Professor Joan Leach

Bachelors of Arts, Bachelors of Science honours, Masters of Communication, PhD
Director, Australian National Centre for the Public Awareness of Science (CPAS)
ANU College of Science
T: +61 2 6125 0498

Areas of expertise

  • History And Philosophy Of Specific Fields 2202
  • Other Language, Communication And Culture 2099
  • Other Studies In Human Society 1699

Research interests

Science communication history and theories of the public

Public Argumentation about Controversial Science with special interest in synthetic biology, Quantum technologies, neuroethics, and population health

Responsible Research and Innovation

Social Epistemology; how society makes and communicates knowledge

Rhetorical approaches to scientific argumentation--contemporary and historical

Ethical approaches to Science Communication


I have held the role of Director of the Australian National Centre for Public Awareness of Science at the ANU (colloquially known as 'CPAS') since January 2016.  Given the broad nature of CPAS research and teaching interests in science communication, public engagement, policy, knowledge brokering, risk, and ethics, I strive to make the Centre a home for inter- and transdisciplinary research and collaboration.   

My own research and teaching centres on theories of the public in science communication, language and rhetoric in science (both in public and in technical contexts), and the challenge of ethics in science communication.  I'm most interested in sociological accounts of knowledge production and I edited the journal Social Epistemology for 9 years.  

I am a past president of Australian Science Communicators, a founding member of the American Association for the Rhetoric of Science and Technology, and am Chair of the  National Committee for History and Philosophy of Science at the Australian Academy of Science.  Purdue University (USA) awarded me a science laureateship for services to public engagement with science. 

I have called Australia home since 2005.  I have been privileged to work at a number of world-leading Universities including Imperial College London, the University of Queensland, and the University of Pittsburgh. 

Available student projects

Students interested in science engagement in a responsible research and innovation framework should contact me for discussion as I'd like to help build this area in Australia.

Students seeking to understand the power of language, rhetoric and communication in science--both currrently and in historical context are welcome for conversation!

Students who are working in areas of science such as:  neuroscience, synthetic biology, population health, quantum technologies... and who want to build a science engagement or communication focus into their work will find me an eager collaborator. 

Students interested in building theory in science communication--from history and philosophy of science, sociology, STS, or social epistemology are also encouraged to be in contact. 

Current student projects

Can Hype be a force for good in science communication?

Models of Science Communication in Environmental contexts

Data mining to understand online chat about renewable energy

Heroic narratives of Apollo 11


Past student projects

Communicating our scientific future in economic terms

Female rhetorical power in science

But does it work?  Evaluating science communication practice

A history of science communication in 12 media

Perils of cross cultural science communication in high technology contexts



Projects and Grants

Grants information is drawn from ARIES. To add or update Projects or Grants information please contact your College Research Office.

Return to top

Updated:  24 May 2024 / Responsible Officer:  Director (Research Services Division) / Page Contact:  Researchers