Science Communication (IPS*3000)

Code and section: IPS*3000*01

Term: Fall 2021

Instructor: Joanne O'Meara


Course Information

Course Instruction

Course Instructor

Name Office Ext Email
Joanne O’Meara MacN 323 53987

Teaching Assistants

Name Office Email
Zarin Ahmed  MacN 401
Carley Miki MacN 453

Official Meeting Times


Day Time Location
Tuesdays and Thursdays 1:00 to 2:20 pm McKN 116


Day Time Location
Mondays 2:30 to 5:20 pm  MacN 318
Fridays 2:30 to 5:20 pm MacS 301

See the semester schedule below for more details – there will not be laboratories every week.

NOTE: Given the current situation with COVID19, this will be a semester that will be highly changeable. We will be working entirely online at the beginning, with the hope of being able to switch to face-to-face before the end of the semester, depending on the situation. Courselink will be updated continuously so check in frequently. The link for our Zoom sessions will be provided there.

Course Description

This course focuses on developing the skills required to communicate science for non- specialist audiences. The principles and practices of public speaking and writing will be explored, employing a variety of media. Through multiple oral and written assignments, students will explore tailoring their message for various audience-types.

Course Objectives

  1. to become familiar with the literature in a focused area of interest
  2. to improve analysis skills through critical reading of research or popular literature
  3. to practice and improve oral presentation skills, tailored to a specific audience
  4. to practice and improve written communication skills, tailored to a specific audience
  5. to work collaboratively and constructively in a group to incorporate presenting and writing skills in a science communications project


Assessment % of Grade
Classroom engagement 15%
Speaking assignments 25%
Writing assignments 25%
Final Project 35%

The engagement mark will be determined based on the individual’s degree of involvement in activities and discussions during class and laboratory time (online or in-person, as deemed necessary by the ongoing pandemic), as well as through asking questions and providing constructive feedback for classmates. Students who are unable to attend a regularly scheduled session for medical or other reasons should inform the instructor in advance. Unexplained extended absences and/or failure to engage in class sessions will affect your overall grade in the course.

Assignments will be set weekly. These assignments will include reading, viewing, or listening to relevant materials for our in-class discussions, writing assignments, presentations, as well as work related to your group project. Multiple opportunities to practice writing and presenting will be provided to ensure skill development. It is critical that you complete all such assignments, particularly those related to preparing for in-class discussions. Your engagement mark depends strongly on your informed participation in discussions, for which preparation is key. The schedule for the semester is included below; please refer to this schedule regularly and consult Courselink for updates throughout the semester. 

Speaking Assignments (25% of final mark)

You will complete 3 presentation assignments during the semester. More details will be provided as the semester progresses.

  1. Informal three-minute presentations of your chosen topic – 5%
  2. Podcast (paired assignment) – 10%
  3. Video explanations (paired assignment) – 10% The due dates are provided in the table below.

Writing Assignments (25% of final mark)

You will complete 2 writing assignments during the semester.

  1. Written pitch for a story in Science Corner  for  the  Guelph  Mercury-Tribune (400 - 500 words) – 10%
  2. Full story for Science Corner (Guelph Mercury-Tribune) (750 words) – 15%

The due dates are provided in the table below.

Group Project (35% of final mark)

Students will work in groups to develop a science communication project that showcases the writing and presenting skills they have developed during the course. In discussion with the course instructor and teaching assistants, each group will propose and develop their own project to present to the Guelph community at the end of the semester at our online STEM Week event hosted in partnership with the Guelph Civic Museum (November 29 to Dec 3). Specifically, the museum is promoting this week to local elementary schools as a destination for virtual field trips, focusing on the Ontario science curriculum for grades 6/7/8. This project is in lieu of a final examination and is worth a significant portion of your final grade so planning for this project needs to begin as soon as possible. The laboratory sessions during the semester will be used to prepare for our role in our online STEM week in partnership with the museum.

NOTE: 5% of your grade on this project will come from the timely submission of a clearly laid out proposal, with all group members identified. The proposal is due Friday Oct 15th.

Course Policy on Group Work

Group members will be assigned the same grade for these assignments. Students should notify the instructor/teaching assistants as soon as possible if any issues with distribution of effort occur, so they can be resolved prior to the submission of the assignment. If the issues persist, the instructor may request each group member submit a distribution of effort (DOE). The DOEs may be used by the instructor to adjust the grade of individual group members where the DOE between group members is not balanced.

Proposed Schedule for the Semester

Week In-Class Session (MacK 116) Laboratory Sessions (MacN 318/MacS 301) Assignments/Deadlines
1 (Sept 13 to17) Tuesday Sept 14 & Thursday Sept 16
Introductions, course structure, general discussion of the goals of science communication. 
No labs this week See Courselink for any required viewings/readings before class.
2 (Sept 20 to 24)  Tuesday Sept 21 & Thursday Sept 23
The Art of Presenting
Monday Sept 20/Friday Sept 24
  • organize into groups
  • choose topic/grade level for theme
  • brainstorm ideas for engaging with participating elementary school students 
See Courselink for any required viewings before class.
3 (Sept 27 to Oct 1) Presenting exercise #1
Informal three-minute presentations of your chosen topic for your specified target audience (half the class will present on Tuesday, half the class will present on Thursday) 
No lab this week This exercise is worth 5% of your final grade.
4 (Oct 4 to 8) Tuesday Oct 5
Storyboarding, scripting, podcasting 

Thursday Oct 7
Monday Oct 4/Friday Oct 8
  • continue to develop your plan for STEM Week
  • work on a budget for your activity 
See Courselink for any required readings/audio clips before class.
5 (Oct 11 to 15)
Tuesday Oct 12

Thursday Oct 14
Science through storytelling
No lab this week

Group Project Proposal Due – Friday Oct 15

Your proposal is worth 5% of your final grade.

6 (Oct 18 to 22)

Tuesday Oct 19
Video production 

Thursday Oct 21
Video production

Monday Oct 18/Friday Oct 22
  • continue work on group projects
See Courselink for any required viewings before class.
7 (Oct 25 to 29) Presenting exercise #2
(half the podcasts will be aired on Tuesday, the other half will be aired on Thursday)
No labs this week   This exercise is worth 10% of your final grade.
8 (Nov 1 to 5) Tuesday Nov 2 & Thursday Nov 4
Discussions –pitching a story
Monday Nov 1/ Friday Nov 5 
  • continue work on group projects
See Courselink for readings before class.
9 (Nov 8 to 12) Presenting exercise #3
Video presentations
(half the videos will be viewed on Tuesday, the other half will be viewed on Thursday)
Monday Nov 8/ Friday Nov 12
  • continue work on group projects
This exercise is worth 10% of your final grade.
10 (Nov 15 to 19)

Tuesday Nov 16
Science in print

Thursday Nov 18
Discussion – personalizing the impersonal

Monday Nov 15/ Friday Nov 19
  • final session for group project preparation
Writing assignment #1 – story pitch
Due Friday Nov 19

This exercise is worth 10% of your final grade.
11 (Nov 22 to 26) Tuesday Nov 23 & Thursday Nov 25
  • what have we learned?
  • course evaluations
  • dress rehearsal for STEM week 
No labs this week Group project final submission   − 
Due Wednesday Nov 24

This project is worth 30% of your final grade.
12    (Nov 28 to Dec 3) Tuesday Nov 28 & Thursday Dec 3
No labs this week STEM Week with the Guelph Civic Museum

NOTE: Writing assignment #2 – full Science Corner story – due Friday Dec 10th. This exercise is worth 15% of your final grade.

This schedule is tentative and subject to change. Consult Courselink regularly to remain up to date with the course activities and deadlines/due dates.

Sample Readings/Viewings

(This is not a complete list – Courselink will be updated regularly with your pre-class preparation materials)

Course Policies

Academic Consideration

If you find yourself unable to meet an in-course requirement because of illness or compassionate reasons, please advise the course instructor in writing, with your name, id#, and e-mail contact.  The University will not normally require verification of illness (doctor's notes) for fall 2021 or winter 2022 semester courses.  However, requests for Academic Consideration may still require medical documentation as appropriate.

See the academic calendar for information on regulations and procedures for academic consideration.


In this course, your instructor will be using Turnitin, integrated with the CourseLink Dropbox tool, to detect possible plagiarism, unauthorized collaboration or copying as part of the ongoing efforts to maintain academic integrity at the University of Guelph.

All submitted assignments will be included as source documents in the reference database solely for the purpose of detecting plagiarism of such papers. Use of the service is subject to the Usage Policy posted on the site.

A major benefit of using Turnitin is that students will be able to educate and empower themselves in preventing academic misconduct. In this course, you may screen your own assignments through Turnitin as many times as you wish before the due date. You will be able to see and print reports that show you exactly where you have properly and improperly referenced the outside sources and materials in your assignment.

Academic Misconduct 

The University of Guelph is committed to upholding the highest standards of academic integrity and it is the responsibility of all members of the University community, faculty, staff, and students to be aware of what constitutes academic misconduct and to do as much as possible to prevent academic offences from occurring. 

University of Guelph students have the responsibility of abiding by the University's policy on academic misconduct regardless of their location of study; faculty, staff and students have the responsibility of supporting an environment that discourages misconduct. Students need to remain aware that instructors have access to and the right to use electronic and other means of detection. 

Please note: whether or not a student intended to commit academic misconduct is not relevant for a finding of guilt. Hurried or careless submission of assignments does not excuse students from responsibility for verifying the academic integrity of their work before submitting it. Students who are in any doubt as to whether an action on their part could be construed as an academic offence should consult with a faculty member or faculty advisor. 

The Academic Misconduct Policy is detailed in the Undergraduate Calendar. 

A helpful resource in understanding academic misconduct and plagiarism can be found at: 

Copyright Protections of Intellectual Property

Presentations that are made in relation to course work—including lectures—cannot be recorded or copied without the permission of the presenter, whether the instructor, a classmate or guest lecturer. Material recorded with permission is restricted to use for that course unless further permission is granted. 

Classroom teaching and learning activities, including lectures, discussions, presentations, etc., by both instructors and students, are copyright protected and remain the intellectual property of their respective author(s). All course materials, including PowerPoint presentations, outlines, lecture notes, assignments, assessments and other materials, are also protected by copyright and remain the intellectual property of their respective author(s).

Students registered in the course may take notes and make copies of course materials for their own educational use only. Students are not permitted to reproduce or distribute lecture notes and course materials publicly for commercial or non-commercial purposes without express written consent from the copyright holder(s).

Remote Learning Etiquette

Inappropriate online behaviour will not be tolerated. Examples of inappropriate online behaviour include (but are not limited to):

  • Posting inflammatory messages about your instructor or fellow students
  • Using obscene or offensive language online
  • Copying or presenting someone else's work as your own
  • Adapting information from the Internet without using proper citations or references
  • Buying or selling term papers or assignments
  • Posting or selling course materials to course notes websites
  • Having someone else complete your work or completing work for/with another student
  • Stating false claims about lost assignment submissions
  • Threatening or harassing a student or instructor online
  • Discriminating against fellow students, instructors and/or TAs
  • Using the course website to promote profit-driven products or services
  • Attempting to compromise the security/functionality of the learning management system
  • Sharing your username and password
  • Recording lectures without the permission of the instructor

Privacy During Lecture Recordings

By enrolling in this course, unless explicitly stated and brought forward to the instructor, it is assumed that students agree to the possibility of being recorded during lecture, seminar or other “live” course activities, whether delivery is in-class or online/remote.

If you prefer not to be distinguishable during a recording, you may:

  1. turn off your camera
  2. mute your microphone 
  3. edit your name (e.g., initials only) upon entry to each session
  4. use the chat function to pose questions.  

Students who express that they, or a reference to their name or person, do not wish to be recorded, possible alternatives or accommodations will be discussed with the instructor.


The University of Guelph is committed to creating a barrier-free environment. Providing services for students is a shared responsibility among students, faculty and administrators.

This relationship is based on respect of individual rights, the dignity of the individual and the University community's shared commitment to an open and supportive learning environment. 

Students requiring service or accommodation, whether due to an identified, ongoing disability or a short-term disability, should contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) as soon as possible. 

For more information, contact SAS at 519-824-4120 ext. 56208 or visit the SAS website

E-mail Communication 

As per university regulations, all students are required to check their e-mail account regularly. E-mail is the official route of communication between the University and its students.

Course Assessment

The Department of Physics requires student assessment of all courses taught by the Department. These assessments provide essential feedback to faculty on their teaching by identifying both strengths and possible areas of improvement. In addition, annual student assessment of teaching provides part of the information used by the Department Tenure and Promotion Committee in evaluating the faculty member's contribution in the area of teaching.

The Department's teaching evaluation questionnaire invites student response both through numerically quantifiable data and written student comments. In conformity with University of Guelph Faculty Policy, the Department Tenure and Promotions Committee only considers comments signed by students. Your instructor will see all signed and unsigned comments after final grades are submitted. Written student comments may also be used in support of a nomination for internal and external teaching awards.

NOTE: No information will be passed on to the instructor until after the final grades have been submitted.


Please note that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic may necessitate a revision of the format of course offerings and academic schedules. Any such changes will be announced via CourseLink and/or class email. All University-wide decisions will be posted on the COVID-19 website and circulated by email.