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.
As several recent National Academies of Sciences reports have highlighted, greater science communication research is needed on 1) communicating chemistry, and 2) building research-practice partnerships to advance communication across science issues. Here we report our insights in both areas, gathered from a multi-year collaboration to advance our understanding of how to communicate about chemistry with the public. Researchers and practitioners from science museums across the U.S. partnered with academic social scientists in science communication to develop and conduct multi-strand data collections on chemistry communication and informal education. Our focus was on increasing interest in, the perceived relevance of, and self-efficacy concerning chemistry through hands-on activities and connecting chemistry to broader themes concerning everyday life and societal impacts. We outline challenges and benefits of the project that future collaborations can gain from and illustrate how our strands of work complemented each other to create a more complete picture of public perceptions of chemistry.
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.
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.
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.