Carol Oliver

Associate Professor
Qualifications

PhD University of New South Wales (2008)

Master of Science Communication, Central Queensland University (2003)

A/Prof Carol Oliver is a nationally and internationally known expert in evidence-based science communication, with a strong interest in education innovation in online learning and teaching and interests in astrobiology and space science.

She is an Associate Professor with in the School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences (BEES) in the Faculty of Science. She has supervised six PhD students, all but one as a primary supervisor. Four have graduated. Carol also has considerable industry experience as a journalist in print, radio, and television in the first third of her career. Carol is currently Online Learning Lead and Postgraduate Coursework Coordinator in BEES and co-Lead of the UNSW Online Learning and Innovation Community of Practice. She is also one of two Education Focussed Champions for the Faculty of Science.

She began her academic career in 2008. Between 2010 and 2015 she won a total of $5.5m in three grants for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). Two of the grants raised the Mars Lab project at the Museum of Arts and Applied Sciences in two stages as an education project for high school students and a research facility, forming a living lab in the museum. The Mars Lab was a self-funding national and international project in which students could plan Mars missions and drive experimental Mars rovers in the Mars Yard from their classrooms. The third grant helped to transfer technology-enabled adaptive e-learning from the university environment into the high school environment. She is currently a Chief Investigator on an Australian Research Council Linkage grant between a small group of UNSW researchers - led by Prof Dennis Del Favero - and the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney.

Carol concentrates on creating and delivering fully online courses at UNSW with the aim of exploring the medium to reimagine online learning and teaching approaches - the latter of which has been reinforced in new approaches to online learning in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Her four fully online courses (all electives) are BEES2741 Introduction to Astrobiology; BEES2680 Introduction to Science Communication; BEES6741 Astrobiology: Life in the Universe; and BEES6800 The Science of Science Communication. All four courses aim to engage students in the learning process, eliminating the need for rote learning, and none have a final exam.

Carol is a PLuS Alliance Fellow, in which she engages with colleagues at Arizona State University and King's College London to explore reimagining online education. She also has an Education-Focussed role. Externally, Carol is an elected member of the Australian Academy of Sciences' National Committee on Space and Radio Science and was nominated for, and elected to, full membership of the International Academy of Astronautics in 2006. 

Research Activities

As well as my ongoing focus on researching the design of emergent technologies in space science education (see Education case), my collaborative research and scholarship explore the fundamental problem of measuring the effectiveness of science communication activities through the lens of astrobiology and space-related education. I also apply a research-led focus on the teaching of those disciplines. I have shown that, even now, very little evidence exists to support the notion that science communication activities improve the public understanding of the nature of science7 and that science communication is often driven by nothing more than intuition and "a scattergun texture: the unstated hope that some of the shot hits the right target".8 If the effectiveness of science communication cannot be measured, then improvement in the apparently poor public understanding of science is impossible. I see this field of research problem as one that requires resolution: a challenging societal issue for science with the potential to impact science research positively through improving public attitudes towards science and in policy-making.

 

I have supervised 5 PhD students (4 as primary supervisor) to completion. Another PhD student will submit her thesis in 2021.

Book Chapters
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Kenderine S; Yip A; Oliver C; Pather N; Sammut C; Djokic T; Marcus N; Ong A, 2021, 'Designing Multi-disciplinary Interactive Virtual Environments for Next-Generation Immersive Learning Experiences: Case Studies and Future Directions in Astrobiology, Anatomy and Cultural Heritage.', in Creative and Collaborative Learning through Immersion Interdisciplinary and International Perspectives, Springer, http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-72216-6_4
2021
Kenderdine S; Yip A; Oliver C; Pather N; Sammut C; Djokic T; Marcus N; Ong A, 2021, 'Designing Multi-disciplinary Interactive Virtual EnvironmentsInteractive virtual environmentsImmersive learning for Next-Generation Immersive LearningImmersive learning Experiences: Case Studies and Future Directions in Astrobiology, Anatomy and Cultural Heritage', in Creative and Collaborative Learning through Immersion, pp. 49 - 67, http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-72216-6_4
2021
Journal articles
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Kingsley I; Oliver C; Slavich E, 2019, 'Hidden in the Figures: What Students Are Telling Us about the Effectiveness of Astrobiology Outreach', Astrobiology, vol. 19, pp. 1103 - 1116, http://dx.doi.org/10.1089/ast.2019.2048
2019
Hwong YL; Oliver C; Van Kranendonk M; Sammut C; Seroussi Y, 2017, 'What makes you tick? The psychology of social media engagement in space science communication', Computers in Human Behavior, vol. 68, pp. 480 - 492, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2016.11.068
2017
Dougherty K; Oliver C; Fergusson J, 2014, 'Pathways to space: A mission to foster the next generation of scientists and engineers', Acta Astronautica, vol. 99, pp. 184 - 192, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.actaastro.2014.01.026
2014
Oliver CA, 2007, 'The virtual space exploration education portal', Acta Astronautica, vol. 61, pp. 548 - 552, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.actaastro.2007.01.062
2007
Oliver CA; Fergusson J, 2007, 'Astrobiology: A pathway to adult science literacy?', Acta Astronautica, vol. 61, pp. 716 - 723, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.actaastro.2006.12.010
2007
2004, 'Abstracts from the Astrobiology Science Conference 2004', International Journal of Astrobiology, vol. 3, pp. 1 - 120, http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/s1473550404001648
2004
Oliver C, 1998, 'SETI sleuths', New Scientist, vol. 160, pp. 64
1998
Conference Papers
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Oliver CA, 2017, 'Dr bobbie vaile: A short life dedicated to SETI research and education', in Proceedings of the International Astronautical Congress, IAC, pp. 3131 - 3136
2017
Kingsley I; Oliver C; Van Kranendonk M, 2017, 'A new instrument to assess scientific literacy for space outreach', in Proceedings of the International Astronautical Congress, IAC, pp. 1671 - 1678
2017
Kingsley I; Oliver C; Van Kranendonk M, 2017, 'Space science outreach - are we decreasing public understanding?', in Proceedings of the International Astronautical Congress, IAC, pp. 11299 - 11310
2017
Dougherty K; Oliver C, 2016, 'A mars yard in the Museum: Research, education and outreach', in Proceedings of the International Astronautical Congress, IAC
2016
Dougherty K; Oliver C; Fergusson J, 2013, 'Pathways to space: A mission to foster the next generation of scientists and engineers', in Proceedings of the International Astronautical Congress, IAC, pp. 9800 - 9809
2013
Oliver CA, 2006, 'The virtual space exploration education portal', in AIAA 57th International Astronautical Congress, IAC 2006, pp. 10300 - 10306
2006
Oliver CA; Fergusson J, 2005, 'Astrobiology: A pathway to adult science literacy?', in International Astronautical Federation - 56th International Astronautical Congress 2005, pp. 1101 - 1111
2005
DeVore E; Oliver C; Wilmoth K; Vozzo L, 2004, 'Science education in partnership: The 2002 Australian-American fulbright symposium', in Advances in Space Research, pp. 2116 - 2120, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.asr.2003.09.066
2004
Oliver CA; Morrow CA, 2003, 'Communicating astrobiology - A new approach', in 54th International Astronautical Congress of the International Astronautical Federation (IAF), the International Academy of Astronautics and the International Institute of Space Law, pp. 3957 - 3967
2003
Oliver CA; Morrow CA, 2003, 'Communicating astrobiology - A new approach', in 54th International Astronautical Congress of the International Astronautical Federation (IAF), the International Academy of Astronautics and the International Institute of Space Law, pp. 2053 - 2063
2003
Recorded / Rendered Creative Works
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Yip AS; Djokic T; Oliver C; Van Kranendonk M, 2016, 3D Mapping Pilbara Sites of Early Life for Immersive, Virtual Learning and Teaching, iCinema Centre for Interactive Cinema Research, UNSW, Editor(s): Yip A; Djokic T, 3D Modelling and virtual reality application, Published: 01 June 2016, Recorded / Rendered Creative Works
2016
Grants

1. 2019-2022 - ARC Linkage (UNSW and Powerhouse Museum), Redefining the museum experience as an immersive networked narrative (CI). $466,150.

2. 2016-2017 - UNSW Scientia Education Investment Fund, Intelligent and generic cross-platform virtual reality for next-generation student experiences: New frameworks for immersive pedagogy, (CI), $359k.

3. 2015-2016 - UNSW Scientia Education Investment Fund, Enhancing a large online course using interactive web technology (CI), $278k.

4. 2013-2014 - Australian Maths and Science Partnerships Program, Smart Science Initiative (PI), $1.64m.

5. 2012-2015 - The Mars Lab, Broadband-Enabled Education and Skills Services Program (PI), $2.9m.

6. 2010-2013 - Pathways to Space, Australian Space Research Program (PI), $987,573.

7. 2005-2007 - Australian Schools Innovation in Science, Technology and Mathematics Program, $119,500, (CI)

 

 

 

Areas of Expertise

Science Communication