Welcome to the Chair of Science Journalism

Cancer research, climate change and cloning; from bird flu to swine flu: all the buzzwords from the big media debates. Technology, medicine and science play an ever more prominent role in our everyday lives – and in the media. Readers, listeners and viewers are therefore dependent on well-informed, critical reporters: journalists who are not only able to present new developments in an intelligible and stimulating way, but to put them into context, too.

That is why TU Dortmund University introduced a Bachelor’s Programme in Science Journalism in 2003. It has a journalism component and a science/technology/medicine/statistics component, both of which can be studied side by side from the very beginning. In 2007, a Master’s Programme was launched to complement the Bachelor’s Programme.

Linking theory and practice

Most of the programme is taught at the highly respected Institute and School of Journalism at TU Dortmund University, one of the leading locations for journalism education in Germany. However, its outstanding reputation is also a result of its unique, country-wide work experience modules that enable students to train on the job (integrated traineeship with newspapers, magazines, radio, television or online media).

The journalism component of the science journalism programme covers all the typical aspects of journalism training: media law, ethics and economics as well as fact checking, stylistics and interview techniques. In parallel, students choose their second subject: natural sciences (physics or biosciences/medicine), tech journalism or data journalism. Wherever possible, the contents covered in the second subject are directly related to those in the journalism component.

The Bachelor's Programme, which takes eight semesters, aims to train journalists in the skills required to present everyday issues in science and technology in a vivid, lively form while taking a critical look at the issues themselves. After all, not every piece of medical news is necessarily a "breakthrough" for patients, not every piece of new technology only has advantages, and the process of combating disease often takes much longer than the fast-moving media business would give us to believe. For more than three decades, journalism training at Dortmund has built up a tradition of communicating reliable information.

In addition to the traditional interlinking of research and teaching with the realities of life in the editorial office, the Chair of Science Journalism seeks to promote inner-university exchange between the science/technology departments and the humanities and social sciences. In the medical field it has also cooperated with Witten/Herdecke University and, as of 2011, has initiated a new collaboration with Ruhr-Universität Bochum (RUB).

Researching Science Journalism

Like in our teaching, we aim to link theory and journalistic practice in our research as well. One focus of our research activities is on the quality and ethical aspects of science and science reporting. We also frequently investigate about the interaction between journalism and the public relations activities of research organisations. One prime example is "Medien-Doktor", a multiple-award-winning project, that evaluates journalistic articles and press releases about medical and environmental topics.

Another project is part of a series of three working groups hosted by the German Academies of Science. Those working groups are analyzing the relation of and communication between science, public and media against the background of advancing digitisation. Two working groups have already published reports with recommendations for political decision-makers, the scientific community and research. One major conclusion: We will need professional science journalists for the foreseeable future.

Download the reports:

Social Media and Digital Science Communication

On Designing Communication between the Scientific Community, the Public and the Media

Picture licensing: Students: Judith Wiesrecker/TU Dortmund; Wissensmacher: Felix Schmale/TU Dortmund