Natural Sciences degrees


Policy, Communication and Ethics

Stream Representative

Dr Tiago Mata: t.mata@ucl.ac.uk


In the policy dimension of this stream, we explore how science policy is developed and how it operates in the UK and internationally. We want students to be able to dissect key and developing policy issues, and we want them to relate their understanding of those issues to fundamental concepts in policy discussion. Policy content – the ideas, debates, and issues – is one focus. Governance is another. How are policies implemented? What can we learn from cases where implementation is done well versus when it is done badly? How do we consult interested parties when regulating the work of science, and how do we balance their very different contributions.

In the communication dimension, we explore different approaches to conveying and interacting with science. The stream develops practical communication skills over a wide range of techniques, from traditional journalism to ministerial briefings, from blogs and feature articles to pod- and video-casts. The stream also develops an analytical and reflective layer using tools drawn from many disciplines. For instance, how are ideas of expertise, objectivity, and disinterest used during discussions of controversial technologies? How do journalists shape science stories when presenting them to different audiences? How do we evaluate the effectiveness of science communication so we know how to separate the substance from the sensational? The goal is to produce knowledgeable consumers of science communication as well as knowledgeable producers.

In the ethics dimension, we explore themes associated with science and ethics, integrity, and responsible research. This is undertaken within the broad framework of philosophy of science. Topics include scientific methods and evidence-based decision making, intellectual property, human participation, data management, conflicts of interest, peer reviewing, and authorship. Modules develop skills with practical problems and critical thinking. They also develops an understanding of foundations and core principles.

These three dimensions share much common ground. We fully exploit this overlap. That’s a unique selling point of the Policy, Communication, and Ethics core stream.


By the end of the Natural Sciences programme, students with Policy, Communication, and Ethics as a core stream should be able to:

Policy dimension

  • critically discuss and analyze key issues in science policy (combining science, technology, engineering and medicine)
  • relate discussions of policy issues in science to fundamental concepts in the wider study of policy and governance
  • produce clear and impactful research relating to novel policy questions
  • present analyses that are clear, concise, and persuasive while also mindful of multiple perspectives and alternative solutions
  • provide reflective interpretations of decision-making, especially in emerging and controversial issues
  • present well-grounded plans for consultation and governance as they relate to developing and implementing science policy

Communication dimension

  • demonstrate practical skills in science communication and engagement, using more than one format and more than one venue
  • demonstrate practical skills in evaluation of science communication and engagement
  • relate practical skills to fundamental concepts in the field, such as content analysis
  • provide communication, engagement, and evaluation strategies for novel case studies
  • present a portfolio of effective communication, engagement, and evaluation, and demonstrate an ability to reflect meaningfully on their strengths and weaknesses

Ethics dimension

  • identify issues relevant to core subjects associated with research ethics
  • identify foundational principles and main policy concepts associated with professional integrity
  • evaluate effective practices for undertaking responsible research and innovation
  • demonstrate critical thinking about how to engage communities affected by emerging activities in science


The Policy, Communication and Ethics stream is only available as a minor stream and can be combined with all streams apart from Mathematics and Statistics.

Further information on the Policy, Communications and Ethics stream can be found here