Uncertainty is everywhere. However, in the sciences, the ramifications of poor risk assessment in science can have dramatic and 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 is it translated into the public domain? 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 global warming, environmental degradation and gene technologies have highlighted a critical need for society to question the risks and ethics of science and the way related matters are presented within societies. In this course, the practice and application of science is analysed from risk-communication and ethical perspectives. Consideration is given to how the history of scientific research might inform contemporary debates about risk. The concept of ethical research is analysed and challenged and the communication of risk and uncertainty among Western and non-Western publics is examined in detail. This course focuses on the creation of clearer and more effective ways to communicate more controversial, risky, and potential unethical scientific matters to larger audiences. It also considers the way in which prevailing social values influence the types of research that might be considered low risk and ethical.
Learning OutcomesOn satisfying the requirements of this course, students will have the knowledge and skills to:
Work as part of a group
Recognise and critique risk/ethical issues pertaining to science in the public sphere
Integrate personal interests, values and aspirations with professional development in the communication of science-related risk
Identify and respond to a selection of the social, cultural and psychological influences that affect people’s perception of risks and ethical positions associated with science
Evaluate risk communication strategies involving the communication of contemporary science-related risk issues
Actively engage with fundamental research processes
Integrate personal opinion with ethics, theoretical positions on risk, and scientific facts, in writing accessibly for intelligent lay audiences
Using course reading and lecture materials as a catalyst, clearly present personal views, and critically respond to those of others, in open fora.
Indicative AssessmentIndividual progress report, feeding into team project (20%; LO 1,2,3,4,6)
Group presentation of findings and outline of team project (10%; LO 1,3,4)
Project final report, describing team analysis and critique of risk communications strategy (25%; LO 1,2,4,6)
Reflective pieces about science, risk and ethics (1 x hurdle, 1 x 10%; LO 2,3,7)
Ethics opinion piece exercise (35%; LO 2,7,8)
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Workload2 x 2 hour classes per week comprising lecture and tute material
Requisite and Incompatibility
Assumed KnowledgeSCOM1001 and SCOM1002
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- Student Contribution Band:
- Band 2
- Unit value:
- 6 units
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