SCOM1001 Science Communication 1: Science and Public Awareness is a world-class introduction to science communication history, theory and practice, for science students and anyone interested in the social side of science.
Since 2017, I have co-taught this course together with SCOM8014 Communicating Science with the Public, an introduction to the discipline for postgraduates.
The history and theory component of the course is presented in an accessible, hands-on way. Abstract ideas are explained using case studies from around the world and their relevance to present day problems is always highlighted. In assessment students interview a scientist about how, why and with whom they communicate their science, then compare the scientist’s experiences to the theoretical ideas of what constitutes ‘science communication best practice’.
In the practical component of the course students learn how to translate the complex information in a scientific journal paper into other media for a public audience. In assessment students practice four translation mediums: an entertaining short public lecture, a news article, an argumentative blogpost and/or a mini grant application.
The course places a high premium on academic literacy and students are taught, step-by-step, how to critically evaluate different kinds of literature, how to find them (using Web of Science and other databases, with a critical eye to their differences), how to reference them, and about the historical reasons for the structure of a scientific report. An assessment item tests students’ proficiency in these matters.
For more detailed information on SCOM1001 see the online handbook description or the latest version of the course manual:
Required reading for SCOM1001 includes a twelve-page academic literacy guide entitled ‘How to find information about science’, which I originally authored for SCOM1001 in 2008 and have updated several times:
SCOM1001 students who choose the blog post assessment item post their work on a blog I established in 2010 for undergraduate science communication students, entitled ‘Sandpaw’. Numerous SCOM1001 blog posts have achieved high ranking positions in Google searches (see undergraduate publishing):
The course was reviewed by 2012 student Albert Patajo at the ANU Student Course Guide. Albert gave it a score of 100% for ‘relevance’ and 80% for ‘enjoyment’ and ‘ease of study’. His comments included:
“If you love science and you’re looking to go into any sort of scientific career, you should definitely do this course.”
“Enjoyment comes from how interactive this course is – You’ll explore new avenues of communicating Science and can be a lot of fun!”
“The course forms a solid understanding for Science students in how to communicate effectively. It make writing essays, lab reports and generally getting through a Science degree so much easier. You’ll also develop high quality research skills and you’ll be able to deconstruct a journal article, which helps in later year courses.”
Other students’ comments about SCOM1001 have included:
“I really had no idea what to expect before [it] began, but I got an enormous amount out of it and I’m really glad I did it! I think it should be plugged harder – in many ways I think it should become a compulsory course for all the undergrad sciences!”
“The course was really great and I strongly believe that Science Communication should be a compulsory course for all science students. The course content put many things in perspective and at least allowed students to view science through a different (and more realistic)lens.”
“I had never thought of this subject before but I found it reall[y] interesting and i’m now considering a major in it”
“SCOM lectures were one of the highlights of my week. I really looked forward to them, and I always came away from them thinking very hard about what we’d discussed. I’d definitely recommend them to anyone else.”
“I didn’t even know this subject existed last year, now I love it”
“Lindy is one of the most engaging, most passionate lecturers I have ever had the pleasure of learning from.”
“Teaching was passionate and fascinating, asked a bunch of really interesting questions and welcomed our disagreement with them”
“Lindy is extremely energetic and this is demonstrated in her lecturing style. Her enthusiasm and knowledge in the area definitely stimulates students’ interests in the area as well.”
“She’s a brilliant teacher, my favourite in all the uni I’ve done.”
“Lindy taught very well, she was one of the most down-to-earth, best spoken presenters I’ve had all semester!”
“Lindy was my lecturer as well [as my tutor] and I feel very fortunate – she is passionate and very knowledgeable about her field and is able to pass that interest and knowledge onto her students.”
“I think Lindy is a very good lecturer and I would take another course just because she was the lecturer as I know it would be engaging and fun”
“Her examples were innovative, ‘outside-the-box’ and made you think or laugh or both, which was excellent”
“There were many everyday examples used throughout the semester. Lindy often referred to real life and practical situations to highlight her points. Students are able to clearly see the link between the theory taught and how it is practiced.”
“Great material, great topics, great contextualisation of the content. The case studies were great”
“A flexible course that is applicable to current affairs”
“Enjoyable, could easily see we were learning skills that would be applicable in practice”
“SCOM tutes were fantastic, I looked forward to them even though they were 3-5 on Fridays”
“the diversity of kinds of assessment keeps assessment from feeling monotonous and tedious”
“enough assessments for me to understand how well I was doing”
“The course manual that answers all the questions, is clear and easy to read should be in every uni course. The thinking behind how to run this course worked so well.”
“Lindy is SO SUPPORTIVE!”
“I never felt like I was falling behind.”