Vital and Vulnerable: Science Communication as a University Subject

  • Brian TrenchEmail author


Over 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 programs 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 programs reflects in part the various histories and institutional affiliations of the programs. 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 programs have given rise to consultancies, applied research, publishing and, perhaps most notably, doctoral research, but information from the promoters of science communication programs indicates that some programs are particularly exposed to the rationalization 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 this need is most apparent.


Science communication Institutional support Interdisciplinarity Master’s programs Ph.D. research Economic conditions 



I thank the coordinators of science communication programs who responded to my questions. Several also generously contributed additional comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of CommunicationsDublin City UniversityDublin 9Ireland

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