• Offered by Centre for the Public Awareness of Science
  • ANU College ANU Joint Colleges of Science
  • Course subject Science Communication
  • Areas of interest Science Communication
  • Academic career Undergraduate
  • Course convener
    • Dr Roderick Lamberts
  • Mode of delivery In Person
  • Offered in Second Semester 2017
    See Future Offerings

Even a cursory glance at daily headlines reveals a plethora of social and societal issues in which scientific evidence is a core component. Dig a little deeper and it becomes clear that scientific evidence is often misunderstood, misused, misappropriated or ignored, especially in public and political domains. The consequences of this can range from the merely quirky to the manifestly dangerous.

Scientific evidence is increasingly wielded in arguments in the public domain, and the calls for 'evidenced based decisions' have never been so frequent, so broad, or so loud. To operate effectively in such an environment, today's science communicators must be able to tell the difference between good research and bad, even if that research falls beyond their personal scientific skillset and experience.  

They must possess the skills and knowledge to critique the evidence at the base of science-related issues affecting society today. In parallel, they need to understand, and be able to apply, science communication research to their own communication practice.

This course emphasizes the analysis, critique and communication of science and scientific evidence in the context of identifying, understanding and critiquing examples of social influence and change.

The course focuses on cases of critical societal challenges that have significant science bases such as
• Climate change
• Alternative energy
• Public health (e.g., vitamin supplements, vaccination, homeopathic remedies)
• Natural disaster mitigation and survival (e.g., bushfires, tsunamis)
• Health and safety legislation (e.g., illicit drugs, road safety, GM foods)
• The role of scientific research in society (e.g., curiosity driven versus applied)

To be able to successfully appraise the relative merits of evidence, both for scientific and science communication research, students in this course will be exposed to the philosophy and reasoning behind common quantitative and qualitative methods and methodological argument.

Scientific research, analysis and communication will be considered from the multiple, sometimes conflicting, perspectives of formal researchers, politicians, the media, and society at large.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

LO1. Identify evidence from basic qualitative and quantitative research techniques as they are applied in science and social science (science communication) research.
LO2. Compare and evaluate the application of basic science and social science research techniques to communication aimed at effecting social change.
LO3. Abstract and Characterise key elements of science-based evidence underlying current ‘big’ social issues.
LO4. Construct and defend evidence-based arguments for a position based on the best available evidence.
LO5. Work as part of a team in a collaborative environment.

Indicative Assessment

1. 50% Major group project, characterising a science-related ‘hot issue’ from the perspective of different types of evidence and argument. The project will be completed in three parts:
• Part A (15%) – individual written work characterising the issue, the stakeholders and the evidence (LO 1, 2, 3, 5). All group members address the same topic, but each group member conducts and submits an individual report for this component.
• Part B (15%) – group feedback/review report (LO 3, 4, 5). Students will be paired up. For each pair, one group will be presenters, one group will be reviewers. Every group will present once and offer formal feedback once. The presenting group gives an oral presentation synthesising the reports written by their individual group members from Part A. The reviewer group provides immediate oral feedback to the presenters on their topic, their approach and their consideration of their preliminary findings and particularly the evidence upon which those findings were based. The reviewer group then synthesises their feedback for their presenter group in writing, and submits a brief written report for assessment. This report will also be provided to the presenter group to be used in Part C. The reviewer group report will be assessed on the extent to which they provide relevant, useful critique based on the principles robust research covered throughout the course.
• Part C (20%) – group written work drawing conclusions and making recommendations, building on outcomes of Parts A and B (LO 4, 5).
2. 50% In class assignments aimed at understanding and critiquing key methodological aspects of social science research methods, reasoning and results (LO 1, 2).

The ANU uses Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. While the use of Turnitin is not mandatory, the ANU highly recommends Turnitin is used by both teaching staff and students. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website.


Students are expected to work on this course for 10 hours each week including class time, totalling 120-150 hours for the semester

Indicative Reading List

Core science communication related text material will be drawn from

• J.K. Gilbert & S.M. Stocklmayer (2013) (eds.)  Communication and engagement with science and technology: Issues and dilemmas. London, Routledge.    
• L. Tan Wee Hin & R. Subramaniam (2014) (eds.) Communicating Science to the Public: Opportunities and Challenges for the Asia-Pacific Region. Netherlands, Springer.  

In addition, an array of qualitative and quantitative methods text chapters and journal papers covering survey research, grounded theory, social research theory and practice, and statistical reasoning will be used.

Throughout the course students will also be directed to current web-based source material from the scholarly and grey literature as pertinent to the specific case studies being considered each week.

Assumed Knowledge





Tuition fees are for the academic year indicated at the top of the page.  

If you are a domestic graduate coursework or international student you will be required to pay tuition fees. Tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found at Fees.

Student Contribution Band:
Band 2
Unit value:
6 units

If you are an undergraduate student and have been offered a Commonwealth supported place, your fees are set by the Australian Government for each course. At ANU 1 EFTSL is 48 units (normally 8 x 6-unit courses). You can find your student contribution amount for each course at Fees.  Where there is a unit range displayed for this course, not all unit options below may be available.

6.00 0.12500
Domestic fee paying students
Year Fee
2017 $3444
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2017 $4590
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings and Dates

The list of offerings for future years is indicative only

Second Semester

Class number Class start date Last day to enrol Census date Class end date Mode Of Delivery
8694 24 Jul 2017 31 Jul 2017 31 Aug 2017 27 Oct 2017 In Person

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