1. Handbook
  2. Subjects
  3. Science, Controversy and Public Policy

Science, Controversy and Public Policy (HPSC90013)

Graduate courseworkPoints: 12.5On Campus (Parkville)

You’re viewing the 2019 Handbook:
Or view archived Handbooks


Year of offer2019
Subject levelGraduate coursework
Subject codeHPSC90013
Semester 1
FeesSubject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date

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.

Intended 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.

Last updated: 9 August 2019