• Offered by Centre for the Public Awareness of Science
  • ANU College ANU Joint Colleges of Science
  • Course subject Science Communication
  • Areas of interest Health Medicine and the Body, Science Communication
  • Academic career UGRD
  • Course convener
    • Dr Roderick Lamberts
  • Mode of delivery In Person
  • Offered in First Semester 2016
    See Future Offerings

Uncertainty is everywhere. However, in the sciences, the ramifications of poor risk assessment in science can have dramatic and global consequences. Risk is very hard to calculate, and even harder to communicate. What is risky, to whom, and why? How is risk understood by experts? How is it translated into the public domain? When does a risk become acceptable? Is it possible to speak about "real" or "true" risks in science? How do the concepts of risk and ethics relate?

In recent years, issues such as global warming, environmental degradation and gene technologies have highlighted a critical need for society to question the risks and ethics of science and the way related matters are presented within societies. In this course, the practice and application of science is analysed from risk-communication and ethical perspectives. Consideration is given to how the history of scientific research might inform contemporary debates about risk. The concept of ethical research is analysed and challenged and the communication of risk and uncertainty among Western and non-Western publics is examined in detail. This course focuses on the creation of clearer and more effective ways to communicate more controversial, risky, and potential unethical scientific matters to larger audiences. It also considers the way in which prevailing social values influence the types of research that might be considered low risk and ethical.

Learning Outcomes

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

On satisfying the requirements of this course, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

1. Work as part of a team in a collaborative environment
2. Identify and respond to a selection of the myriad social, cultural and psychological influences that affect people's perception of risks associated with science
3. Recognise and evaluate risk/ethical issues pertaining to science in the public sphere
4. Assemble a risk communication strategy involving the communication of science-related risk issues in contemporary Australia
5. Synthesise personal interests, values and aspirations with professional development in the communication of risk
6. Actively engage with fundamental research processes

Indicative Assessment

  • Ethics opinion pieces discussing role of ethics in scientific research (35%; LO 2, 3)
  • Individual report, feeding into team project (15%; LO 1, 3, 4, 6)
  • Group presentation of findings and outline of team project (10%; LO1, 4, 5)
  • Project final report, describing team project designing risk communications strategy (30%; LO 1, 3, 4, 6)
  • Reflective pieces about science, risk and ethics (2 x 5%; LO 2, 3, 5)

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.


2 x 2 hour classes per week comprising lecture and tute material

Requisite and Incompatibility

To enrol in this course you must have completed 18 units of 2000 level courses, or have permission from the convenor.

Assumed Knowledge

SCOM1001 and SCOM1002




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:
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
2016 $3276
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2016 $4368
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links

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The list of offerings for future years is indicative only.
Class summaries, if available, can be accessed by clicking on the View link for the relevant class number.

First Semester

Class number Class start date Last day to enrol Census date Class end date Mode Of Delivery Class Summary
3125 15 Feb 2016 26 Feb 2016 31 Mar 2016 27 May 2016 In Person N/A

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