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Unit of study_

LIFE4000: Data and Technology for the Life Sciences

Intensive March, 2021 [Block mode] - Remote

Advances in digital technology are creating new ways to quantify biological processes and properties, from the scale of molecules to ecosystems. The life scientist of the 21st century needs to understand how to collect, manage, synthesise, and communicate this information within a reproducible workflow in order to make robust inferences about the natural world. This intensive unit of study will introduce you to key concepts and tools across three modules: digital project and data management, evidence synthesis and meta-analysis, and scientific coding using R. The focus is on active learning, discussion, and problem-solving across intensive workshop-based practicals, rather than the traditional lecture format. By completing this unit you will further understand the practical realities of scientific inquiry. To that end, you will develop a flexible skillet for conducting reproducible and open research to ensure the results of your work are maximally beneficial to both your future self and the broader community. Knowledge of how to work with data through the entire pipeline -from sampling to synthesis-will be useful wherever it is encountered in your education, career, and life.

Unit details and rules

Unit code LIFE4000
Academic unit Life and Environmental Sciences Academic Operations
Credit points 6
144 credit points of units of study including a minimum of 24 credit points at the 3000- or 4000-level and 18 credit points of 3000- or 4000-level units from Science Table A or 1
Assumed knowledge

Completion of units in quantitative research methods, mathematics or statistical analysis at least at 1000-level.

Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff

Coordinator Thomas White,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Online task Quiz 1
Online Canvas quiz
10% Week 04 60 minutes
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO5 LO4
Online task Quiz 2
Online Canvas quiz
20% Week 05 60 minutes
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO5 LO4
Assignment Paper response & critique
Written task
30% Week 06 1000 words
Outcomes assessed: LO3 LO5
Assignment Meta-analysis report
Written report
40% Week 08 1500-2000 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5

Assessment summary

  • Quiz 1 and 2: Brief, online quizzes comprise of multiple-choice and short-answer questions to assess foundational knowledge.
  • Response/critique: Short writing and data-visualisation task.
  • Meta-analysis: An scientific report detailing the results of a student-designed meta-analysis.

Assessment criteria

Result name Mark Range Description
High distinction 85 - 100 Awarded when you demonstrate the learning outcomes for the unit at an exceptional standard, as defined by grade descriptors or exemplars outlined by your faculty or school.
Distinction 75 - 84 Awarded when you demonstrate the learning outcomes for the unit at a very high standard, as defined by grade descriptors or exemplars outlined by your faculty or school.
Credit 65 - 74 Awarded when you demonstrate the learning outcomes for the unit at a good standard, as defined by grade descriptors or exemplars outlined by your faculty or school.
Pass 50 - 64 Awarded when you demonstrate the learning outcomes for the unit at an acceptable standard, as defined by grade descriptors or exemplars outlined by your faculty or school.
Fail 0 – 49 When you don’t meet the learning outcomes of the unit to a satisfactory standard.


For more information see guide to grades.

Late submission

In accordance with University policy, these penalties apply when written work is submitted after 11:59pm on the due date:

  • Deduction of 5% of the maximum mark for each calendar day after the due date.
  • After ten calendar days late, a mark of zero will be awarded.

This unit has an exception to the standard University policy or supplementary information has been provided by the unit coordinator. This information is displayed below:

Standard late penalties apply, as detailed in the unit outline.

Academic integrity

The Current Student website  provides information on academic integrity and the resources available to all students. The University expects students and staff to act ethically and honestly and will treat all allegations of academic integrity breaches seriously.  

We use similarity detection software to detect potential instances of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breach. If such matches indicate evidence of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breaches, your teacher is required to report your work for further investigation.

You may only use artificial intelligence and writing assistance tools in assessment tasks if you are permitted to by your unit coordinator, and if you do use them, you must also acknowledge this in your work, either in a footnote or an acknowledgement section.

Studiosity is permitted for postgraduate units unless otherwise indicated by the unit coordinator. The use of this service must be acknowledged in your submission.

Simple extensions

If you encounter a problem submitting your work on time, you may be able to apply for an extension of five calendar days through a simple extension.  The application process will be different depending on the type of assessment and extensions cannot be granted for some assessment types like exams.

Special consideration

If exceptional circumstances mean you can’t complete an assessment, you need consideration for a longer period of time, or if you have essential commitments which impact your performance in an assessment, you may be eligible for special consideration or special arrangements.

Special consideration applications will not be affected by a simple extension application.

Using AI responsibly

Co-created with students, AI in Education includes lots of helpful examples of how students use generative AI tools to support their learning. It explains how generative AI works, the different tools available and how to use them responsibly and productively.

WK Topic Learning activity Learning outcomes
Week 03 Day workshop: Data and project management Workshop (3 hr)  
Prac 1a: Data processing and manipulation in R with the 'tidyverse' Practical (3 hr)  
Prac 1b: Introduction to evidence synthesis Practical (3 hr)  
Week 04 Prac 2a: Data analysis in R Practical (3 hr)  
Prac 2b: Systematic literature searching and appraisal Practical (3 hr)  
Week 05 Prac 3a: Data visualisation in R Practical (3 hr)  
Prac 3b: Extracting, collating, and evaluating scientific evidence Practical (3 hr)  
Week 06 Prac 4a: Creating flexible, reproducible documents with R Markdown Practical (3 hr)  
Prac 4b: Qualitative and quantitative evidence synthesis techniques Practical (3 hr)  

Study commitment

Typically, there is a minimum expectation of 1.5-2 hours of student effort per week per credit point for units of study offered over a full semester. For a 6 credit point unit, this equates to roughly 120-150 hours of student effort in total.

Learning outcomes are what students know, understand and are able to do on completion of a unit of study. They are aligned with the University's graduate qualities and are assessed as part of the curriculum.

At the completion of this unit, you should be able to:

  • LO1. ​Explain and apply the core principles of reproducibility and transparency in scientific research.​
  • LO2. Manipulate, analyse, and visualise data, and integrate this knowledge in the production of reproducible 'living' documents. ​
  • LO3. Communicate critical, data-driven insights into biological processes orally and in writing​.
  • LO4. Demonstrate an understanding of how to handle, store, and preserve primary biological data​.
  • LO5. Assess the quality of existing evidence, and how to synthesise it using contemporary qualitative and quantitative methods

Graduate qualities

The graduate qualities are the qualities and skills that all University of Sydney graduates must demonstrate on successful completion of an award course. As a future Sydney graduate, the set of qualities have been designed to equip you for the contemporary world.

GQ1 Depth of disciplinary expertise

Deep disciplinary expertise is the ability to integrate and rigorously apply knowledge, understanding and skills of a recognised discipline defined by scholarly activity, as well as familiarity with evolving practice of the discipline.

GQ2 Critical thinking and problem solving

Critical thinking and problem solving are the questioning of ideas, evidence and assumptions in order to propose and evaluate hypotheses or alternative arguments before formulating a conclusion or a solution to an identified problem.

GQ3 Oral and written communication

Effective communication, in both oral and written form, is the clear exchange of meaning in a manner that is appropriate to audience and context.

GQ4 Information and digital literacy

Information and digital literacy is the ability to locate, interpret, evaluate, manage, adapt, integrate, create and convey information using appropriate resources, tools and strategies.

GQ5 Inventiveness

Generating novel ideas and solutions.

GQ6 Cultural competence

Cultural Competence is the ability to actively, ethically, respectfully, and successfully engage across and between cultures. In the Australian context, this includes and celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, knowledge systems, and a mature understanding of contemporary issues.

GQ7 Interdisciplinary effectiveness

Interdisciplinary effectiveness is the integration and synthesis of multiple viewpoints and practices, working effectively across disciplinary boundaries.

GQ8 Integrated professional, ethical, and personal identity

An integrated professional, ethical and personal identity is understanding the interaction between one’s personal and professional selves in an ethical context.

GQ9 Influence

Engaging others in a process, idea or vision.

Outcome map

Learning outcomes Graduate qualities

This section outlines changes made to this unit following staff and student reviews.

This is the first time this unit has been offered.


The University reserves the right to amend units of study or no longer offer certain units, including where there are low enrolment numbers.

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