The Stuart Chair in Science Communication was established with the intention of developing New Zealand’s first tertiary-based centre devoted to the communication of science. In 2008, the University of Otago’s Centre for Science Communication was opened in its own premises at 303a Great King Street, Dunedin. The Centre offers a new masters degree − a Master of Science Communication (MSciComm) − available in one three specializations: filmmaking, writing and popularizing science (the latter stream concentrates especially on online digital media and public exhibitions).
Key to the establishment and continued success of the CSC has been the recruitment of world-renowned research staff and expert science communicators. Prof Lloyd Spencer Davis, the Stuart Chair in Science Communication, in addition to being the Centre’s director, oversees the writing programme. Alongside him is Associate Prof. Jesse Bering, an acclaimed American essayist and popular science author. Multi award-winning filmmaker, Ross Johnston, coordinates the Filmmaking stream together with Robert Brown (whom Sir David Attenborough has described one of the top three wildlife cameramen in the world) and Phil Davison, a longstanding producer of documentaries, television, and films. Prof. Nancy Longnecker, a pioneering figure in the study of science communication, spearheads the popular science programme alongside Dr. Jenny Rock, a zoologist and noted specialist in multimedia. Coordinating the MSciComm programme is Dr. Fabien Medvecky, a philosopher and economist whose interdisciplinary approach to science communication embodies the Centre’s aims.
The Centre’s manager, Sue Harvey, has a wide range of administrative experience and has worked at the University of Otago since 1994. Steve Ting, a graduate of the MSciComm degree programme and former professional filmmaker, provides additional support as a Teaching Fellow.
The CSC exceeded initial projections and attracted an intake of 28 Masters students its first year. Overnight, based on student numbers, the Centre became one of the largest postgraduate facilities in the world devoted to science communication. Since the introduction of this innovative degree offering, our MSciComm programme has consistently been one of the most popular (and productive) Masters programmes at the University of Otago.
Distinguished Communicator Lecture Series
One of the first initiatives of the Centre was the establishment of a prestigious public lecture series designed to exemplify the best in science communication. The Centre was officially opened at the first of these lectures, which was given by Professor Sir Paul Callaghan on 21 February, 2008 to a packed St David Lecture Theatre.
Subsequent lectures have been given by: Finlay MacDonald (columnist and ex-editor of The Listener), Nicky Hager (investigative journalist), Professor Mike Colombo (psychologist and winner of many university teaching accolades), Kim Hill (radio broadcaster), Robyn Williams (host of Australia’s number one podcast on science for the ABC), and Associate Professor Allan Blackman (chemist).
While the establishment of our degree programmes (MSciComm, PhD and PGDipNHFC) have taken priority, the Centre offers occasional short courses on science communication for the general public. This initiative was launched in 2008 with a four-day introductory course on documentary filmmaking given by acclaimed documentarian Sarita Seigel. The course was held in Wanaka in association with the Mount Aspiring College Foundation and attracted 16 participants. Feedback on the course was very positive. For information about any planned short courses, please contact us.