- Class Number 4743
- Term Code 2930
- Class Info
- Unit Value 6 units
- Mode of Delivery In Person
- Dr Roderick Lamberts
- Class Dates
- Class Start Date 25/02/2019
- Class End Date 31/05/2019
- Census Date 31/03/2019
- Last Date to Enrol 04/03/2019
- James Ansell
Uncertainty is everywhere. We casually and unknowingly take risks and accept uncertainty many times every day. However, in the sciences, we cannot afford to be so blasé. The ramifications of poor risk assessment (and communication) in science can and do have dramatic, 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 does it manifest in public domains? 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 climate change, environmental degradation and gene/ nano-technologies have regularly highlighted the need for society to challenge and address risks and ethics in the sciences. In this course, the practice and application of science is analyzed from risk communication and ethical perspectives. Consideration is given to how social, political and psychological contexts of scientific research influence contemporary debates about risk and ethics. The concept of ethical research is analyzed and critiqued and the communication of risk and uncertainty with lay publics is examined in detail. Throughout the course, significant attention is devoted to the consideration of clear and effective ways to characterize and communicate controversial, risky, and ethically charged science-based matters in the public sphere.
Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:
- Analyse critically and reflect on risk/ethical issues pertaining to science in the public sphere
- 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
- Critically analyze and comprehensively review risk communication strategies involving the communication of contemporary science-related risk issues
- Undertake expert desktop research into the theory and practice of risk communication
- 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
- 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 forums.
The material underpinning SCOM2031 incorporates both classical/ traditional and current research and theory in science communication and related disciplines and is accessed by students via lecture content, texts, readers, journal papers, professional guides and policy documents. Students will also be exposed to, and at times apply, elements of research practice during the course, especially via the course readings and their evidence-based critique and recommendations for improvement of public risk communication campaigns in the course assessment.
All reading and audio visual materials for the course will be made available via the course WATTLE site
Students will be given feedback in the following forms in this course:
- written comments
- verbal comments
- feedback to whole class, groups, individuals, focus group etc
ANU is committed to the demonstration of educational excellence and regularly seeks feedback from students. Students are encouraged to offer feedback directly to their Course Convener or through their College and Course representatives (if applicable). The feedback given in these surveys is anonymous and provides the Colleges, University Education Committee and Academic Board with opportunities to recognise excellent teaching, and opportunities for improvement. The Surveys and Evaluation website provides more information on student surveys at ANU and reports on the feedback provided on ANU courses.
OVERVIEW MAJOR PROJECT:
This project forms the largest component of SCOM2031 assessment and comprises 2, separately assessed components: one individual component (listed on this site as assessment task 2) , and one group component (listed on this site as assessment task 5)
AN overview of the project is presented here,
List of Project Components
1. Individual progress report (25%)
2. Final group report (30%)
The overall project
The main purpose of this project is to apply the suite of theories, tools and ideas addressed throughout the course to identify, analyze and critique science-based risk communication efforts in the public realm. It consists of 5 main elements.
1. In consultation with teaching staff, choose a science-based risk issue of relevance to a public audience. Some good options would be:
a. Climate change, fluoride, obesity, speeding, vaccination, drugs/ alcohol, breast feeding, wind-power and health, bike helmets, weather forecasting, alternative energies (e.g., nuclear, solar, geothermal), alternative medicine, predicting election results, genetic modification of food, reproductive technologies
b. Briefly outline your rationale for deciding why you chose the topic you will be addressing in your project. Consider things like:
i. why is it a ‘risk’ issue at all?
ii. how prevalent is it in, or relevant to, the public domain?
iii. what are the likely consequences of this issue being poorly communicated (and for whom)?
iv. How well is it being addressed now/ has it been addressed in the past?
2. Gather and summarise the background facts pertinent to the issue
a. Science facts. The risk issue you present must have a scientific basis. There must be a body of evidence that offers information about the issue. It is not uncommon for such scientific work to have controversial and/or contradictory elements within it. Your project must include a section, comprehensively supported by evidence from the literature, that sets the scientific scene for your risk issue.What does the science behind the issue say? Is it clear, or are there nuances and / or disagreements among experts?
b. Context facts. Is this issue a particularly hot political topic? Has it been inspired by a specific event, or is it something that has been around for a while? Who are the main voices / stakeholders in the issue (and what might their motivations be)? Are there characteristic of the issue that are specific to a place, a time, particular types of people, etc.? Are there strong, non-science influences (e.g., religion, culture, political persuasion, financial interests, history/traditions, etc.)?
c. Theory. What (science) communication, risk perception & comprehension, and/or persuasion & influence theories are best suited to understanding and analysing your issue?
3. Gather and analyze pertinent materials (for example: advertising or marketing collateral, content / format of TV or radio programs, website content/ structure/ proponents, conferences or public briefings, blogs etc.) . Consider:
a. Media. What kinds of ‘publication venues’ are being used? Are there particular messengers (e.g., celebrities, people who look like scientists/doctors, mascots)? Do these media themselves have characteristics that may influence the way the issue is presented and considered in the public arena?
b. Audiences. Who are they (assuming you can even tell)? Why those audiences? Are they explicitly targeted or merely implied? To what extent are the materials and their messages suited to the desired audiences?
c. Messages. What are the messages? Are there many, or just one or two key ones? How do you know/ can you tell? Do they appear to be tailored to suit particular audiences, media, content, etc.? Are they clear? Do any messages conflict or contradict each other?
d. Message creators/ ‘owners’. Who is responsible for the messages you are critiquing? What are their reasons or intentions (consider explicit and implicit possibilities)?
e. Evaluation. Has any been done? If so, what did it say/ how useful was it?
f. Use of evidence. To what extent are the messages supported by science evidence (both overtly and implicitly)?
a. Using what you have learned throughout the course via the lectures, readings and conversations in tutorials, critiquethe campaign, strategy and materials (including the extent to which it can be supported by scientific evidence).
b. Consider what ‘works’ (being sure to define what ‘works’ means), and what does not. Here you should look at things such as the alignment of messages with intention and with audiences, evaluation (or lack thereof), and the extent to which what is being communicated (and how) reflects good practice and theory. Use the data and information you have generated at step 3.
a. Assuming there is in fact something worth communicating (that is: is this a risk issue that needs public communication at all?), suggest how efforts could be improved, modified, expanded or disbanded.
b. This could involve you proposing alternative messages, mocking-up different – or new – collateral, re-framing the issue, or targeting audiences more effectively.
c. Make sure your recommendations are based on best-practice and relevant theory.
Satisfactory completion of this project will involve a substantial amount of work. Effectively organising your group will be a crucial factor in how thoroughly you can engage with your topic. If tasks are well organised and sub-tasks delegated, you should find the project quite manageable. You will be given opportunities to discuss group and project issues during tutorial classes throughout the semester.
Communicating within your project group – this is critical!
You should establish some basic communication guidelines and expectations for your group early in the semester. These should cover things like:
· what are the best, and most reliable, ways to communicate with each other (email, phone, DM via Twitter, etc)
· how often you should communicate with each other
· how to address problems with the group (communication problems or otherwise)
· agreeing what constitutes a reasonable timeframe for responding to groups communications. For example, if you sent an email to everyone in your group, should they be obliged to respond with 24 hours, 2 days, or a week? Establishing and agreeing to protocols like this upfront can pre-empt and mitigate possible tensions down the track.
|Week/Session||Summary of Activities||Assessment|
|1||Lecture - Introduction to science communication, to communicating risk, & to the course Tutorial – Introduction & discussion of assessment|
|2||Lecture – SCOM Research & theoretical foundations of risk communication Tutorial - Project groups, class rep, assessment negotiation||Reflection #1 - IN CLASS tutorial class this week|
|3||Lecture – On Evidence Tutorial – Critiquing evidence, working in teams|
|4||Lecture - TBA (Canberra day public holiday on Monday) Tutorial – techniques & methods for crafting risk strategies|
|5||Lecture – Perceptions of risk Tutorial – Risk perception, project work||Individual progress report due|
|6||Lecture – Persuasion & Influence Tutorial – Persuasion practice, project work|
|7||Lecture – Introduction to ethics Tutorial – NO TUTES (ANZAC DAY on Thursday 25th)|
|8||Lecture – Crafting an argument/ opinion pieces Tutorial – Feedback on progress reports, project work|
|9||Lecture – Risk, Ethics & Public Health Tutorial – Public health case study, project work||Opinion piece assignment due|
|10||Lecture – Communication & Ethics, Crisis communication Tutorial – Trouble-shooting the final report, project work||Reflection 1 returned for using on Reflection 2|
|11||Lecture – Perceptions of expertise, strategies for involving & consulting publics Tutorial – Trouble shooting and discussion of final reports||Group Report due Second reflection due|
|12||Lecture - Risk, ethics and policy Tutorial – NO CLASS|
|Assessment task||Value||Due Date||Return of assessment||Learning Outcomes|
|Reflection #1||0 %||04/03/2019||13/05/2019||2,3,6|
|Individual Progress report (Major project part 1)||25 %||31/03/2019||26/04/2019||1,2,3,4,5,6|
|Opinion Piece Exercise||35 %||12/05/2019||26/05/2019||1,5,6|
|Reflection 2||10 %||26/05/2019||12/06/2019||2,3,6|
|Final group report||30 %||26/05/2019||12/06/2019||1,2,4,5,6|
* If the Due Date and Return of Assessment date are blank, see the Assessment Tab for specific Assessment Task details
ANU has educational policies, procedures and guidelines, which are designed to ensure that staff and students are aware of the University’s academic standards, and implement them. Students are expected to have read the Academic Misconduct Rule before the commencement of their course. Other key policies and guidelines include:
The ANU is using 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. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website. In rare cases where online submission using Turnitin software is not technically possible; or where not using Turnitin software has been justified by the Course Convener and approved by the Associate Dean (Education) on the basis of the teaching model being employed; students shall submit assessment online via ‘Wattle’ outside of Turnitin, or failing that in hard copy, or through a combination of submission methods as approved by the Associate Dean (Education). The submission method is detailed below.
Moderation of Assessment
Marks that are allocated during Semester are to be considered provisional until formalised by the College examiners meeting at the end of each Semester. If appropriate, some moderation of marks might be applied prior to final results being released.
Assessment Task 1
Learning Outcomes: 2,3,6
Details of task
The purpose of this introductory piece of assessment is to start you thinking about your personal perspectives on science, risk and ethics and to get you reflecting on these in the context of positions held by others. This task is a hurdle requirement - there are no marks allocated for it, but you will use this assessment item as base material for the second reflective task at the end of the semester (see below).
It is due in Week 2 and will be returned in Week 10. The dates in the Task Summary are indicative only.
Assessment Task 2
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,4,5,6
Individual Progress report (Major project part 1)
(Over view note - This is part 1 of 2 tasks related to the major project from SCOM2031 - refer to "Other information" below about the details of the Major Project. THIS WILL BE DISCUSSED IN DETAIL IN TUTORIAL CLASSES IN WEEK 1).
Details of task:
Yourindividual progress report will present, in the context of the whole group project, the main aspects of the group project for which you have been responsible so far. These individually produced components will later join to become group property for incorporation into the group report. This means that early in the semester once groups and topics have been chosen, your group should divide up the workload into approximately equal chunks (see below: “dividing the load”). Each group member should then work to complete their component for submission for this piece of assessment. Each person will be marked solely on the piece of work they submit.
Note, this is a report on a work in progress, You are not expected to have finished everything at this stage.
Dividing the load
How you divide the work is completely up to your group. For example, it may depend on your topic. or perhaps individual areas of interest or expertise. You should spend some time as a group working out:
- what you want to achieve,
- what has to be done to achieve it,
- what order it has to be done in,
- whether or not each task is best done individually or collectively, and
- how you will communicate your progress with the rest of your group, including how you will handle any disputes that may arise.
Once you have done this, allocate tasks to individuals for the progress report. Some tasks will require more work than others, so you may need to renegotiate this division of labour to ensure each student can submit a substantial progress report of appropriate length without taking on too much of the work burden.
Please make a time to consult with a member of the SCOM2031 staff early in the semester if your group is having difficulty dividing the workload.
Tarquin- history of the risk and past attempts to address it
Prescilla- overview of information that needs to be communicated about the risk
Neville– review of relevant theories
Shaniqua – preliminary collation of materials/ collateral and provisional analysis of key themes
It is important to note that these components may be interdependent to greater or lesser extents. You need to consider this when dividing up tasks (remember that the progress report is due before the mid-semester break!). If you have group members who prefer to do things early and others who are last-minuters, you could plan to have the last-minuters responding to the work of the early finishers. But don’t make this kind of plan if it will put people under too much pressure – consider people’s natural working styles, and where possible try and work with them.
Regardless of how you divide up the tasks, you should keep each other informed of what you are doing and continue to shape the overall project as a group. For example, if Tarquin discovers that there have been lots of past communication campaigns for your topic that focused on young people but none that focused on older people, he might want to let Shaniqua know this as it could influence her consideration of key themes.
The individual reports provide opportunities to get critical feedback on the direction of your project. There will inevitably be some overlap between the material presented in individual reports and the final group report - that is to be expected. However, you are also expected to respond to, and incorporate feedback on, the individual reports into the final report and expand/ trim content as required.
- a report from each group member of up to a MAXIMUM of 2000 words(excluding cover page and references).
- a peer-self assessment sheet (see the last WATTLE for the form). This tool will only be used to calculate marks for the final report, not to calculate marks for the progress report. For this individual report it will serve as a diagnostic tool for staff to see how groups are getting along so far, and as a practice run for the final report.
- If a group’s peer-self assessment forms reveal a lot of disparity between group member ratings, the convener will organise to meet with the group to make sure there are no avoidable issues that might adversely affect the group project
- NOTE – your report will not be marked until you have submitted a peer-self assessment form. Late penalties will apply until it is received, even if you have submitted your progress report.
- Word limit - 2000 words maximum
What this report should ideally demonstrate:
- your understanding of the (collectively decided) group project topic, and where your tasks fit into the group project,
- a comprehensive, succinct, critical review and discussion of your chosen aspect of the project,
- your brief reflections on how the group is working together so far,
- effective incorporation of relevant material and ideas raised in classes,
- a high standard of comprehensive research,
- comprehensive and appropriate referencing, and
- clear communication of ideas, written in proper English prose with correct spelling, grammar and punctuation.
Assessment Task 3
Learning Outcomes: 1,5,6
Opinion Piece Exercise
Details of task:
Choose two topic areas from this list
- Longevity research
- Climate change
- Research using animals
- Nutrition, exercise and obesity
- Reproductive technologies
- GM foods
Write 2 opinion pieces for both topics (a total of 4 opinion pieces). For both topics:
- 1 piece should focus on aspects of the topic you think should be supported (and why)
- 1 piece should focus on aspects of the topic that you think should not be supported (and why not)
How to begin?
- Consider the kinds of questions about the topics you have chosen that would be of interest to your audience. It can be a simple as What would happen if everyone lived to 150? OR How do we decide what is a healthy body shape? OR Can we afford to ignore warnings from climate scientists?
- Alternatively, come up with some clear, bold statements about the topic and then address them in your piece. For example, Reproductive technologies should be made available to anyone who wants them OR We should not conduct any experiments on animals that we wouldn't conduct on people.
Base your 4 pieces on
- scientific evidence related to the topic,
- your own beliefs, opinions and experience, and
- arguments, positions and ideas from the ethics component of the course.
- For each of the four pieces briefly and clearly state what venue you are writing for (for example; The Australian, Woroni, The Women’s Weekly, New Matilda, The Conversation, On Campus, etc) and why what you have written is suitable for this format/ audience. This should be brief – one or two paragraphs maximum
- You do not need to formally reference within the 4 pieces, instead you should have a separate reference section (see next bullet)
- Reference section:
- You will be required to attach a formal reference list of the main scholarly sources that inspired you and provided supporting evidence for the arguments represented in each of your 4 pieces.
- Under each of these references, note the most significant elements that relate either to the science or the ethical position you have made on the topic (maximum three (3) bullet points per reference – no more)
- Actively reflect on your beliefs and positions on 2 ethically complex, science-based issues that are of broad public interest
- Practice creating arguments to support ethical positions based on scientific evidence, theories of ethics and personal views
- Develop skills in writing for venues that contribute directly to popular discourse while still basing your content on scholarly evidence and thinking
- “A Few Tips for Opinion Piece Writers” by Andrew Leigh (on Wattle)
- Opinion pieces in the course readings / referred to in class
- Websites such as these will give you some ideas. Don't forget to consider the comments people leave after some of the opinion pieces, too. They can be quite revealing…
- Your four pieces based on the two topics you chose to write about.
- NOTE: Each of the 4 pieces must be between 600 and 800 words. No more, no less. Marks will be deducted for pieces that are too short OR too long at a rate of 1% for every 10 words over or under.
- Your reference list, including the maximum 3 bullet points per reference as outlined above. You can submit a separate list with each of the 4 pieces or a combined one for all 4.
- Each of the 4 pieces must be between 600 and 800 words.
- Marks will be deducted for pieces that are too short OR too long (1% for every 10 words over or under)
Assessment Task 4
Learning Outcomes: 2,3,6
Details of task
Revisit your first reflection (the one you did in-class in week 2) and consider what you have learned and experienced in SCOM2031 over the course of the semester. Use the first piece as a starting point to write a reflective critique of your journey through SCOM2031. You might want to use question like these to inspire your thinking (you are not obliged to answer all – or any – of these questions, they are just here to get you started):
- Have any of your views on risk, ethics or science changed? If so how, or why?
- Did you come across ideas or tools that you found particularly intriguing, useful or interesting?
- What about ideas that you found especially confronting?
- What do you think you did well?
- What could you learn to do better?
The critical thing we are looking for here is intelligent, reasoned opinion, critiques and arguments that draw on the course material, particularly in the context of your personal experiencewith science, risk and ethics. It doesn’t matter if what you say is controversial or if others might disagree here, as long as what you say is clear, logical and substantiated.
A short written piece of prose in coherent, grammatically correct English (BETWEEN 300 AND 500 WORDS).
- KEEP TO THE WORD LIMIT
- You do not need formal referencing for this assignment
Assessment Task 5
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,4,5,6
Final group report
Allocation of marks for the final report
Assessment for the final report is worth a total of 30%. A single mark will be awarded for each report.
Individuals will be allocated their unique mark by multiplying the total report mark by the mean score of the effort percentages from the groups’ peer/self assessment forms, a copy and an explanation of which appear at the end of this document.
The effort percentage students allocate to each member of their group and to themselves should reflect the effort that the person has put into the project throughout the semester. It is up to you to determine how to measure that. You should discuss expectations with your group early in the semester.
- a report/folio of not more than 25 pages (excluding appendices, table of contents and cover sheet). Reports over 25 pages will be returned to be edited. Late penalties will apply until the edited report is received.
- One peer/self assessment form from each group member– submit this separately via turnitinto preserve confidentiality.
NOTE – Late penalties will be applied to the report grade of any individual who fails to submit their peer/self assessment form on time, even if the group report was submitted by the due date.
What your report should ideally demonstrate:
- appropriate language with correct grammatical structure, spelling and punctuation
- a comprehensive consideration of the risk issue you chose, including a sound justification for choosing that issue
- a balance between big picture overview and pertinent detail
- evidence that you have thoroughly explored and researched the science facts and relevant contextual influences, and have applied pertinent theory from SCOM2031
- recognition and reportage of assumptions and specific biases that may have influenced the way your group approached the topic
- complete, comprehensive and consistent referencing throughout
- evidence and supporting references for all relevant aspects of your report
- professional presentation – the report should be eye-catching and look ‘professional’. Innovative and interesting presentation is absolutely encouraged. If in doubt, ask your tutor
- evidence of critical thinking and critique – your report should demonstrate that you have considered the available scholarly literature and public information relevant to your topic area, presented the necessary information in a considered fashion that reflects the theory and practice covered in SCOM2031
- suggestions and recommendation about how to improve the risk communication of your chosen issue, explicitly based on a synthesis of the elements of your report
- recommendations, limitations, things you would do differently if you were to do this project again
- a group reflection - since group work and organisational skills are an integral part of carrying out this assignment, you should also briefly reflect on how your group worked, what went well, what went poorly, and how you might improve
- seamless integration of the sub-elements of your final report. It should look like one, coherent document, not 3 or 4 individual sub-reports that have been stuck together. For example, ensure you have:
- a clear and accurate table of contents
- an internally well-referenced document. That is, if you refer to other elements of your report, you make it easy for the reader to find them (e.g. “please see appendix B, page 28”)
- a uniform overall style for the report
- proof-read the document
Page limit 25 page maximum (see details above)
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Extensions and late submission of assessment pieces are covered by the Student Assessment (Coursework) Policy and Procedure. The Course Convener may grant extensions for assessment pieces that are not examinations or take-home examinations. If you need an extension, you must request an extension in writing on or before the due date. If you have documented and appropriate medical evidence that demonstrates you were not able to request an extension on or before the due date, you may be able to request it after the due date.
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