Date of Award

2007

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Faculty

Faculty of Education and Arts

First Advisor

Dr Vaille Dawson

Second Advisor

Associate Professor Renato Schibeci

Abstract

Biotechnology is one of the most rapidly growing industries of the 21st Century and governments worldwide have invested significant funds to support research and development in this area. The belief that the commercialisation of biotechnology will offer significant social and economic benefits to the communities investing in this industry, however, is not a universally accepted view. Surveys of attitudes towards biotechnology in a number of countries have indicated that there are widespread concerns about the risks presented by the industry and the application of biotechnology products (Smith, 2001). These public concerns have resulted in a stronger focus being placed on the mechanisms by which biotechnology is communicated with non-scientists (Gregory, 2003).ln particular, improving the level of scientists' participation in public engagement has been afforded high priority (FASTS, 1999). Yet despite increasing calls for scientists to become more involved in this area, the perception that scientists

are unwilling or unable to communicate persists (Stocklmayer, Gore, & Bryant, 2001). In response, the provision of quality science communication training for scientists and science students has been recommended (Royal Society, 2006b). This training should provide a fundamental support for improving scientists' ability to act as civic scientists by engaging with the public. Using an Australian biotechnology degree program as a case study, this doctoral study examines how biotechnology education at the tertiary university level prepares science graduates for a civic science role. Qualitative and quantitative data were generated from 343 questionnaires and 36 interviews of key stakeholders in the chosen biotechnology program, including undergraduate and doctoral students, lecturers, postgraduate supervisors, and early-career biotechnologists recently graduated from the program. Additional interview data were also obtained from 10 science communicators and science communication lecturers.

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