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BMSC201 Communicating Ideas in Science , BMSD110 Communicating Ideas in Science

Unit rationale, description and aim

Effective communication is essential to ensure advancements in science are recognised and impactful. As future science professionals, it is important for students to learn to communicate science clearly and effectively to audiences of diverse backgrounds and with varying levels of scientific knowledge. Students will demonstrate their knowledge and ability to convey clear scientific messages via oral, written, and audio-visual means in this unit. Students will be able to apply communication skills acquired in this unit to other contexts, including professional settings, other scholarly disciplines, and in day-to-day life. This unit aims to (i) facilitate development of knowledge and skills in communicating scientific concepts using a variety of media and to a range of audiences, (ii) help students develop knowledge and skills that enable them to provide constructive feedback in a respectful and dignified manner, and (iii) assist students to develop strategies to act on and respond to critiques on their work in a professional fashion. 

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

Learning Outcome NumberLearning Outcome DescriptionRelevant Graduate Capabilities
LO1Locate, organise and translate scientific information for a variety of communication purposesGC9
LO2Identify and apply best-practice principles to designing high quality communicationGC4, GC9, GC10
LO3Effectively communicate science-related information to a variety of audiences, for a variety of purposes, and with sensitivityGC11, GC12
LO4Justify the content of communication media by describing the evidence base that supports key messagesGC7, GC9


Topics will include:

Purposes of science communications

Using the literature

  • selecting appropriate literature
  • reading critically
  • extracting key messages
  • supporting key messages with evidence

Designing and developing media to communicate science

  • designing media for impact
  • using images to convey key messages
  • ensuring design and delivery are appropriate

Delivering scientific messages

  • conveying a message
  • targeting the audience

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

Effective communication is essential to science; underpinning decision making at all levels of society and promoting understanding of the relevance of science. Scientific communication must consider the purpose of communication and the target audience. Communication skills can be learnt via practice and feedback.

The design of this unit aims to foster student-centred active learning and accommodate diverse student needs. It includes a combination of self-paced, online learning and real-time classes. Early and additional feedback on learning, and tailored support, are provided to facilitate students’ transition to university. Students learn about techniques of communicating via different media and to a variety of audiences. Students apply knowledge acquired to implement and practice effective communication skills, guided by peer observation and feedback. This approach strengthens the learning process and provides opportunities for students to draw on their own life experiences.

Assessment strategy and rationale

Assessments will guide students to progressively develop knowledge and skills in communication of science. Ongoing feedback from fellow students and academics is integral to this process. Assessments are closely aligned with engagement in content, employ a variety of media, and target a range of audiences. 

In the first assessment students, are required to research and articulate the significance of clear, concise, and professional communication in life sciences using a variety of examples and scenarios and — as the first step to develop their abilities to provide meaningful feedback — critique another student’s submission.

In the second assessment task, students collaborate to design and deliver a group presentation on a specific topic. Feedback (received from their teaching staff and peers) on this assessment helps them identify areas for improvement and refine their presenting, communication, and listening skills.

In the final assessment, students integrate and build on their skills to demonstrate an ability to adjust their communication of scientific ideas to different audiences. During their preparations, students take advantage of constructive feedback they receive from the teaching staff and their peers. 

In order to pass this unit students must demonstrate achievement of every learning outcome and obtain a minimum mark of 50% for the unit.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning Outcomes

Assessment 1: Written assignment

Students articulate the significance of clear, concise, and professional communication in life sciences, showcase development of their critical thinking skills, and demonstrate their ability to provide constructive feedback.


LO1, LO2, LO3

Assessment 2: Group assignment 

Students work in groups, with each group member contributing to both the creation and delivery of the presentation. Further, each student produces a critical review of another group’s presentation, where each group is given the opportunity to produce a written rebuttal of the feedback their group received. 


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4

Assessment 3: Individual poster and oral presentation

Students produce and demonstrate a poster on a specific topic (targeting a scientific audience) and — after receiving and considering feedback from their peers — record a vodcast on the same topic for lay audience. 


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4

Representative texts and references

Cormick, C. (2019) The Science of Communicating Science: The ultimate guide. Clayton: CSIRO publishing.

Dean, C. (2009) Am I Making Myself Clear? A Scientist's Guide to Talking to the Public. Cambridge USA: Harvard University Press.

Knight, D. (2011) Public Understanding of Science: A History of Communicating Scientific Ideas. Abingdon and New York: Routledge Studies.

Lindsay, D.R. (2020) Scientific Writing = Thinking in Words. 2nd Edition. Collingwood: CSIRO Publishing.

Olson, R. (2018) Don't Be Such a Scientist. Talking Substance in an Age of Style. 2nd Edition. USA: Island Press.

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