• Class Number 6559
  • Term Code 3160
  • Class Info
  • Unit Value 6 units
  • Mode of Delivery In Person
    • Dr Rod Lamberts
    • Dr Rod Lamberts
  • Class Dates
  • Class Start Date 26/07/2021
  • Class End Date 29/10/2021
  • Census Date 14/09/2021
  • Last Date to Enrol 02/08/2021
SELT Survey Results

Even a cursory glance at daily headlines reveals a plethora of social and societal issues in which scientific evidence is a core component. Dig a little deeper and it becomes clear that scientific evidence is often misunderstood, misused, misappropriated or ignored, especially in public and political domains. The consequences of this can range from the merely quirky to the manifestly dangerous.

Scientific evidence is increasingly wielded in arguments in the public domain, and the calls for ‘evidenced based decisions’ have never been so frequent, so broad, or so loud. To operate effectively in such an environment, today’s science communicators must be able to tell the difference between good research and bad, even if that research falls beyond their personal scientific skillset and experience.  

They must possess the skills and knowledge to critique the evidence at the base of science-related issues affecting society today. In parallel, they need to understand, and be able to apply, science communication research to their own communication practice.

This course emphasizes the analysis, critique and communication of science and scientific evidence in the context of identifying, understanding and critiquing examples of social influence and change.

The course focuses on cases of critical societal challenges that have significant science bases such as
• Climate change
• Alternative energy
• Public health (e.g., vitamin supplements, vaccination, homeopathic remedies)
• Natural disaster mitigation and survival (e.g., bushfires, tsunamis)
• Health and safety legislation (e.g., illicit drugs, road safety, GM foods)
• The role of scientific research in society (e.g., curiosity driven versus applied)

To be able to successfully appraise the relative merits of evidence, both for scientific and science communication research, students in this course will be exposed to the philosophy and reasoning behind common quantitative and qualitative methods and methodological argument.

Scientific research, analysis and communication will be considered from the multiple, sometimes conflicting, perspectives of formal researchers, politicians, the media, and society at large.

Learning Outcomes

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

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

LO1. Identify evidence from basic qualitative and quantitative research techniques as they are applied in science and social science (science communication) research.
LO2. Compare and evaluate the application of basic science and social science research techniques to communication aimed at effecting social change.
LO3. Abstract and Characterise key elements of science-based evidence underlying current ‘big’ social issues.
LO4. Construct and defend evidence-based arguments for a position based on the best available evidence.
LO5. Work as part of a team in a collaborative environment.

Field Trips

N/ A

Recommended student system requirements 

ANU courses commonly use a number of online resources and activities including:

  • video material, similar to YouTube, for lectures and other instruction
  • two-way video conferencing for interactive learning
  • email and other messaging tools for communication
  • interactive web apps for formative and collaborative activities
  • print and photo/scan for handwritten work
  • home-based assessment.

To fully participate in ANU learning, students need:

  • A computer or laptop. Mobile devices may work well but in some situations a computer/laptop may be more appropriate.
  • Webcam
  • Speakers and a microphone (e.g. headset)
  • Reliable, stable internet connection. Broadband recommended. If using a mobile network or wi-fi then check performance is adequate.
  • Suitable location with minimal interruptions and adequate privacy for classes and assessments.
  • Printing, and photo/scanning equipment

For more information please see https://www.anu.edu.au/students/systems/recommended-student-system-requirements

Staff Feedback

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

  • written comments
  • verbal comments
  • feedback to whole class via wattle or in lectures

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.

Class Schedule

Week/Session Summary of Activities Assessment
1 Introductory lectures
2 Case Study lecture, Methods/techniques lecture - "what's research"?
3 Case Study lecture, Methods/techniques lecture - "asking people questions"
4 Case Study lecture, Methods/techniques lecture - "Content and media analysis " Questionnaire QUIZ
5 Case Study lecture, Methods/techniques lecture - "Stakeholders & how to ID them"
6 Case Study lecture, Methods/techniques lecture - "interpreting and reporting on research" Progress reports due
7 Case Study lecture, Methods/techniques lecture - "embracing the uncertainty"
8 Case Study lecture, Methods/techniques lecture - "significant, meaningful (sometimes even both)?"
9 Case Study lecture, Methods/techniques lecture - "influence & persuasion" Interpreting and reporting on research QUIZ
10 Case Study lecture, Methods/techniques lecture - "it's not a fight, it's an argument"
11 Case Study lecture, Methods/techniques lecture - "does science need a PR team?" Group Project report due
12 Case Study lecture, Methods/techniques lecture - "wrapping it all up" Short reflective piece due

Tutorial Registration

Please refer to course wattle page

Assessment Summary

Assessment task Value Due Date Learning Outcomes
QUIZ - Questionnaire critique 15 % * 1,2
Progress report 25 % 05/09/2021 1,2,3,4,5
QUIZ - Interpreting and reporting on research results 20 % * 1,2
Group Project report 30 % 24/10/2021 1,2,3,4,5
Short reflective piece 10 % 29/10/2021 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 Academic Integrity . 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 course has been adjusted to support remote participants. Remote students should identify themselves to the course convener before the start of semester.

Assessment Task 1

Value: 15 %
Learning Outcomes: 1,2

QUIZ - Questionnaire critique

You will be given a series of questionnaire and interview questions and asked to critique them for form, structure style and utility.

Due week 4

Assessment Task 2

Value: 25 %
Due Date: 05/09/2021
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,4,5

Progress report

This is a milestone report and represents the first part of the major report due at the end of semester (see assessment item 4 for more context). The details of the scoping study will be discussed in online tutorial classes early in the semester.

Assessment Task 3

Value: 20 %
Learning Outcomes: 1,2

QUIZ - Interpreting and reporting on research results

This assessment task involves interpreting some examples of research data yourselves, and critiquing / correcting some examples of other people’s efforts at interpreting research as well.

The assessment will take the form of an in-class quiz with a series of short answer questions

Due week 9

Assessment Task 4

Value: 30 %
Due Date: 24/10/2021
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,4,5

Group Project report

We will discuss and negotiate how to do the major project for SCOM1002 this semester in online tutorial classes and via the discussion board on Wattle.

Major project - overview

The purpose of the major project is for you to examine a science-based issue of relevance to broader society, specifically:

explore and analyse how it manifests in the public arena,

identify significant stakeholders, their perspectives, evidence-claims and biases, and

research, interpret and then report on the best and most relevant scientific evidence available to help laypeople make informed decisions.

Some indicative examples of suitable topics for the SCOM1002 major project might involve looking at topics like

efforts to decrease cigarette smoking as scientific evidence of the harm became more prevalent and widely communicated

eliminating prohibition laws concerning recreational drugs use in Portugal as competing types of evidence become more, or less, acceptable

the contested/ debated importance of spending public funds on space exploration in the USA

debates and arguments in Australia about appropriate energy sources (eg., coal vs wind vs nuclear etc)

NOTE - this assessment offers you some room to be flexible and creative in the content and presentation of your projects. To do this successfully, you will need to communicate and negotiate clearly with your group (if you choose the group option) and be proactive about seeking guidance and advice from your tutor periodically throughout the semester.

For this assignment, students will choose a topic that features some connection between scientific evidence and a real or intended change in people’s opinion, beliefs or behaviours (aka: influence some kind of ‘social change’).

For the purposes of SCOM1002, social change can be broadly construed. For example, it could refer to issues that concern

  • public policy
  • public health or safety concerns
  • the passing, or rescinding, of laws, legislation and regulation
  • clashes between ideologies (religious, political, social)
  • changing public acceptance of formerly unacceptable behaviour (or vice-versa)

When scoping your project your project, make sure you think broadly for potential areas of data and information. Consider perspectives and examples of relevant; data, myths, popular-culture beliefs, 'common' sense, history & traditions, vested interests, intransigent value clashes, perspectives (young vs old, faith vs evidence). The list is potentially endless!


Assessment Task 5

Value: 10 %
Due Date: 29/10/2021
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,4

Short reflective piece

In this final piece of assessment in SCOM1002, you are asked to look back over what you have experienced and learned during the course of the semester and reflect on your experiences and consider what has changed, what hasn’t, and why.

You should try and balance writing about things you liked and did well against things you didn't like and did poorly. Note also that this is supposed to be about you, not a critique of others or the course (unless directly pertinent to your own experience).

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 Associate Dean (Education) submission must be through Turnitin.

Hardcopy Submission

For some forms of assessment (hand written assignments, art works, laboratory notes, etc.) hard copy submission is appropriate when approved by the Associate Dean (Education). Hard copy submissions must utilise the Assignment Cover Sheet. Please keep a copy of tasks completed for your records.

Late Submission

  • Late submission permitted. 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. Late submission is not accepted for take-home examinations.

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

Assignments will be returned via Wattle and/or email

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


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).

Dr Rod Lamberts
6125 0747

Research Interests

science communication and public intellectualism/activism; science and ethics; perceptions of expertise in science; risk perception and communication; and science and public policy.

Dr Rod Lamberts

By Appointment
By Appointment
Dr Rod Lamberts

Research Interests

Dr Rod Lamberts

By Appointment
By Appointment

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