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  • Scientific communication - part II - Prof. Luciano Ragno - a.y. 2016/2017

    LUCIANO RAGNO, professional journalist, has authored investigative reports on all continents, first as a special correspondent and then as managing editor of Il Messaggero. He has conceived and edited numerous radio and television broadcasts, and written more than twenty books on science and medicine for the general public (two of which have been translated into English). He wrote one of the first books on assisted reproduction, authoring, for Adnkronos the volume entitled Un figlio ad ogni costo ("a child at all costs"). His latest books are Storia dell'endoscopia digestiva in Italia... Parlano i testimoni del tempo ("the history of digestive endoscopy in Italy - contemporary witnesses speak"), written with prof. Cosentino, and Cento anni di Chirurgia ("one hundred years of surgery"), with prof. Eugenio Santoro. 

    For almost forty years as a professional journalist, Luciano Ragno has been interested in medical and science journalism for the general public. He was one of Italy's first journalists to introduce medical and scientific topics into newspapers, first as editor at Il Messaggero in Rome, and then, for the same publication, as special correspondent and managing editor until retirement. At Il Messaggero, he was responsible for a weekly insert entitled "La nostra salute" - "our health." 



    This is a two-year course. The first part  will be carried out in the first year; the second part in the second year of the degree course. Due to the high specificity of the discipline, for a better supply of contents and for a better comprehension by the students, the lectures wil be provided during the entire term of the Course.

    The principal aim of the discipline is the undestanding of the importance of scientific communication and how to divulgate scientific results to common people.


    Prerequisite: Newspapers, television programmes, radio programmes, online and internet information

    Preparatory: None


    UNIT 1: Scientific communication over television and radio. 

    Knowledge and understanding: Before describing the educational goals of the course, an initial observation is in order:  in today’s reality, communication plays an all important role.  Interpersonal relations, politics and economics, both national and international, all pass along the thoroughfare of communication, which not only informs, but also “forms” modes of behaviour and awareness. Research is no exception to this rule.  Indeed, healthcare is dependent on communication, seeing that citizens are kept informed, and shown what they should and should not do, through scientific communication.  There is a need for experts able to communicate correctly, clearly and, most importantly, in a language that proves accessible to everyone.         

    The purpose of the course is to provide the knowledge needed to train such experts, who, once they have entered the working world, could find themselves involved in the information process through traditional channels.  In order to train these experts, teachers must have prior experience in the field of communication, and in particular with scientific communication, to ensure that the students understand the message of how information serves as the antechamber to the education of citizens.  In the two years of the course’s duration, this goal can  be achieved through a close working relationship and a constant dialogue focussed strictly on current events – the subject is today, combined with a vision of tomorrow, and certainly not a review of history or abstract considerations – between the teacher and the students.       

    Applying knowledge and understanding: The course is definitely not meant to transform students who have chosen other professional paths into journalists.  Instead, the goal is to teach today’s students how, once they begin operating in the field, they can  make use of the knowledge they have acquired to communicate scientific topics, and especially those involving medicine, to a general public that increasingly hungers for such knowledge.  When the students, in their future professional endeavours, apply what they have learned during the course, they will know how to relate to journalists, seeking to interpret their language while also meeting the expectations of the public by providing information in terms that are clear, accessible to all and, most importantly, that put people at ease. 

    Making judgements: During the course, the teacher constantly monitors the students’ progress, to ensure that they are able to apply the techniques of scientific communication not only correctly, but independently. 

    Communication: the second year of the course focuses on the language of television, with the students learning techniques of scientific communication via television.  A special approach is needed, seeing that the television audience is more varied than the readership of print media.  It follows that the language, with the support of appropriate images – always clear, never likely to cause fear – must be readily accessible to all, especially since the subject of health is followed with particularly intense interest, and sometimes with anguish and apprehension as well.

    All this occurs in a specially equipped television studio found on the university campus, with the presence of a specialised technician, cameras, monitors and microphones.  The atmosphere of a real television studio is created, with the students in the roles of both interviewer and interviewee.

    Learning skills: At the conclusion of the cycle of lessons, the skills acquired by the students are also demonstrated through the recording of an actual TV broadcast on a DVD.  Copies of the DVD are made and presented to the chairman of the course of study and to the students.  During the second year, time is devoted to teaching the language, procedures and techniques utilised for specialised TV broadcasts. 


    At first, the techniques of reproductive medicine during the different historical periods (from the beginning until now) will be described. Secondly, the lectures will focus on the behaviour of experts in assisted-reproductive medicine in relation to journalists. Each student will write down a scientific article, and all articles will be harvested in a unique printed dossier.

    Practical exercises

    ° drafting of a written text after each lesson and direct proofreading

    ° printing of written dossier 

    ° reading of one or more newspapers in class 


    Un figlio a ogni costo

    • Autore: Luciano Ragno
    • Edizione: adnkronos, Dicembre 1984, Roma

    There are no specific books on the argument.

    Direct interviews of the students to well-known journalists.

    During the course, a well-known journalist or scientist will be interviewed by the students by direct phone calls. 



    Reference unit: final test

    Date: 19/05/2017; 05/07/2017


    The examination involves coming up with the concept for a television broadcast, complete with the subject, the title, the guests and the questions to be asked.  During this practical exercise, the students will take turns being the host and the guest.  Each student must show, during an oral examination, that he or she is able to communicate scientific information in a way that proves not only effective but, even  more importantly, clear and convincing.     


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