CPT-22306 Environmental Communication and Responsible Innovation


Credits 6.00

Teaching methodContact hours
Group work6
Independent study
Course coordinator(s)prof. dr. P Macnaghten
Lecturer(s)prof. dr. ir. AEJ Wals
prof. dr. P Macnaghten
Examiner(s)prof. dr. ir. AEJ Wals
prof. dr. P Macnaghten

Language of instruction:


Assumed knowledge on:

ESA-10309 and ENP-10806 or FNP-11806. Students who do not take part in one of the environmental sciences programmes or forest and nature conservation are supposed to have knowledge on environmental policy. All students are expected to be able to read, digest and evaluate complex social scientific articles. Course is capped at 45 students due to constraints of groupwork as a learning strategy (maximum nine groups of five students requiring groups to present to whole class).


Why are environmental issues so difficult to communicate? Why do institutions so often fail and sometimes succeed? How do we empower people to change fundamentally their behaviour and to genuinely participate in sustainable futures? How do we understand how people think about the environment? What is or should be the role of experts? In this course we address these questions in the context of environmental issues that are complex, uncertain and often 'wicked'. Following an overview of approaches to environmental communication we examine what 'responsible' communication practices looks like in the context of on-going debates and commitments to responsible innovation. Through case studies on 'live' domains of technological controversy we examine dominant and alternative approaches to communication using as examples: genetically modified foods and crops; nanotechnology; synthetic biology; and geoengineering or climate engineering. The course encourages students to learn through group work. In small groups students learn how to critically evaluate and present a social science article on one aspect of environmental communication. In addition, students learn how to undertake qualitative research on a 'wicked' environmental issue through a mini focus group project: how to develop a researchable question, how to translate this into a focus group design, how to recruit, moderate and analyse a focus group (with fellow students), and how to develop the analysis into a presentation on an environmental communication strategy.

Learning outcomes:

After successful completion of this course students are expected to be able to:
- understand core concepts and theories used in scholarship on environmental communication and responsible innovation;
- apply these concepts and theories in the development of communication strategies;
- develop critical skills in evaluating and presenting complex social science articles;
- nurture competences of collaborative research and learning in small groups;
- learn the practical skills of undertaking focus group research.


- lectures;
- seminars;
- group work;
- group presentations.


The grade will be based on:
- group work (50%);
- take home exam (50%).
The marks of both have to be at least 5.5 for the student to pass the course.


The literature is provided on Blackboard.

Compulsory for: BESEnvironmental SciencesBScA: Environmental Policy and Economics2AF
Restricted Optional for: BBNForest and Nature ConservationBScA: Policy and Society2AF
MESEnvironmental SciencesMSc2AF