Science communication, but not science
February 18, 2020 5:21 PM   Subscribe

Are there fields like science communication that cover non-science subjects?

I'm looking for any kind of fields that are specifically about the ways that knowledge of a certain subject matter are communicated to others, especially those not involved in that field at all. The people doing this work aren't (necessarily) directly involved in the field but are educated enough to be able to take on an educational and informational role (for instance, Bill Nye isn't a traditional scientist and the closest he got to that was mechanical engineering but he is a top-notch science communicator).

I know there are specific people/groups that could be argued to be doing this kind of work for their field/subject of interest, but I haven't found anything that was quite as structured as science communication (to the point of degree programs). Google isn't helping but I might not be using the right terminology.
posted by divabat to Media & Arts (7 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Scholarly communication is the general term. It encompasses both scholar-to-scholar and scholar-to-public.

There’s some structured approaches, classes and programs in the area. Here’s a program at Dartmouth,, here’s a ‘toolkit’ from ACRL.

Many fields have a ‘communications’ sub field, eg here’s a group dedicated to communicating historical scholarship with non-experts.

If you give some fields of interest, you may get better answers, but searching /$field communications/ gives me relevant hits for a lot of fields.
posted by SaltySalticid at 5:45 PM on February 18, 2020 [3 favorites]

This is typically called public anthropology and public archaeology in those fields.
posted by thebots at 5:48 PM on February 18, 2020

In my field jobs like this get advertised often as things like "impact and engagement officer" or something administrative "with a focus on impact and engagement". Sometimes "communications officer" or "media liaison" appears in the title or job description too. These are roles that are found in the bigger research centres, research groups, or funded projects. It's becoming more and more common in the social sciences and humanities that larger pools of funding ($5 million +) for a project, topic, or initiative will have money set aside for a dedicated role like this.
posted by lollusc at 6:44 PM on February 18, 2020

Parts of government have these kind of roles, one term for the field is government communications/strategic communications. A harsh assessment would be that this is just a euphemism for PR, but depending on the role and project this field can involve very in depth translation of complex policy and processes into something that makes sense to and better engages the public. Often people who work in these roles are there because of their communication expertise, not for their in depth knowledge of the specific subject (e.g. they are doing a project communicating about earthquake risk mitigation strategies for a while, their next project is about, say, the implementation of voting reforms).

Health promotion also has a big communication niche (roles themselves are often called health education officers). Similar to science communication but with a goal of behaviour change through communication of information rather than simply increased knowledge. Often people in these roles have a health promotion or practitioner background, but sometimes the expertise is in communication itself.
posted by hotcoroner at 11:21 PM on February 18, 2020

Another major that includes science communication but really any communication that is mediated by technology is Technical Communication. There are many degree programs for the area and depending on school programs can envelop design, interaction and a host of other topics. It is not just user manuals is what I am trying to say. Tech Comm majors have gone into all the areas described upthread.
posted by jadepearl at 2:34 AM on February 19, 2020 [1 favorite]

There's public history and public humanities. In the museum world, people who communicate the understandings of historians and art historians and scientists to the public are in the field of interpretation - they help design exhibits, conduct audience research, write text and labels, create multimedia interactives, and find other ways to get ideas across.
posted by Miko at 5:08 AM on February 19, 2020

"Museum science" is a very narrow term of art in some subfields. I've heard it both in physical science and anthropology adjacent fields.

(Also, "education and outreach," which is perhaps too common to be interesting and very broad.)
posted by eotvos at 7:59 AM on February 19, 2020

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