New Master’s degree to engage New Zealanders in conversations about science

Mumbai: Victoria University of Wellington is launching a new Master’s degree that will prepare students to tackle pressing world issues through a cross-disciplinary approach that acknowledges the sciences, the humanities and the arts.

The Master of Science and Society combines taught courses and research projects to provide a practical understanding of how science functions in society, equipping students for careers in policy, advocacy and public engagement.

image004“It’s becoming more and more important to not only be aware of the big issues facing New Zealand and the world, like climate change, biodiversity loss and new technologies, but also understanding their implications for our society and conceiving of ways we can respond to them,” says programme director Dr Rebecca Priestley.

“This requires an understanding of the issues not only in a scientific context, but in a wider societal context. They’re not problems to be solved by science alone.”

The one year (full-time) cross-disciplinary degree will see students learn how to engage local and international communities in meaningful conversations about the science that impacts their lives so they can make informed decisions.

“We’re saturated with information about many of these issues—but how much of it is accessible, and informed? How can we effectively engage the public with these issues that affect them and their future?” says Dr Priestley.

Students will need an understanding of scientific concepts but the course also draws on the social sciences, the humanities, indigenous knowledge, and the creative arts, to provide broader and more inclusive perspectives on science.

“This is a degree for those committed to understanding the world around us, and who want to help make a real and noticeable difference in it, taught by experts who care deeply about the same things,” says Dr Priestley.

Dr Priestley won the 2016 Prime Minister’s Science Communication Prize earlier this year for her career which spans more than 25 years.