- Class Number 3338
- Term Code 3230
- Class Info
- Unit Value 6 units
- Mode of Delivery In Person
- Dr Rod Lamberts
- Dr Rod Lamberts
- Class Dates
- Class Start Date 21/02/2022
- Class End Date 27/05/2022
- Census Date 31/03/2022
- Last Date to Enrol 28/02/2022
- Dr Rod Lamberts
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.
The material underpinning SCOM6031 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
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.
- 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
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.
|Summary of Activities
|Introduction to science communication, to communicating risk, & to the course
|SCOM Research & theoretical foundations of risk communication
|Techniques & methods for crafting risk strategies
|Perceptions of risk
|Review Progress Report due - see assessment tasks
|Crafting an argument/ opinion pieces
|Introduction to ethics
|Persuasion & Influence
|Risk, Ethics & Public Health
|Opinion Piece Assignment due - see assessment tasks
|Communication & Ethics, Crisis communication
|Perceptions of expertise, strategies for involving & consulting publics
|Risk, ethics and policy
|Final Review Report due - see assessment tasks Reflection due - see assessment tasks
|Return of assessment
|Review Project part 1 - Progress report
|Opinion piece exercise
|Final Review Report
* 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 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.
MASTERS TUTORIALS (SCOMcast)
The master’s strand of Science, Risk and Ethics is designed be taken entirely online. To facilitate this, instead of having a ‘tutorial’ class, the second class each week (the equivalent of the undergraduate, on-campus Tuesday tutorial) will take the form of a podcast (called the SCOM6031 “SCOMcast”), and will be recorded every week during semester time.
How students participate
Each week, SCOM6031 students will have assigned readings which they will be required to read, digest, critique and question. Students should then go to the “Masters tutorial” link for that week and write a post of up to 500 words telling everyone:
- One thing about the readings they found useful or interesting
- One thing that they didn't like OR didn't agree with OR didn't understand
- One questions for the tutor/ the group
The convener will read these and comment, answer or expand on them over the course of the SCOMcast. Each SCOMcast will run for between 30 and 60 minutes and will be posted under each module by the the end of that week.
For your post to be eligible for inclusion in the weekly SCOMcast, it must be up by 2:00 pm on the Thursday of that week (Canberra time)
This forum only allows each person to start ONE discussion topic each week (You can respond to others as much as you like). Make sure you choose what you want to say carefully before posting!
Assessment Task 1
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,4
Review Project part 1 - Progress report
Review Project – Critical review of a risk communication strategy
This is the major assessment task in SOCM6031 and has two elements:
Review Project - Progress Report
review Project - Final Report
The overall review project task is described next in this section, followed by Part 1 (Progress Report).
Part 2 (Final Review Report) is described in a separate section under "assessment task 5"
The overall review project task
The main purpose of this project is to apply the suite of theories, tools and ideas addressed throughout the course to identify, analyze and critically review a science-based risk communication strategy associated with it. The main target of the strategy you review must be a general audience (or “the public”). The strategy you review should be aimed at influencing people who do not have scientific or technical expertise, not communiqués for experts audiences.
The main elements of the whole Review Project task are:
1. Choose a strategy to review
a. Choose a risk issue that has a clear science-related aspect to it that has been the subject of a current, or recently completed, public risk communication strategy. Some examples of relevant subject matter for a topic might be:
i. Private company advertising about the dangers of obesity and the products and services they try to sell to combat it.
ii. Messages, public information sheets and media releases from the latest IPCC meeting.
iii. Government TV campaigns to curtail speeding.
iv. Cancer council strategies to encourage people to be aware of/ prevent skin cancer.
v. Campaigns by environmental groups aiming to encourage wildlife protection
b. If you are unsure about the suitability of a topic, talk with course staff
2. Present a clear, theory and evidence based rationale for why you chose the topic and why it is suitable for this kind of project. Discuss things like:
i. why it is a ‘risk’ issue at all
ii. how prevalent is it in, or how relevant it is to, the public domain
iii. what the likely consequences of this issue being poorly communicated have been/ could be
iv. How well is it being addressed now/ has it been addressed in the past
3. Gather and summarise the background facts pertinent to the issue(s) covered in the strategy you are reviewing
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. For example
i. What does the science behind the issue say?
ii. Is it clear, or are there nuances and 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)?
c. Theory. What communication, risk perception & comprehension, and/or persuasion & influence theories are best suited to understanding and analysing your issue?
4. Gather and analyze pertinent materials that represent the strategy (for example: advertising or marketing collateral, TV or radio programs or advertisements, websites, public briefings, blogs, podcass, 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 strategy’s 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 interactions online with you peers AND in the context of the previous elements above, provide a critical review of the strategy
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. Suggest how efforts could be improved, modified or expanded.
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 good-practice and/or relevant theory.
*******Review Progress Report (25%) - description of task*******
The Progress Report should provide a brief overview of the risk strategy you are critically reviewing, and some sound, evidence-based reasons for why this strategy is suitable for the overall Critical Review Project.
You are not expected to have completed all the elements of the major report (as outlined above) at this stage of the semester. We realise that many elements of the project will still need work to be completed, so your goal here is to show us how much you have done, and give us an idea of what you intend to do in the second half of the semester as you work to complete the final critical review report.
This means the bulk of the Progress Report should concentrate on presenting a clear “story so far” of the work you have undertaken on your review project, and it would be expected that it would focus predominately on the first 4 elements of the overall project outlined above. We would expect to see little, if any, critique (report element 5 above) and probably no recommendations (report element 6 above) in the Progress Report.
· a written report of a maximum of 2500 words(excluding cover page and references)
What this report should ideally demonstrate:
· a comprehensive, succinct, critical outline of the work you have done so far and where it fits in your bigger plan for the overall project
· effective incorporation of relevant theory, examples and ideas from the lectures and readings
· a high standard of comprehensive research
· appropriate use of references and referencing,
· clear communication of ideas, written in proper English prose with correct spelling, grammar and punctuation.
Assessment Task 2
Learning Outcomes: 2,5,6
Opinion piece exercise
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?
How could we decide what is a healthy body shape?
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.
Reproductive technologies should be made available to anyone who wants them
We should not conduct any experiments on animals that we wouldn't conduct on people.
For each of the four pieces, briefly and clearly state what venue you are writing for (for example; The Australian, 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)
You should base your 4 pieces on
1. scientific evidence related to the topic,
2. your own beliefs, opinions and experience, and
3. arguments, positions and ideas from the ethics component of the course.
· 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 (4) pieces based on the two (2) topics you chose to write about.
- NOTE: Each of the 4 pieces must be between 600 and 800words. No more, no less. Marks will be deducted for pieces that are too short OR too long (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.
Assessment Task 3
Learning Outcomes: 1,5,6
Consider what you have learned and experienced in SCOM6031 over the course of the semester write a reflective critique of your journey. 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).
1.KEEP TO THE WORD LIMIT
2.You do not need formal referencing for this assignment
Assessment Task 4
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,4
Final Review Report
The Final Review Report should provide a full account of the critical review of a risk communication strategy you have worked on throughout the semester. It should incorporate and expand on the Review Progress Report supported by the course material, your own research, and feedback you received from staff during the semester.
You have considerable freedom to decide how you would like to present the Final Report – part of successful science communication practice is being creative in the way you present information. Just be careful not to get so excited about howyou present your Final Report that you shirk on the content.
At a minimum, the content should clearly address all the relevant elements outlined above in the description of the overall project. Broadly, these are
1. A clear overview of the strategy you chose to review
2. A clear, theory and evidence based rationale for why you chose the topic and why it is suitable for this kind of project
3. A summary of background facts pertinent to the issue(s) covered in the strategy you reviewed
4. A collation and analysis of pertinent materials that represent the strategy
5. A thorough, evidenced-based and theory-guided critique of the strategy
6. Recommendations for how to improve, expand, evaluate and/or move forward based on your critical review
7. IN ADDITION– please include a briefsection reflecting on how your personal values, previous experience and existing knowledge about the issue you critiqued affected the way you approached this task, and if doing the research and critique of the risk strategy changed any of your pre-existing views about the topic.
If you are unsure about this assessment item, make sure you speak with SCOM6031 staff well before the due date!
a report of not more than 20 pages, with a font not smaller than 12 point (excluding appendices, table of contents and cover sheet). Reports over 20 pages will be returned to be edited. Late penalties will apply until the edited, 20 page (or less) version of your report is re-submitted.
What your report should ideally demonstrate:
· appropriate language with correct grammatical structure, spelling and punctuation
· a comprehensive consideration of the risk strategy you chose, including a sound justification for choosing it
· a balance between big picture overview and relevant detail
· evidence that you have thoroughly explored and researched the science facts and relevant contextual influences, and have applied pertinent theory from SCOM6031
· seamless integration of the sub-elements of your final report. 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 22)
a uniform overall style for the report
a thoroughly proof-read document
· References & referencing
you must include evidence and supporting references for all factual aspects of your report
you will also need complete, comprehensive and consistent referencing throughout your report AND a comprehensive reference section
· professional presentation – the report should look ‘professional’. Innovative and interesting presentation is absolutely encouraged. If in doubt, talk with SCOM6031 staff
· 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, and presented the necessary information in a considered fashion that reflects the theory and practice covered in SCOM6031
· suggestions and recommendations about how to improve the risk communication of your chosen strategy, 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
· considered reflection on the process of doing this research and how it affected you personally
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.
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Dr Rod Lamberts
Dr Rod Lamberts