Science, Controversy and Public Policy

Subject HPSC90013 (2016)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2016.

Credit Points: 12.5
Level: 9 (Graduate/Postgraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject has the following teaching availabilities in 2016:

Semester 1, Parkville - Taught on campus.
Pre-teaching Period Start not applicable
Teaching Period 29-Feb-2016 to 29-May-2016
Assessment Period End 24-Jun-2016
Last date to Self-Enrol 11-Mar-2016
Census Date 31-Mar-2016
Last date to Withdraw without fail 06-May-2016

Timetable can be viewed here. For information about these dates, click here.
Time Commitment: Contact Hours: 24 hours - 1 x 2 hour seminar each week for 12 weeks
Total Time Commitment:

170 hours


Admission to Master of Public Policy and Management or Executive Master of Arts or graduate diploma (advanced) or fourth year honours in History and Philosophy of Science.

Corequisites: None
Recommended Background Knowledge:

Undergraduate studies in any science discipline or undergraduate studies in public policy, politics, social studies or cognate area.

Non Allowed Subjects: None
Core Participation Requirements:

For the purposes of considering request for Reasonable Adjustments under the Disability Standards for Education (Cwth 2005), and Student Support and Engagement Policy, academic requirements for this subject are articulated in the Subject Overview, Learning Outcomes, Assessment and Generic Skills sections of this entry.

It is University policy to take all reasonable steps to minimise the impact of disability upon academic study, and reasonable adjustments will be made to enhance a student's participation in the University's programs. Students who feel their disability may impact on meeting the requirements of this subject are encouraged to discuss this matter with a Faculty Student Adviser and Student Equity and Disability Support:


Dr Darrin Durant



Subject Overview:

From genetic modification to climate change, science seems to be embroiled in an ever-growing number of public controversies. Some of these controversies are international in scope. Others have unfolded in the distinctive environment of Australia’s public policy and research apparatus, sometimes with lessons for the international stage. Drawing on case studies, this subject observes and analyses the interactions of science, public discourse, and national and international policy formation. The subject will examine questions such as: What policy positions are taken and by which agencies? What are the dynamics of the interactions between them? What are the roles and limits of science and scientific evidence in such controversies? How may such controversies be resolved? Examples of areas of controversy that may be considered are: Genetics and Food Production (e.g. Mad-Cow Disease); Genetics and Biomedicine (e.g. Racial Profiling, Non-Invasive Prenatal Diagnosis); Alternatives to Western Medicine; Approaches to Greenhouse Gas Reduction; Nano Technologies; Energy Production; Water Policy; Digital Privacy and Surveillance; Freedom of Information and Expression in the Online World; Transhumanism; Geo-Engineering (e.g. Fracking); Climategate.

Learning Outcomes:

Students who successfully complete this subject will:

  • Develop an understanding of key theoretical approaches and recent developments relating to science and public policy formation,
  • Develop an understanding of how controversies may arise in contexts where science and public policy interact, and
  • Develop an understanding of the mechanisms (theoretical, administrative, political, scientific, etc.) that may, or may not, contribute to resolving such controversies.
  • Be able to apply these theoretical approaches to the analysis of contemporary case-studies.
  • A 1,500 word essay, due at the end of week 5 (30%)
  • A 3,500 word essay, due at the end of semester (70%)

Hurdle requirement:

  • Students must attend a minimum of 80% of classes in order to pass this subject.
Prescribed Texts: None
Breadth Options:

This subject is not available as a breadth subject.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Links to further information:
Related Majors/Minors/Specialisations: 100 Point Master of Public Policy and Management
150 Point Master of Public Policy and Management
200 Point Master of Public Policy and Management
EMA 150 point program - full time over 1.5 years
EMA 200 point program - full time over 1.5 years
EMA 200 point program - full time over 2 years

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