• Offered by Centre for the Public Awareness of Science
  • ANU College ANU Joint Colleges of Science
  • Classification Transitional
  • Course subject Science Communication
  • Areas of interest Science Communication
  • Academic career PGRD
  • Course convener
    • Dr Roderick Lamberts
  • Mode of delivery Online or In Person
  • Co-taught Course
  • Offered in First Semester 2018
    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. Analyse critically and reflect on risk/ethical issues pertaining to science in the public sphere
  2. Research, synthesise and professionally communicate information about social, cultural and psychological influences that affect people’s perception of risks and ethical positions associated with science
  3. Critically analyze and comprehensively review risk communication strategies involving the communication of contemporary science-related risk issues
  4. Undertake expert desktop research into the theory and practice of risk communication
  5. Write persuasively for diverse non-specialist audiences about risk and ethics in science, integrating personal opinion, advanced knowledge of risk theory and responsible ethical judgement
  6. Using course reading and lecture materials as a catalyst, but integrating knowledge of published research, clearly present personal views, and critically respond to those of others, in open fora.

Indicative Assessment

  • Two page review proposal, outlining evidence-based reasons for your choice of risk communication strategy for review (10%; LO 1,2,4)
  • Final expert review of risk communications strategy (30%; LO 1,2,3,4)
  • Reflective pieces about science, risk and ethics (1 x hurdle, 1 x 10%; LO 1,5,6)
  • Ethics opinion piece portfolio in the style of articles for ‘The Conversation’ (40%; LO 2,5,6)
  • Weekly contributions to discussion forum (10%, LO 4,5,6)

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, or equivalent online content study and discussion. Students are also expected to spend an average of 6 hours per week in private study to complete the set readings and assessment tasks.

Requisite and Incompatibility

Incompatible with SCOM8021 Ethics, Issues and Consequences of Science and SCOM2031.


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
2018 $3660
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2018 $5160
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links

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
4863 19 Feb 2018 27 Feb 2018 31 Mar 2018 25 May 2018 In Person N/A
4864 19 Feb 2018 27 Feb 2018 31 Mar 2018 25 May 2018 Online N/A

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