All author's publications are listed below.
This research addresses the association between attention to science fiction and public opinion of human genome editing (HGE). Using a nationally representative survey, our results show that attention to science fiction is associated with both risk and benefit perception of the technology. In addition, results show that, at higher levels of attention to science fiction, the levels of concern from conservatives (ordinarily predisposed to negative views toward science) and from liberals (ordinarily predisposed to positive views toward science) come closer to being the same. This research contributes to our understanding of debates about controversial science.
This paper synthesizes the efforts of an interdisciplinary, University-convened communication task force in the U.S. that used science communication theory to develop an effective strategy during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. We outline recommendations for researchers and practitioners who are, or are interested in, implementing theory-based communication practices while describing how we dealt with the unforeseen realities we faced. Overall, we recommend that effective public health and science communication should be based on theory and formative evaluation while relying on established infrastructure, real-time data, a deep understanding of intended target audiences, and intentional coordination with community partners.
Little is known about how incidental exposure to news, interpersonal discussion, and the diversity of social networks interact in social media environments and for science-related issues. Using a U.S. nationally representative survey, we investigate how these features relate to factual knowledge of gene editing. Incidental exposure to science-related news interacts with interpersonal discussion and network heterogeneity and reveals that the relationship between incidental exposure to news and knowledge is strongest among those who discuss the least. Incidental exposure could alleviate knowledge gaps between the Facebook users who are the most and least involved in interpersonal discussions about science.
Understanding how individuals perceive the barriers and benefits of precautionary actions is key for effective communication about public health crises, such as the COVID-19 outbreak. This study used innovative computational methods to analyze 30,000 open-ended responses from a large-scale survey to track how Wisconsin (U.S.A.) residents' perceptions of the benefits of and barriers to performing social distancing evolved over a critical time period (March 19th to April 1st, 2020). Initially, the main barrier was practical related, however, individuals later perceived more multifaceted barriers to social distancing. Communication about COVID-19 should be dynamic and evolve to address people's experiences and needs overtime.
We investigate the impact of a science documentary on individuals' intention to engage in information-related behaviors by experimentally testing the effects of source type (scientist, politician, or anonymous source) and communication setting (interview or lecture) using a manipulated clip from the documentary, ‘An Inconvenient Truth’. Our results indicate that, compared to anonymous sources, use of authoritative ones result in greater intention to engage in some information-related behaviors. Additionally, our results suggest that increased intentions to engage in exchanging information can be attributed to negative affect induced by the clip featuring a politician. Implications for documentary films and science communication are discussed.
Information visualization could be used to leverage the credibility of displayed scientific data. However, little was known about how display characteristics interact with individuals' predispositions to affect perception of data credibility. Using an experiment with 517 participants, we tested perceptions of data credibility by manipulating data visualizations related to the issue of nuclear fuel cycle based on three characteristics: graph format, graph interactivity, and source attribution. Results showed that viewers tend to rely on preexisting levels of trust and peripheral cues, such as source attribution, to judge the credibility of shown data, whereas their comprehension level did not relate to perception of data credibility. We discussed the implications for science communicators and design professionals.
Research suggests non-experts associate different content with the terms “global warming” and “climate change.” We test this claim with Twitter content using supervised learning software to categorize tweets by topic and explore differences between content using “global warming” and “climate change” between 1 January 2012 and 31 March 2014. Twitter data were combined with temperature records to observe the extent to which temperature was associated with Twitter discussions. We then used two case studies to examine the relationship between extreme temperature events and Twitter content. Our findings underscore the importance of considering climate change communication on social media.
Of all the online information tools that the public relies on to collect information and share opinions about scientific and environmental issues, Twitter presents a unique venue to assess the spontaneous and genuine opinions of networked publics, including those about a focusing event like the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident following the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. Using computational linguistic algorithms, this study analyzes a census of English-language tweets about nuclear power before, during, and after the Fukushima nuclear accident. Results show that although discourse about the event may have faded rapidly from the news cycle on traditional media, it evoked concerns about reactor safety and the environmental implications of nuclear power, particularly among users in U.S. states that are geographically closer to the accident site. Also, while the sentiment of the tweets was primarily pessimistic about nuclear power weeks after the accident, overall sentiment became increasingly neutral and uncertain over time. This study reveals there is a group of concerned citizens and stakeholders who are using online tools like Twitter to communicate about global and local environmental and health risks related to nuclear power. The implications for risk communication and public engagement strategies are discussed.