Risk communication


Despite Australian horse owners being encouraged to vaccinate their horses against Hendra virus to reduce the risk of this potentially fatal virus to horses and humans, vaccine uptake has been slow. Discourse around the vaccine has been characterised by polarisation and dissenting voices. In this study we interviewed horse owners (N=15) and veterinarians (N=10), revealing how expert knowledge, disqualification of lay knowledge and inadequate handling of uncertainty impacted divisive discourse around Hendra virus. We assert that more inclusive, reflective and ultimately more effective risk communication practices will result if the legitimacy of diverse knowledge sources and the inevitability of uncertainty are acknowledged.


This theoretical paper proposes a framework for how citizen science can be adapted to organizational contexts. Using an “input, process, output” approach, this model proposes organizational factors (e.g., communication channels and styles, and organizational structure) that should be considered when choosing among citizen science approaches (e.g., contributory, collaborative, co-created). The essay identifies possible outcomes for the individual, organization, and larger sector from employing a citizen science approach within an organizational setting.


Verbal probability phrases are often used in science communication to express estimated risks in words instead of numbers. In this study we look at how laypeople and statisticians interpret Dutch probability phrases that are regularly used in news articles. We found that there is a large variability in interpretations, even if the phrases are given in a neutral context. Also, statisticians do not agree on the interpretation of the phrases. We conclude that science communicators should be careful in using verbal probability expressions.


Public acceptance of vaccination and Genetically Modified (GM) food is low and opposition is stiff. During two science festivals in France, we discussed in small groups the scientific evidence and current consensus on the benefits of vaccination and GM food safety. Our interventions reinforced people's positive opinions on vaccination and produced a drastic positive shift of GM food opinions. Despite the controversial nature of the topics discussed, there were very few cases of backfire effects among the 175 participants who volunteered. These results should encourage scientists to engage more often with the public during science festivals, even on heated topics.


As the digital revolution continues and our lives become increasingly governed by smart technologies, there is a rising need for reflection and critical debate about where we are, where we are headed, and where we want to be. Against this background, the paper suggests that one way to foster such discussion is by engaging with the world of fiction, with imaginative stories that explore the spaces, places, and politics of alternative realities. Hence, after a concise discussion of the concept of speculative fiction, we introduce the notion of datafictions as an umbrella term for speculative stories that deal with the datafication of society in both imaginative and imaginable ways. We then outline and briefly discuss fifteen datafictions subdivided into five main categories: surveillance; social sorting; prediction; advertising and corporate power; hubris, breakdown, and the end of Big Data. In a concluding section, we argue for the increased use of speculative fiction in education, but also as a tool to examine how specific technologies are culturally imagined and what kind of futures are considered plausible given current implementations and trajectories.


When it comes to complex topics in the field of health and risk communication, experts are of high importance for the credibility of a news media report. This paper examines the use of experts and their roles in the news media coverage of multi-resistant pathogens by means of a quantitative content analysis of German print and online news. A cluster analysis of the expert statements identifies three different statement frames describing different expert roles. The results show manifest patterns of selected expert sources, which points to professionalized mechanisms of selecting expert sources for news media reports.


Genetic Modification (GM) has been a topic of public debates during the 1990s and 2000s. In this paper we explore the relative importance of two hypothesized explanations for these controversies: (i) people's general attitude toward science and technology and (ii) their trust in governance, in GM actors, and in GM regulations, in explaining the Dutch public's Attitude toward GM applications, and in addition to that, the public's GM Information seeking behaviour. This will be conducted through the application of representative survey methodology. The results indicate that Attitudes toward GM applications are best predicted by both the attitude toward science and technology and three trust measures. GM information seeking is predicted by gender and educational level, as well as attitude toward science and technology, trust in organisations and trust in regulations (negative). Overall, psychological variables seem better predictors than demographics. Implications for future research on information seeking behaviour are discussed.


Communicating about environmental risks requires understanding and
addressing stakeholder needs, perspectives, and anticipated uses for
communication products and decision-support tools. This paper
demonstrates how long-term dialogue between scientists and stakeholders
can be facilitated by repeated stakeholder focus groups. We describe a
dialogic process for developing science-based decision-support tools as
part of a larger sea level rise research project in the Gulf of Mexico. We
demonstrate how focus groups can be used effectively in tool development,
discuss how stakeholders plan to use tools for decision-making and
broader public outreach, and describe features that stakeholders perceive
would make products more usable.


Public trust in agricultural biotechnology organizations that produce so-called ‘genetically-modified organisms’ (GMOs) is affected by misinformed attacks on GM technology and worry that producers' concern for profits overrides concern for the public good. In an experiment, we found that reporting that the industry engages in open and transparent research practices increased the perceived trustworthiness of university and corporate organizations involved with GMOs. Universities were considered more trustworthy than corporations overall, supporting prior findings in other technology domains. The results suggest that commitment to, and communication of, open and transparent research practices should be part of the process of implementing agricultural biotechnologies.


This book examines the media discourses about environmental pollution in Australia, China and Japan. The book's authors focus on the actors involved in discussions of risk versus those involved in responsibility for environmental pollution. The authors use novel and traditional means of analysis that combine techniques from a variety of disciplines to examine case studies of media discourse. The book provides an interesting, if at times simplistic, overview of the pollution issues facing each country. The conclusions made from the media analysis are relevant to those researching and practicing science communication in the context of such important environmental issues.


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