• 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 PGRD
  • Mode of delivery In Person
  • Co-taught Course

Some activities that form part of this course can be taken remotely or on-campus in Sem 2 2020. Check timetable for details. Group limits may apply.

This course will provide a detailed exploration of the role of science dialogue in relation to contemporary science debates and science and technology governance. As well as providing a theoretical understanding informed by Science and Technology Studies, this course will provide you with the skills to plan, design and run science dialogue. It will also give you opportunities to learn and practice skills needed to participate in and facilitate dialogue. Assessment items will require students to plan and conduct a mini-dialogue.

Science dialogue refers to communication about science that brings all parties to greater understanding. The key feature is that science dialogue is bi-directional -  information and insights are gained on both 'sides'. In the case of dialogue between scientists or science communicators and members of the public, then, the public participants learn about the science and the scientists' aims and aspirations, and the scientists learn something from the public, about their concerns and aspirations and generally about the social context of the science, which informs their thinking, and potentially their decisions, about that science. Dialogue has a special place within science communication as a communication medium with particular aims that is increasingly being promoted as a best practice approach within government and community sectors.

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. demonstrate a broad and coherent knowledge of science dialogue, as defined above, in its contemporary context, critically review potential roles for science dialogue in science debates and in science and technology governance, and reflect on implications for professional practice.
2. critically evaluate science dialogue activities and draw lessons to develop professional practice.
3. demonstrate depth of knowledge about theories of dialogue and the cognitive and creative skills to participate in and facilitate constructive dialogue.
4. plan, design, conduct and critically evaluate science dialogue activities, including on complex and contested topics, and communicate findings clearly and analytically, thus contributing to the development of professional dialogue practice.

Indicative Assessment

1. Develop criteria and report on a case study dialogue activity (15%) – students will be required to independently develop a set of criteria for science dialogue, based on reflection about international developments, the current context, and their own professional practice. They will then apply these criteria in a critical evaluation of a case study, using reports and articles (cases will be provided or may be selected by students), including consideration of implications for their own professional practice, and the theory and practice of dialogue generally. (LO 1,2)

2. In-class and online dialogue participation (15%) – this is not a simple participation mark, but will involve specific online and face-to-face dialogues. Students will be required to moderate on-line dialogues and facilitate face-to-face dialogues. Students will need to demonstrate skills of participation and facilitation/moderation and an understanding of the key elements of dialogue. (LO 1,3)

3. Dialogue Plan (30%) – students will work independently to plan dialogue on a particular issue in two different settings, a large-scale (80 participants) deliberative dialogue (this will include a recruitment plan, a plan for involving key stakeholders, and a plan for transmission of the results) and a small-scale “Kitchen Table Conversation”. (LO 1,4)

4. Dialogue and report (40%) – Students will conduct a dialogue in their neighbourhood or organisational setting according to the Kitchen Table Conversation model or another model agreed with the convenor. They will be given a set of minimum requirements for conducting the conversation. They will audio record the conversation and write a detailed report describing the dialogue process and results, evaluating the process and their own management and facilitation of the conversation, and critically reflecting on the implications for improving their own professional practice. (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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This course requires students to attend a week intensive course (35 hrs) in person. The other coursework requirements can be completed online. The intensive week is held in the December/January teaching break each year. There may be some short online tutorials or pre-reading before the intensive week, and students will complete the assessment in the weeks or months after the intensive week. See http://cpas.anu.edu.au/study/short-courses/anu-scom-intensive-course-schedule for exact dates.

Requisite and Incompatibility

Incompatible with SCOM3030

You will need to contact the Centre for the Public Awareness of Science to request a permission code to enrol in this course.

Preliminary Reading

Australian Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research & Tertiary Education (2012) Science and Technology Engagement Pathways. Available online.
Chilvers, J. (2010) Sustainable participation? Mapping out and reflecting on the field of public dialogue on science and technology, Harwell: Sciencewise Expert Resource Centre
Powell, M.C. & Colin, M. (2008) Meaningful citizen engagement in science and technology: what would it really take? Science Communication 30 (1) 126-136
Sclove, R.E. (1995) “In every sense the experts”. Strong democracy and technology. In: Democracy and technology, The Guilford Press: New York

Chilvers, J. (2012) Reflexive engagement? Actors, learning, and reflexivity in public dialogue on science and technology. Science Communication, 35 (3) 283-310
Hennen, L. (2012) Why do we still need participatory technology assessment? Poiesis & Praxis 9: 27-41
Jasanoff, S. (2012) Technologies of humility: citizen participation in governing science. In: Science and Public Reason, Routledge: New York
Joly, P.-B. & Rip A. (2007) A timely harvest. Nature 450, 8 Nov, p 174
Kyle, R. & Dodds, S. (2009) Avoiding empty rhetoric: engaging publics in debates about nanotechnologies. Science & Engineering Ethics 15: 81-96
Marks, N. (2013) Six ideal types of public engagement with science and technology: reflections on capital, legitimacy and models of democracy. International Journal of Deliberative Mechanisms in Science 2 (1) 33-61
PytlikZillig, L.M. (2011) Public engagement for informing science and technology policy: what do we know, what do we need to know, and how will we get there? Review of Policy Research, 28 (2) 197-217
Russell, A.W. (2013) Improving legitimacy in nanotechnology policy development through stakeholder and community engagement: forging new pathways, Review of Policy Research, 30 (5) 566-587
Wynne B. (2014) Further disorientation in the hall of mirrors. Public Understanding of Science, 23 (1) 60-70

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:
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
2020 $4050
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2020 $5760
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

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