SCOM3003 Undergraduate Science Communication Research Project is the peak course option for Science Communication Majors, who design and conduct original research projects, with an eye to solving real world problems, furthering professional ambitions, putting their ideas into the public domain and/or publishing in academic venues.
Possible projects are limited only by time and imagination, but must be approved by the course convenor and project supervisor. They can include:
- investigations into what people (or a particular group of people) think or feel about an aspect of science
- the development of a product for communicating science and evaluation of its effectiveness
- an analysis of existing science communication tools, e.g. an analysis of media coverage of a science topic
- archival-based research into the history of something relevant to science communication
- a directed literature review on a theory-based science communication topic.
Many projects will involve human participant research (surveys, focus groups, interviews, experiments, etc), either as the core research question and method or as a strategy for testing a science communication product. All such projects must receive ethics approval before proceeding, and students are trained and assisted in this.
Students whose projects are of sufficient standard are assisted to publish their work in appropriate professional venues. So far two student projects have been published or accepted for publication in peer-reviewed journals (see also undergraduate publishing). Naomi Shadbolt‘s project surveying young women’s knowledge about endometriosis and their communication preferences for finding out more about it has been published in the Health Promotion Journal of Australia, and was presented at the 12th World Congress on Endometriosis in São Paulo, Brazil. A paper about Amy Dobos‘s research testing the uses of pictures for communicating about Alzheimer’s disease has been accepted for publication in Public Understanding of Science. Other publication attempts are underway.
The main assessment item is a report in the style of a journal paper (worth between 70% and 100%). Other assessment items will be negotiated with students each semester, and may include a presentation (worth 20-30%) and/or a learning logbook (worth up to 10%).
Entry is dependent upon the availability of a supervisor, but thus far no student has been disappointed in this regard. On occasion students who are not science communication majors have enrolled in this course with my permission, if they have clearly demonstrated the capacity to complete the project they have in mind and have sufficient grasp of the science communication discipline.
For more detailed information on SCOM3003 see the online handbook description.
Some students’ presentations about their SCOM3003 projects are available online:
- Minky Faber on women’s attitudes to menstrual technologies
- Stefan Nekvapil on creative physics teaching
- Rebecca Randall on using social media to communicate about mental health
- Cecile Acevedo on public surveys about animal experimentation
- Alissa Van Soest on teaching children water management with a board game
- Avril Baker on communicating science through fashion magazines
- Five students on their SCOM3003 projects (Julia Baker – public opinions of medicating depression; Amy Dobos – public interpretations of photographs designed to communicate Alzheimer’s disease; Minky Faber – blogging about parrot science; Stefan Nekvapil – expectations of aged care facilities among residents, family/friends, and staff; Katherine Schiffl – young people’s motivations to study science)
- Minky Faber’s ‘Parrots of Australia’ blog is also available for viewing
(Project supervisors for the above projects were Lindy Orthia (Faber menstrual technologies; Nekvapil aged care), Rod Lamberts (Randall; Acevedo; J. Baker), Will Grant (Van Soest; Faber blog), Sue Stocklmayer (Nekvapil teaching), Sean Perera (Schiffl) and Danny Kingsley (A. Baker). Amy Dobos was co-supervised over two semesters by Charles Tambiah, Rod Lamberts and Lindy Orthia.)
Students’ comments about SCOM3003 have included:
“Being able to conduct research on a topic of my choice was one of the most exciting experiences I’ve had in my time at university. Working with my supervisor was a valuable experience and taught me a great deal about conducting research and presenting my results for possible publication. Lindy Orthia is a fantastic course convener and her passion for teaching should be recognized with an award one day.”
“It is a great course to prepare students for future research projects and encouraged the student’s independence”
“this has been an amazing experience and opportunity, and I’ve learned sooooo much”
“I thought that it was a great course. I liked that I had the choice to create any kind of SCOM research project and found it very beneficial to go through the entire process you would if you were submitting a thesis. I would recommend this course.”