• Class Number 3649
  • Term Code 3430
  • Class Info
  • Unit Value 6 units
  • Mode of Delivery In Person
    • Dr Will Grant
    • Dr Will Grant
  • Class Dates
  • Class Start Date 19/02/2024
  • Class End Date 24/05/2024
  • Census Date 05/04/2024
  • Last Date to Enrol 26/02/2024
SELT Survey Results

The interface between evidence and political decision making is of fundamental importance to modern society. Yet while our techniques of enquiry have allowed us to learn ever more about the world - and our collective ability to enact change has become ever more powerful - the relationship between evidence and action has never been entirely smooth. Indeed, things may even be getting worse. This course traces the dynamics, contours and fractures of the interface between science and politics. Topics covered include: uses of science in political decision making; differing attitudes to scientific advice and the values underpinning them; ways of countering hostility to science; the role of new technology in changing the dynamics of the relationship between science and politics.

Learning Outcomes

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

  1. Locate, assess and synthesise literature and other evidence relevant to political debate and policy formation, drawing on a variety of relevant sources. 
  2. Compose clear, contextualised arguments drawing on a range of relevant scientific and other sources.
  3. Identify and describe the key issues guiding the science / politics interaction. 
  4. Engage experts in discussion by questioning and analysing their presentations. 

Research-Led Teaching

A range of elements in this course draw directly from research conducted within the Australian National Centre for the Public Awareness of Science and elsewhere. 

This includes a research-led emphasis on giving students experiences that mimic real-world environments, practical experiences in which students can take responsibility for their own learning, and elements of social engagement that offer external appraisal. See 

McKinnon, Orthia, Grant and Lamberts IJISME 22(5), 1-13. 

It also includes direct research on science and public policy interaction, politics and opinion dissemination by the course convener. See 

  • Grant, Moon and Busby Grant. 2010. ‘Digital Dialogue? Australian Politicians’ use of the Social Network Tool Twitter’. Australian Journal of Political Science 45(4))
  • Will J Grant. 2012. ’The role of science and technology in public policy: What is knowledge for?’ in Gilbert, John K and Stocklmayer, Susan M (eds) Communication and Engagement with Science and Technology: Issues and Dilemmas A Reader in Science Communication, 59-73. 
  • Vilkins, Samantha and Grant, W. ‘Types of Evidence Cited in Australian Government Publications’. Scientometrics 113(3), 1681-1695.Accepted for publication 16 Sep 2017. DOI: 10.1007/s11192-017-2544-2, http://rdcu.be/wDeG
  • Mewburn, I. Grant, W, Suominen, H, Kizimchuk, S. Higher Education Policy Who wants to hire PhD graduates? A machine learning analysis of the non-academic employment opportunities for PhD candidates in Australia” https://link.springer.com/article/10.1057/s41307-018-0098-4
  • Nurse, M. Grant, WJ. I’ll see it when I believe it: motivated numeracy in perceptions of climate change risk. Environmental Communication. https://doi.org/10.1080/17524032.2019.1618364
  • Linvill, D. L., Boatwright, B. C, Grant, W. J., and Warren, P. L."THE RUSSIANS ARE HACKING MY BRAIN!" 2019. Investigating Russia's Internet Research Agency Twitter Tactics during the 2016 United States Presidential Campaign’ Computers in Human Behaviour

Whether you are on campus or studying online, there are a variety of online platforms you will use to participate in your study program. These could include videos 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/or photo/scan for handwritten work and drawings, and home-based assessment.

ANU outlines recommended student system requirements to ensure you are able to participate fully in your learning. Other information is also available about the various Learning Platforms you may use.

Staff Feedback

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

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). Feedback can also be provided to Course Conveners and teachers via the Student Experience of Learning & Teaching (SELT) feedback program. SELT surveys are confidential and also provide the Colleges and ANU Executive with opportunities to recognise excellent teaching, and opportunities for improvement.

Class Schedule

Week/Session Summary of Activities Assessment
1 Tools: Introduction
2 Tools: How is policy made?
3 Tools: What connects policy and politics?
4 Tools: What science do we buy?
5 Tools: What persuades?
6 Topics: Topic 1 (possibly Machine Learning) Collaborative literature review, question for expert, opinion piece
7 Topics: Topic 2 (possibly Bike Helmets) Collaborative literature review, question for expert, opinion piece
8 Topics: Topic 3 (possibly Diversity in Science) Collaborative literature review, question for expert, opinion piece
9 Topics: Topic 4 (possibly Asteroid Mining) Collaborative literature review, question for expert, opinion piece
10 Topics: Topic 5 (possibly Food Systems) Collaborative literature review, question for expert, opinion piece
11 Topics: Topic 6 (possibly Pill Testing) Collaborative literature review, question for expert, opinion piece
12 Topics: Topic 7 (possibly Bracycephalic Dogs) Collaborative literature review, question for expert, opinion piece

Tutorial Registration

There are no tutorials timetabled for this course.

Assessment Summary

Assessment task Value Learning Outcomes
Opinion pieces / policy analyses 75 % 1,2,3
Collaborative literature search 5 % 1
Questions for experts 5 % 4
Reflective essay collating learning 15 % 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 Integrity 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 Skills 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.

Assessment Task 1

Value: 75 %
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3

Opinion pieces / policy analyses

Opinion pieces / policy analyses form the bulk of the work in SCOM3027.

For 3 of the 7 issues in the later weeks of the course you are to respond to the question set each week (see under each topic) with either:

·      An opinion / editorial (Op Ed) style piece for a relevant outlet 

·      A letter to a relevant stakeholder / decision maker

Throughout the course you might want to attempt each of these genres! You can choose any 3 of the 7 topics. 

You are free to write in any relevant form within these genres (eg, opinion piece for a newspaper, letter to the relevant Minister, online opinion piece, short video question for Q and A), but you must follow the requirements of the genre and audience in both format and length. You must state in the header what the piece is, eg 'A letter to the Minister for Sport' or 'An opinion piece to be submitted to Mamamia.com or TheConversation.edu.au'. You must be specific about the venue and audience: a letter to 'a newspaper' is inadequate; letters to Ministers should use their correct name and title.

Your piece will be marked according to your ability to provide clear, contextualised arguments / examinations with reference to the relevant literature – see detailed criteria below. You don't have to include all literature linked in the collaborative literature search, but you do have to draw on that which will support - or is a problem for - your case. 

Please note, you do not have to personally believe what you are arguing, nor do you have to disclose your true beliefs.

Word limit: 300-1000 words, depending on venue

Value: 25% per piece. Total value 75%.

Submission requirements: 11:59pm four days after the guest lecture for that topic.


-      Clear argument or conclusion: Does the piece come to a solid, real answer to the question?

-      Use of evidence:Are the argument or points supported by real evidence, is the evidence used well? 

-      Appropriate audience / venue: Is the piece clearly tailored to a sensible venue / audience?

-      Writing: Is the writing clear, appropriate to the venue in tone, length and style, is it creative?

All criteria will be assessed out of 100, and an average taken for the overall mark.

There are 3 pieces due over the semester. It is intended that the marked pieces will be returned within 2 weeks after submission. Further details can be found on the Course Wattle site.

Assessment Task 2

Value: 5 %
Learning Outcomes: 1

Collaborative literature search

Please link to 2 articles (either scientific evidence, policy articles or some other relevant discussion) per topic you have elected to cover in the collaborative literature search (ie, only for the 4 topics you are covering), giving a plain English explanation of what the article is (eg, 'An article in Nature looking at current policy on alien contact. Their take home message is that aliens will probably destroy us very quickly'.

Word limit (where applicable): 50-100 words

Value: 5% total

Submission requirements: 11am Monday of each topic week.


-      Relevance: Is the article relevant to the topic at hand, does it expand discussion?

-      Explanation: Does the written explanation clearly articulate the importance of the article for the discussion at hand?

There are 3 searches due over the semester. It is intended that the marked Searches will be returned within 2 weeks after submission. Further details can be found on the Course Wattle site.

Assessment Task 3

Value: 5 %
Learning Outcomes: 4

Questions for experts

Please submit 1 question to ask the guest expert in each class for each topic you have elected to cover. Questions must be relevant to the topic and the speaker’s expertise, and asked in a clear and concise manner. Please email the question to Will before class begins (11am), or write on a piece of paper in class, they will be asked during class and you’ll be able to hear in the recording.

Word limit (where applicable): N/A

Value: 5% total

Submission requirements: In class during each topic week


-      Relevance: Is the question relevant to the topic at hand and the guest’s expertise, does it expand discussion?

-      Explanation: Is the question clearly asked?

There are multiple questions due over the semester. Further details can be found on the Course Wattle site.

Assessment Task 4

Value: 15 %
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,4

Reflective essay collating learning

At the end of semester please write a 1000 (+/- 10%) word essay collating and reflecting on your learning in this course at the more abstract level: what do you believe constrains, affects and influences science based policy; what can be done to improve any problems you believe exist?

Word limit (where applicable): 1000 words (+/- 10%)

Value: 15% total 


-      Clear argument or conclusion: Does the piece come to a solid, real answer to the question?

-      Use of evidence:Are the argument or points supported by real evidence, is the evidence used well? 

-      Writing: Is the writing clear, appropriate to the venue in tone, length and style, is it creative?

Academic Integrity

Academic integrity is a core part of the ANU culture as a community of scholars. The University’s students are an integral part of that community. The academic integrity principle commits all students to engage in academic work in ways that are consistent with, and actively support, academic integrity, and to uphold this commitment by behaving honestly, responsibly and ethically, and with respect and fairness, in scholarly practice.

The University expects all staff and students to be familiar with the academic integrity principle, the Academic Integrity Rule 2021, the Policy: Student Academic Integrity and Procedure: Student Academic Integrity, and to uphold high standards of academic integrity to ensure the quality and value of our qualifications.

The Academic Integrity Rule 2021 is a legal document that the University uses to promote academic integrity, and manage breaches of the academic integrity principle. The Policy and Procedure support the Rule by outlining overarching principles, responsibilities and processes. The Academic Integrity Rule 2021 commences on 1 December 2021 and applies to courses commencing on or after that date, as well as to research conduct occurring on or after that date. Prior to this, the Academic Misconduct Rule 2015 applies.


The University commits to assisting all students to understand how to engage in academic work in ways that are consistent with, and actively support academic integrity. All coursework students must complete the online Academic Integrity Module (Epigeum), and Higher Degree Research (HDR) students are required to complete research integrity training. The Academic Integrity website provides information about services available to assist students with their assignments, examinations and other learning activities, as well as understanding and upholding academic integrity.

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

The Academic Skills website has information to assist you with your writing and assessments. The website includes information about Academic Integrity including referencing requirements for different disciplines. There is also information on Plagiarism and different ways to use source material.

Returning Assignments

Assessment feedback will be returned via Wattle.

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

Resubmission of assessment is not possible.

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 Will Grant

Research Interests

Science communication, politics, social media

Dr Will Grant

By Appointment
Dr Will Grant

Research Interests

Dr Will Grant

By Appointment

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