• Class Number 3938
  • Term Code 3030
  • Class Info
  • Unit Value 6 units
  • Mode of Delivery In Person
    • Lindy Orthia
    • Lindy Orthia
  • Class Dates
  • Class Start Date 24/02/2020
  • Class End Date 05/06/2020
  • Census Date 08/05/2020
  • Last Date to Enrol 02/03/2020
    • Lindy Orthia
SELT Survey Results

Politicians, chief scientists and others are increasingly calling for scientists to communicate their work with the public, but how, where and when did this start? Can we draw connections between things like eighteenth century British amateur science and citizen science today, or nineteenth century French science popularisation and today's science journalism? Can we identify histories of science communication-type practices for knowledge systems across the world beyond Western science, such as Australian Indigenous ecological and astronomical knowledges, Chinese engineering techniques or Islamic world mathematical methods? And how important is communication to these scientific traditions? Is science communication an added extra in the world of science, or integral to its success and longevity? How can we map institutional relationships between science and the bodies that promote it, popularise it, and link it to political processes? Thinking globally, how was 'modern science' made, in all these ways?

This course applies historical and institutional approaches to science communication to explore the big picture view of how this discipline and its professional practices have developed across the world and through time. You will map the relationships between science and the science communication-type activities and organisations that have always surrounded and supported western science as an institutionalised pursuit - scientific societies, advocacy for science funding, science professionalisation measures, science popularisation efforts of different kinds, science museums and centres, and more. You will also look at communication practices in knowledge systems beyond the modern West to develop long term, cross-cultural histories of science communication. Course assessment emphasises reflection on the significance of this big picture for professional practice in science communication, as well as developing science communication research skills.

This course is co-taught with undergraduate students but assessed separately.

Learning Outcomes

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

  1. Research diverse science communication-type activities through time, place and culture.
  2. Analyse and critically reflect upon competing big picture histories of science and science communication.
  3. Investigate and critically analyse material links between science communication-type activities and institutionalised science in the world today.
  4. Develop a personal philosophy of professional practice in science communication, encompassing a big picture view of its institutions, ideologies and practices.

Research-Led Teaching

This course is highly research-led:

  • the course readings are almost all influential and/or recent academic research papers from this field;
  • the reflective essay requires students to apply what they have learned from research papers to professional practice;
  • the visual presentation assignment requires students to communicate what they have learned from research papers for a broad audience;
  • the historical research assignment requires students to retrieve relevant research papers themselves and to conduct an original historical analysis of an artefact.

Required Resources

There is no single set text for this course, however there is a required set of readings. They are available online through the course Wattle site, mostly as links to pdfs at online journal archive sites. Download and read them electronically or print as you see fit.

There is an expectation that your assignments will engage with the readings, both to establish that you have studied the scholarly literature and also to flesh out your arguments with challenging or complementary points. Assignments that are light on referencing or that miss out on obviously relevant material from the readings and class activities will be highly unlikely to get a good mark, and may fail on this basis alone.

Staff Feedback

Students will be given feedback in the following forms in this course:

  • written comments on written assignments, including corrections on the text itself, and summary feedback on overall strengths and weaknesses.
  • opportunities to discuss that feedback with the course convener.
  • summary feedback to the whole class where appropriate and relevant.

Student Feedback

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.

Other Information

Science communication students can use any recognised academic reference system of their choosing in SCOM courses, provided referencing is complete, comprehensive and correct.

Please note, where there are multiple assessment tasks of the same type, e.g weekly quizzes, a date range is used in the Assessment Summary. The first date is the approximate due date of the first task, the return date is the approximate return date for the final task. Further information is provided in the assessment section of the class summary, and details are provided on the course wattle site.

Class Schedule

Week/Session Summary of Activities Assessment
1 Week 1 Introduction Practice quiz
2 Weeks 2-6 Theme A: Origins, spread and institutionalisation of science Quizzes 1-5
3 Teaching break Professional values reflective essay due break week 2
4 Weeks 7-11 Theme B: Histories of science communication Quizzes 6-8 Visual presentation assignment due week 11
5 Week 12 Conclusions
6 Exam week 1 Historical research assignment due exam week 1

Assessment Summary

Assessment task Value Due Date Return of assessment Learning Outcomes
Quizzes 25 % 02/03/2020 31/05/2019 1,2,3
Professional values reflective essay 30 % 11/05/2020 01/05/2020 1,2,3,4
Visual presentation assignment 10 % 22/05/2020 05/06/2020 1,2
Historical research assignment 35 % 05/06/2020 26/06/2020 1,2,3,4

* 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:

Assessment Requirements

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.


This is a face to face course, so students are expected to attend classes. Students who do not attend must take responsibility for their own learning, so the course convener will not be obliged to meet with students individually as a substitute for non-attendance. It is highly recommended that you attend every class to perform well in the course, however class participation is not assessed. Technically it is possible to succeed in this course without attendance.



Assessment Task 1

Value: 25 %
Due Date: 02/03/2020
Return of Assessment: 31/05/2019
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3


Value: 5 x 5% (total 25%)

This assessment item tests the breadth of your learning in the course and your engagement with the weekly readings.

A weekly quiz will be set in each of weeks 2-6 and 8-10 inclusive, based on the set readings for that week. The quizzes will be posted on Wattle, and open book, but timed, so you will need to know the readings well before attempting each quiz.

The questions will be quite straightforward, based on a standard format of 10 multiple-choice or true-false type questions. Some quizzes will have fewer questions, if one or more questions are more complex (e.g. if you need to match three time periods to five historical features). All questions are intended to have clear right and wrong answers.

Each quiz will open Mondays 8:00pm-8:15pm in the relevant week. You’ll have 15 minutes to complete each quiz, including logging on and submitting your answers. This day and time has been selected to minimise clashes with other classes and commitments. No alternative time will be made available, to minimise cheating. If you work on Monday evenings, please arrange to take a break between 8pm and 8.15pm to complete the quiz.

There will be eight quizzes in total, but only your best five results will count towards your mark. You will receive a mark of 0 for any quizzes you miss, but if you are unable to attempt a quiz one week due to illness or other serious, unavoidable, unforeseen circumstances, you can use the others to make up the marks. That means the missed quiz will not affect your overall mark in the course. You are encouraged to attempt all eight quizzes to maximise your mark for this assessment item.

[Note: The date range listed for this item indicates the projected dates of the first and last quizzes. It is intended that the marked quizzes will be marked immediately by the Wattle system, but if there are any quiz controversies the marks will be finalised within a week of the quiz.]

Assessment Task 2

Value: 30 %
Due Date: 11/05/2020
Return of Assessment: 01/05/2020
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,4

Professional values reflective essay

This assignment tests your ability to reflect on what you learn in the first half of this course, in terms of how it applies to your professional development as a science communicator or a science professional who engages in public communication about your work.

Drawing on the course readings, class material and other scholarly works, you must discuss the following statement:

We make better professionals if we understand the long term, cross-cultural history of our discipline.


To write this essay, your first step should be to define your profession and discipline for the purpose of this essay. When defining your discipline, choose and describe what professional area of science communication you will be focusing on (e.g. science journalism; working in a science centre; communications officer for environmental NGO; etc), or what scientific discipline you’ll be focusing on and how public communication manifests within it (e.g. clinical psychologist communicating with patients and policy-makers; research chemist promoting my research through social media and to private funders, etc).


Then use scholarly literature as well as any personal experiences you’ve already had in the profession to determine what (some of) the professional values are in that profession, and to make an argument for how you would decide what a ‘better professional’ is in terms of those values.


Having established that, draw on the course readings and materials discussed in class to build your argument with respect to the essay statement. You don’t have to agree with the statement - your instructions are to discuss it. That means you may disagree with it, agree with it, or a bit of both.

For a great mark, bring in other scholarly works as well as the course materials from weeks 1-6. Feel free to bring in readings from the second half of the course — in particular, you are encouraged to read ahead to papers relevant to your professional context. But the course materials (at least from the first half of the course) should be at the core of your essay, since partly what you are aiming to do is demonstrate your learning, and show you can apply what you’ve learned to a more practical context.


While the assignment is called a reflective essay, you should write it in an academic tone, constructing arguments that can apply broadly to your chosen profession, rather than writing more narrowly about your own personal journey and experiences. It is probably easiest to write in first person, and you can (indeed, you should) bring in your personal reflections and experiences, but deploy them in a scholarly way, and back up everything with references and examples (in other words, with evidence).



To be eligible for a pass on this assignment (to avoid an automatic fail):

  • it must be 1500 words ±10% (SCOM3032) or 2000 words ±10% (SCOM6032), excluding your final reference list. All other text is included in the word count: headings, in-text citations, quotes from the literature and anything else.
  • spelling, grammar and punctuation must be reasonable.
  • it must include some references to the scholarly literature, with an emphasis on the course readings from weeks 1-6.


What your assignment should ideally demonstrate, for a great mark:

  • a well defined and delineated discipline/profession and a well articulated, justified description of what its professional values are.
  • an argument that is well-constructed, well written, flows and makes sense.
  • excellent evidence-based reasoning, including comprehensive and relevant use of scholarly literature and, as relevant, other kinds of evidence such as personal experiences, to build and illustrate your arguments and to make your key points.
  • excellent comprehension and application of course readings and class materials to this question.
  • excellent scholarly referencing.

The assignment will be returned within 2 weeks of submission.

Assessment Task 3

Value: 10 %
Due Date: 22/05/2020
Return of Assessment: 05/06/2020
Learning Outcomes: 1,2

Visual presentation assignment

This assignment tests your ability to translate what you learn in this course for an audience of people interested in science communication.

You must create a visual presentation which represents key elements of long term science communication history in an entertaining and informative way.

Your aims are:

  • to pique your audience's interest in science communication history
  • to help them learn something about it, and
  • to show them its relevance to science communication practice in the present.

Your presentation will most likely take the form of an infographic. However, if you have the requisite skills, you could create a video, artwork or other type of presentation. Consult the course convener to discuss your ideas.

The presentation should be rich in key, relevant information, but not packed with detail. It should be designed so that the average reader in the intended audience bracket could digest the content within five to ten minutes (ideally no more, no less), and come away entertained and inspired.


Marking criteria

What your assignment should ideally demonstrate, for a great mark:

  • a rich but succinct presentation whose content can be digested within five to ten minutes.
  • an accurate, informative reflection of the historical material from the course readings and classes.
  • textual elements that are engagingly written and designed to entertain as well as inform.
  • a visually engaging presentation style.
  • creative flair in conceptualising the presentation.
  • attractive, competent execution of the design.

The assignment will be returned within 2 weeks of submission.

Assessment Task 4

Value: 35 %
Due Date: 05/06/2020
Return of Assessment: 26/06/2020
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,4

Historical research assignment

This assignment tests your ability to apply what you learn in this course to the interpretation of a historical item (most likely a text, but you can also choose an object or image) related to science communication.


You will choose an item to base your assignment on, and you MUST get approval from the course convener for your choice. Items from periods of history earlier than the twentieth century are encouraged, and the item must have been created no later than 1989.


You will then draw on what you’ve learned in the course readings, and other relevant academic literature, to write a scholarly interpretation of the meanings of the item in a historical sense. You will use the 'Historical Moments in Public Understanding of Science' series, from the journal Public Understanding of Science, as a model for your assignment, as if you were submitting your work to the editor of that series.


Within your assignment, you should first introduce your item and describe it (include a reference or link to it, or images of it in an appendix), then explicate your item's meanings with respect to its production, message and reception. Consider what it is that we know about science communication that makes this item legible. How was it created and in what context? How do we know what its intended message(s) was or were? Who was the intended audience? How do we know that? Where does it fit in the evolution of science communication?


To be eligible for a pass on this assignment (to avoid an automatic fail):

  • your chosen item must have been approved by the course convener.
  • it must be 1800 words ±10% (SCOM3032) or 2200 words ±10% (SCOM6032), excluding your final reference list and any appendices. All other text is included in the word count: headings, in-text citations, quotes from the literature or from the source, image captions, and anything else.
  • if you need appendices, they must only be used to reproduce text or images from/of the item, and must be used sparingly. Longer texts should not be reproduced in the assignment - instead give a hyperlink or reference.
  • spelling, grammar and punctuation must be reasonable.
  • it must include some references to the scholarly literature, including some of the course readings.


What your assignment should ideally demonstrate, for a great mark:

  • an accurate, intelligent and evidence-based interpretation of the meanings of your chosen item for the history of science communication.
  • an argument that is well-constructed, flows and makes sense.
  • a reasonable structural and stylistic match for the 'Historical Moments in Public Understanding of Science' series.
  • excellent evidence-based reasoning, including comprehensive and relevant use of scholarly literature and well-chosen, carefully analysed examples from your item, to build and illustrate your arguments and to make your key points.
  • excellent comprehension and application of course readings to this question.
  • excellent scholarly referencing.

The assignment will be returned within 3 weeks of submission.

Academic Integrity

Academic integrity is a core part of the ANU culture as a community of scholars. At its heart, academic integrity is about behaving ethically, committing to honest and responsible scholarly practice and upholding these values with respect and fairness.

The ANU commits to assisting all members of our community to understand how to engage in academic work in ways that are consistent with, and actively support academic integrity. The ANU expects staff and students to be familiar with the academic integrity principle and Academic Misconduct Rule, uphold high standards of academic integrity and act ethically and honestly, to ensure the quality and value of the qualification that you will graduate with.

The Academic Misconduct Rule is in place to promote academic integrity and manage academic misconduct. Very minor breaches of the academic integrity principle may result in a reduction of marks of up to 10% of the total marks available for the assessment. The ANU offers a number of online and in person services to assist students with their assignments, examinations, and other learning activities. Visit the Academic Skills website for more information about academic integrity, your responsibilities and for assistance with your assignments, writing skills and study.

Online Submission

You will be required to electronically sign a declaration as part of the submission of your assignment. Please keep a copy of the assignment for your records. Unless an exemption has been approved by the Deputy Dean (Education) submission must be through Turnitin.

Hardcopy Submission

For the Visual Presentation Assignment, hard copy submission has been approved. Hard copy submissions must utilise the ANU Assignment Cover Sheet. Please keep a copy of tasks completed for your records.

Note that by default the other assignments in this course will NOT be submitted hard copy. However, if for some reason you believe it is necessary to submit a hard copy assignment, please speak to the course convener.

Late Submission

Policy regarding late submission is detailed below:

  • Late submission not permitted for quizzes. A mark of 0 will be awarded for any quizzes missed.
  • Late submission is permitted for other assessment items. Late submission of assessment tasks without an extension are penalised at the rate of 5% of the possible marks available per working day or part thereof. Late submission of assessment tasks is not accepted after 10 working days after the due date, or on or after the date specified in the course outline for the return of the assessment item.

In light of this policy, for any assignments due on a Friday at 11.59pm, submission will be allowed without penalty up until 11.59pm on the following Sunday (or if the following Monday is a public holiday, Monday 11.59pm). This is not an ANU-wide policy but will be applied consistently in this course.

Note that no extensions will be granted for completing quizzes. Instead, if students miss a quiz, the other quizzes will be considered alternative assessment.

Referencing Requirements

Accepted academic practice for referencing sources that you use in presentations can be found via the links on the Wattle site, under the file named “ANU and College Policies, Program Information, Student Support Services and Assessment”. Alternatively, you can seek help through the Students Learning Development website.

Returning Assignments

Quizzes are marked automatically by Wattle, but there will be opportunity to query questions in the weekly classes. Feedback on the Professional Values Reflective Essay and Historical Research Assignment will be provided electronically via Turnitin. Feedback on the Visual Presentation Assignment will be

Extensions and Penalties

Extensions and late submission of assessment pieces are covered by the Student Assessment (Coursework) Policy and Procedure. Extensions may be granted 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.

Resubmission of Assignments

Students may sometimes be offered the opportunity to resubmit an assignment for a borderline pass if they are in danger of failing the course. Talk to the Course Convener any time if you believe you are in that situation.

Privacy Notice

The ANU has made a number of third party, online, databases available for students to use. Use of each online database is conditional on student end users first agreeing to the database licensor’s terms of service and/or privacy policy. Students should read these carefully. In some cases student end users will be required to register an account with the database licensor and submit personal information, including their: first name; last name; ANU email address; and other information.
In cases where student end users are asked to submit ‘content’ to a database, such as an assignment or short answers, the database licensor may only use the student’s ‘content’ in accordance with the terms of service – including any (copyright) licence the student grants to the database licensor. Any personal information or content a student submits may be stored by the licensor, potentially offshore, and will be used to process the database service in accordance with the licensors terms of service and/or privacy policy.
If any student chooses not to agree to the database licensor’s terms of service or privacy policy, the student will not be able to access and use the database. In these circumstances students should contact their lecturer to enquire about alternative arrangements that are available.

Distribution of grades policy

Academic Quality Assurance Committee monitors the performance of students, including attrition, further study and employment rates and grade distribution, and College reports on quality assurance processes for assessment activities, including alignment with national and international disciplinary and interdisciplinary standards, as well as qualification type learning outcomes.

Since first semester 1994, ANU uses a grading scale for all courses. This grading scale is used by all academic areas of the University.

Support for students

The University offers students support through several different services. You may contact the services listed below directly or seek advice from your Course Convener, Student Administrators, or your College and Course representatives (if applicable).

Lindy Orthia
02 6125 6148

Research Interests

History of science communication, science in popular fiction, intersections of science with race, gender, sexuality and class

Lindy Orthia

By Appointment
Lindy Orthia
02 6125 6148

Research Interests

Lindy Orthia

By Appointment
Lindy Orthia
02 6125 6148

Research Interests

Lindy Orthia

By Appointment

Responsible Officer: Registrar, Student Administration / Page Contact: Website Administrator / Frequently Asked Questions