Public Communication of Science and Technology Certificate

The Public Communication of Science and Technology certificate focuses on how writing can function in science and technical contexts: to create knowledge and articulate problems, to communicate findings and implications to various publics, to secure funding for research, to share and advance knowledge to colleagues in a field, to represent a professional life. We value writing for what it enables us to figure out, for the knowledge we can create through it, for the ongoing critical and analytical work that it makes possible. THE PCST certificate allows students to interrogate and explain ethics, to communicate the significance of research, to think through and argue for scientific work in ways that benefit the public.

When we think of our culture’s relationship with science at this moment, we see many opportunities for writing to allow this kind of problem posing, exploration, and clarification. As science and technology are constantly innovating and re-shaping what is known about the world, society often doesn’t know what to do with the resulting information, resulting in anti-science attitudes such as denial of climate change or anxiety about the ways that science and technology is racing ahead, sometimes with profit motives trumping ethical considerations. Anti-science attitudes are now posing real risk to people and communities. In this context, it is crucial that students learn how to communicate science to others and that they learn how to think critically about what that conversation means for their scientific work.

In purely practical terms, we know that employers highly value STEM employees who can write and communicate with colleagues, customers, and the public. We believe that this credential will help students to be more competitive on the job market and in graduate school applications.

This 18-credit certificate is designed for science- and technology-oriented students in any major who understand the value of being able to communicate their research outside their own narrow field, who know that they will need to convince others to support their research, and who anticipate that they will need to communicate the implications of their research to the public. It will also serve students who want to pursue a career as a writer in science and technical fields. 

A number of professionals use the knowledge and abilities taught in this certificate:

  • Researchers who want to convey the significance of their work to the public, grantors, institutions, and colleagues.

  • Writers for public-serving institutions that educate as part of their mission, such as museums and science centers.

  • Writers who craft messages to enhance patient education and care in medical contexts.

  • Writers working for organizations that educate policy makers on the most effective solutions to problems.

  • Scholars who study the theory and practice of communication in scientific and technological contexts.

  • Editors and writers for journals that publish research findings.

  • Journalists working science beats.

  • Artists working with themes, images, materials, and ideas from scientific research.

Students can expect to learn what it means to write publicly about science and technology. PCST certificate students will 

  • write about research for audiences both inside and outside a scientific or technical field

  • use writing to articulate and investigate significant problems 

  • translate research and findings to make the work accessible to various kinds of readers 

  • share the implications of their work with wider audiences and policymakers

  • write grant proposals and reports on how funding was spent

  • represent data in ethical and responsible ways

  • explore the ethical dimensions and responsibilities of writing about science and technology

  • learn effective writing practices for working with others, for writing on a deadline, for revising, for meeting journal requirements, and for carrying out a longer project.

  • learn how to write for business contexts (for innovators).

  • learn and use appropriate information technology for engaging readers.

Academic Requirements 

The program allows students to pursue a relevant internship and offers a capstone experience that will pull the various threads of their study together. Many of the courses satisfy the Writing requirement; select courses also satisfy the Diversity, Creative Work, Historical Analysis, and Literature requirements. As we develop other courses for the certificate, we aim to design them to satisfy other DSAS GERs.

Students need a total of 18 credits, including 15 credits in relevant writing-intensive courses from the list of courses that count. (We will post additional eligible in-major W courses on this page as they are developed.)

Note: Students will follow current DSAS policy on counting courses toward both their major and this certificate.

Core Course (3 credits)                                                                                                     

ENGCMP 0430 Public Communication of Science and Technology (satisfies Writing and Philosophical Thinking or Ethics GERs)

Capstone Course (3 credits)

ENGCMP 1910 Bridge Seminar (satisfies Writing GER) or 

ENGCMP 1911 PCST Capstone (will be proposed fall 2020)
 

Using Information Technology (3 credits)

ENGCMP 0520 Integrating Writing and Design (satisfies Creative Work and Writing GERs)

ENGCMP 0610 Composing Digital Media (satisfies Creative Work and Writing GERs)

ENGCMP 1130 Projects in Digital Composition (satisfies Creative Work and Writing GERs)
 

Elective Courses for the Certificate (9 credits)   

ENGCMP 0401 Written Professional Communication: Topics in Diversity (satisfies Writing and Diversity GERs)

ENGCMP 0412 Engineering Communication in a Professional Context (satisfies Writing GER)

ENGCMP 0432 Writing for Environmental Advocacy (satisfies Writing GER)

ENGCMP 0450 Research Writing (satisfies Writing GER)

ENGCMP 0521 Writing with Data (satisfies Writing GER)

ENGCMP 0530 Writing for the Sciences (satisfies Writing GER)

ENGCMP 0535 Writing in the Health Science Professions (satisfies Writing GER)

ENGCMP 0600 Introduction to Technical Writing (satisfies Writing GER)

ENGCMP 1101 Language of Science and Technology (satisfies Writing GER)

ENGCMP 1102 Language of Medicine (satisfies Writing GER)

ENGCMP 1402 Grant Writing for Research (will be proposed fall 2020)

ENGCMP 1900 Internship in Public and Professional Writing                                        

ENGFLM 0585/FMST 0790 Technologies of the Body (satisfies Creative Work GER)

ENGLIT 0512: Narrative and Technology (satisfies Literature GER)

ENGLIT 0541 Literature and Medicine (satisfies Writing and Literature GERs)

ENGLIT 0612: Literature and Science (satisfies Historical Analysis and Literature GERs)

ENLIT 0710 Contemporary Environmental Literature (satisfies Literature GER)

ENGLIT 1005 Literature and the Environment (satisfies Historical Analysis and Literature GERs)

ENGWRT 1394 Science Writing

GSWS 0400 Gender and Science 

These courses count as electives for students who are majors in the department offering the course.

GEOL 1313 Communication for Environmental Professionals

GEOL 1315 Communication in the Geosciences

Grade Requirement: Students are expected to achieve a minimum grade of C in each course required for this certificate. 

Note: The Writing Institute is willing to work with departments that want to develop appropriate writing-intensive courses for this certificate. We are also happy to hear from departments that believe they already have a qualifying course.

Have questions about the PCST certificate? Contact jennifer.keating@pitt.edu