Public science courses, Spring 2018

Check out this array of graduate and undergraduate courses on citizen science, science communication, science learning in informal contexts, and open science!


Out in the Open: The Principles of Public Science

NR 595-006 (WF 10:15-11:30) Cooper (, Katti, Goodwin
Do you want your research to have high and broad impact? This class will expose you to a variety of practices so that you can situate your contribution to science relevant to society. Overcoming 21st century grand challenges requires public science that includes practices of open science, science communication, and citizen science. To conduct public science is to undertake the most collaborative research of all – research that can involve anyone. You’ll gain hands-on experience to make your data a valuable legacy (through proper management and archiving), to articulate, frame, and have public dialogues about your research topic (through a variety of communication formats), and be prepared to bring your research topic to scale (with citizen science).

Learning in Informal Contexts

EMS 594 (tentative Tuesday evenings) Busch (
Many people associate learning with school; however, the average American spends less than 5% of their lifetime in school. In contrast, the landscape of informal learning opportunities is expansive, including museums, zoos and aquaria, special-interest clubs, and everyday contexts. In addition, media sources such as television and online social media offer interesting contexts for consideration. In this Special Topics course, we will examine the theory, practice, and research & evaluation of learning in informal contexts. The main focus of the coursework will involve collaborative projects working with community partners who offer informal learning programs. Examples of possible community partners are the NC Museum of Natural Sciences, NC Museum of Art, NC Museum of History, NC Farmer’s Market, and NCSU Libraries.

Environmental Communication

COM 536 (TU, 6-8:45PM) Kinsella (
Seminar in Environmental Communication (COM 536) focuses on classic readings that have informed scholarship in the environmental humanities and social sciences, as well as more recent research by communication scholars and scholars in related fields. Students also complete a semester-length research project on a topic of their choice. Focal areas include the discursive construction of “nature” and “the environment”; organizational, institutional, and public contexts for environmental communication; environmental controversies and conflicts; public engagement and public participation strategies; communication across technical, public, and governmental sectors; risk communication and risk governance; and forms of environmental advocacy and activism.

Creative Video Production for Scientists

ZO592 (W 3-5) Smith (
This course is a practical introduction to science communication through online video. Students will produce their own video pieces, as well as survey and discuss current online science communication video practices. Graduate students as well as research-active upper-level undergraduates are welcome.

Science Communication​

AEC 592 Sec 010 ​ (W 11:45‐12:45p​.​m​.​​) McCoy (
This course is an introduction to science communication and how to present science effectively and creatively on the web and in other visual formats.

Barriers to Climate Change Literacy

MEA 519 (Distance) Robinson (
Investigates the discipline-based geoscience education lenses of the cognitive, affective, and behavioral barriers to climate literacy and the practical interventions for addressing them. Critically analyzes key aspects of climate science, common misconceptions, mental models, cultural influences, and risk perceptions about climate change. Students engage with the public and design projects for overcoming barriers to climate change literacy. The course features relevant readings, classroom discussions, student peer-review, and summative and formative course feedback though course assignments and exams.


Environmental Communication

COM 436 (TU-TH, 10:15-11:30) Kinsella (
Environmental Communication (COM 456) introduces a timely and growing area within the communication discipline. Readings and discussions will examine how “nature” is created and transformed by humans through communication in organizational, institutional, mass media, political, and cultural contexts. We’ll consider environmental conflicts and controversies, approaches to involving affected stakeholders, public participation in environmental decision-making, risk communication, democratic governance of environmental risks, and forms of environmental advocacy and activism.

Climate Change Communication

COM 498 (tentative: MW 11:45am-1:00pm) Hallsby (
Focused on exigent climate change, this course offers a survey of risk analysis (SARF/DARF) and positivist heuristic/bias methods of assessing climate messaging. It also presents critical, rhetorical, and argumentation-based readings of key moments in climate change controversy. The course also investigates public participation in climate-change advocacy and deliberation, the prevailing climate-denialist argument from uncertainty, and cinematic representations of climate based natural disaster.

Science Communication

AEC 495 Sec 8 ​ (W 11:45‐12:45p​.​m​.​​) McCoy (
This course is an introduction to science communication and how to present science effectively and creatively on the web and in other visual formats.

Science, Psi, Sasquatch, and Spirits

HON 296-002 (W 4:10PM – 6:55PM)
Location: HVC Conference Room 202 (University Honors Village) Orcutt (
Course Description: This course examines cultural perspectives on science and cultural practices within scientific communities as illuminated through examination of fields of inquiry generally considered outside of mainstream science. We will ask questions that include: How does and should science draw and enforce its boundaries? How is evidence considered within and across diverse scientific disciplines and in social spheres, and how do these realms influence one another? Students will engage with scientifically-framed arguments from so-called “skeptics,” “believers,” and others, as well as consider issues in and aspects of science including irreproducibility, experimental design, statistical analysis, media representations, instrumentation, measurement, citizen science, and history and philosophy of science. By “thinking and doing” their own research within these fields, students will develop an embodied sense of how to conduct scientific inquiry and situate scientific thinking within society and life.

Darby Orcutt’s academic background is diverse and interdisciplinary. He has taught at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, and in departments of communication, religious studies, honors, and information science. He holds an M.S. in Library Science, M.A. in Communication Studies, Rhetoric & Cultural Studies, and B.A. in Speech Communication and Religious Studies. His scholarly publications, presentations, and research span cultural studies, comparative religions, popular media, education, library science, and science, technology, and society (STS).