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Hobart, Launceston

This unit has been discontinued.


We live in a world of sciences. From the pure physics of string theory to the applied sociology of interventions, from the study of nanoparticles to broadband strategies. Science, in its various forms, plays an important role in how we as individuals and as a society, perceive, understand, and make decisions in the world. However, such knowledge is influenced and shaped by broad social, cultural, economic and political issues, which influence how this knowledge is produced and used (or not used). Yet despite the importance of science people can have trouble explaining what science is and what scientists do.

The Sciences and Society unit provides the opportunity for individuals to understand what science is and what scientists do, the need for ethical behaviour in scientific endeavour and scientific debate, and the need for scientific literacy in order for individuals to be able to develop informed views and attitudes and make rational and considered decisions about science in society. The unit approaches this broad goal in three ways:

  • developing understanding of the foundations of science;
  • developing the capacity to engage in rational debate and communication about science;
  • developing a sense of the importance of science in society.

The unit provides a multidisciplinary introduction to the nature of science and the regulatory frameworks and ethics within which scientist’s work. The role of the scientific community, along with its culture, and the role and relevance of science to society are considered. The unit encourages students to consider and develop their understanding of the nature of science along with their responsibilities as an individual, whether that be as a scientist, a formulator of science policy, or as a member of the public reliant on science for their everyday living.

The unit is offered in off-campus mode (delivered fully on-line) or blended on-campus mode with face-to-face lectures (including recordings of face-to-face lectures) and tutorials (see Timetable for details of when and where lectures and tutorials are held). A rich and diverse set of learning resources are provided, including print, audio and video artefacts of scientific findings, documentary, and media broadcasts, and will form the basis for on-line and face-to-face discussions throughout the unit. Students will be encouraged to reflect on their understanding of science and participate in discussions considering the nature and process of science, along with the role of science in society and society’s influence on science.

You may enrol in this unit if you are a 1st or 2nd year student required to undertake breadth units as part of your chosen degree. You may study the unit in Distance Mode (fully online).

Summary 2020

Unit name The Sciences and Society
Unit code XBR204
Credit points 12.5
Faculty/School College of Sciences and Engineering
School of Natural Sciences
Discipline Chemistry|Philosophy and Gender Studies|Politics and International Relations|Sociology and Criminology

Dr Andrew Seen

Teaching staff

Dr Graham Wood, Dr James Chase, A/Prof Fred Gale

Available as student elective? Yes
Breadth Unit? Yes



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About Census Dates



Teaching Pattern

1-hour weekly lecture, 1-hour weekly tutorial, Online learning resources and discussion group activities


On-line quizzes (10%); What it is to be scientific reflection (30%); Peer review of a scientific journal article (30%); Evaluation of a socio-scientific debate (30%)

TimetableView the lecture timetable | View the full unit timetable



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