advertising and traditional journalism.

Distinct to what I’m looking for, there are numerous fabulous single units available that cover issues in science communication and practice at an undergraduate and postgraduate level. Among many examples, the University of Melbourne offers science communication at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels, and this unit is a diverse exploration of effective engagement strategies in science communication. The University of Newcastle’s 2nd year science communication unit includes a project and portfolio submission, and Monash University students all take the core science unit ‘Scientific Practice & Communication’ as part of any BSc. or BSc. double degree.

And if you’re serious about postgraduate study in science communication, it is dominated by three Australian universities:

  1. The Australian National University (the Centre for the Public Awareness of Science)
  2. University of Western Australia
  3. University of Queensland

My advice?  Just call the coordinator or graduate convenor.  After a healthy chat, many things are possible.

But have I missed anything? Are there any other or even better options? I’d love to hear about your experience with science communication study at a tertiary level.

[image thanks to Anne Flaherty on Flickr]


  1. Always call / email the convenor. Sadly, there’s a lot of tricks to university application / enrolment / study that can never adequately be represented on a slow changing university website.

  2. Thanks Will! You’re right, university websites are typically terrible for all the things people really want to find! It was good to talk to you about options at CPAS. Am scheming an approach to postgrad sci comm…… and will be in touch.

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