Vital and vulnerable: science communication as a university subject
Science communication; institutional support; interdisciplinarity; master’s programmes; PhD research; economic conditions
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AbstractOver nearly three decades, science communication has become established as a subject of teaching and research in universities across the world. Its standing as an academic discipline continues to be debated, but graduate degree programmes and doctoral research in the field are increasing. Partly reflecting its inherent multi- and interdisciplinary content, science communication is embedded in different institutions in different ways. These developments have been driven mainly by individual champions, but in some cases also by institutional and government policies. The diversity of science communication programmes reflects in part the various histories and institutional affiliations of the programmes. The diversity can be seen as a sign of the subject’s vitality but it is also a condition of its vulnerability. Many science communication teaching programmes have given rise to consultancies, applied research, publishing and, perhaps most notably, doctoral research, but information from the promoters of science communication programmes indicates that some programmes are particularly exposed to the rationalisation affecting higher education institutions in many countries. Science communication’s position between and across disciplines and departments may mean it is not always well equipped to defend itself just when its need is most apparent.