- Code SCOM6031
- Unit Value 6 units
- 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
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.
This course is co-taught with undergraduate students but assessed separately.
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, and contextualise these within individuals' own workplace and/or geographical contexts
- 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 - and make high level, evidenced-based recommendations for improvements.
- 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 fora.
- Reflective pieces about science, risk and ethics (1 x hurdle, 1 x 10%) (10) [LO 1,5,6]
- Review Project - Progress report (20) [LO 1,2,4]
- Opinion piece exercise (35) [LO 2,5,6]
- Review Project - Review report (35) [LO 1,2,3,4]
In response to COVID-19: Please note that Semester 2 Class Summary information (available under the classes tab) is as up to date as possible. Changes to Class Summaries not captured by this publication will be available to enrolled students via Wattle.
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Workload2 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
All reading and audio visual materials for the course will be made available via the course WATTLE site
Tuition fees are for the academic year indicated at the top of the page.
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- Student Contribution Band:
- Unit value:
- 6 units
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