Risk communication


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.


This paper analyzes data collected but not reported in the study featured in van der Linden, Leiserowitz, Feinberg, and Maibach [van der Linden et al., 2015]. VLFM report finding that a “scientific consensus” message “increased” experiment subjects' “key beliefs about climate change” and “in turn” their “support for public action” to mitigate it. However, VLFM fail to report that message-exposed subjects' “beliefs about climate change” and “support for public action” did not vary significantly, in statistical or practical terms, from those of a message-unexposed control group. The paper also shows how this absence of an experimental effect was obscured by a misspecified structural equation model.


In this paper, we respond to the critiques presented by [Kahan, 2017]. Contrary to claims that the scientific consensus message did not significantly influence the key mediator and outcome variables in our model, we show that the experiment in [van der Linden et al., 2015] did in fact directly influence key beliefs about climate change. We also clarify that the Gateway Belief Model (GBM) is theoretically well-specified, empirically sound, and as hypothesized, the consensus message exerts a significant indirect influence on support for public action through the mediating variables. We support our conclusions with a large-scale replication.


In June of 2014, geologists reported that, for the first time, more earthquakes greater than magnitude 3.0 occurred in Oklahoma than in California [Terry-Cobo, 2014]. In Oklahoma, the frequency of earthquakes that are strong enough to be felt has increased 44 times in recent years and this has been correlated to a dramatic increase in high-volume, horizontal hydraulic fracturing (HVHHF) operations [Hume, 2014]. The aims of this study are: (1) to determine how hydraulic fracturing, commonly called fracking, and Oklahoma earthquakes are framed by print-based media at the local, national, and international levels; (2) to understand how the association between these factors has evolved over time; and (3) to further analyze the differences between experts on the subjects of causality and threat characterization (e.g., severity). A total of 169 print news reports were included for analysis: 48 local/Oklahoma reports (28% of total sample), 72 national reports (42% of total sample) and 49 international news reports (30% of total sample). The findings reveal significant differences in the frame techniques, sources of information, and the foci of subject matter between three different media scales in print based media. Results, discussion and implications are provided.


Englehard et al. provide a wide-ranging look at synthetic biology, from discussion of how one might classify different synthetic approaches to consideration of risk and ethical issues. The chapter on public engagement considers why synthetic biology seems to sit below the public radar.


This essay seeks to explain what the “science of science communication” is by doing it. Surveying studies of cultural cognition and related dynamics, it demonstrates how the form of disciplined observation, measurement, and inference distinctive of scientific inquiry can be used to test rival hypotheses on the nature of persistent public conflict over societal risks; indeed, it argues that satisfactory insight into this phenomenon can be achieved only by these means, as opposed to the ad hoc story-telling dominant in popular and even some forms of scholarly discourse. Synthesizing the evidence, the essay proposes that conflict over what is known by science arises from the very conditions of individual freedom and cultural pluralism that make liberal democratic societies distinctively congenial to science. This tension, however, is not an “inherent contradiction”; it is a problem to be solved — by the science of science communication understood as a “new political science” for perfecting enlightened self-government.


Antibiotic resistance is an increasing global threat involving many actors, including the general public. We present findings from a content analysis of the coverage of antibiotic resistance in the Swedish print media with respect to the risk communication factors cause, magnitude and countermeasures. The most commonly reported cause of development and spread of resistance was unnecessary prescription of antibiotics. Risk magnitudes were mostly reported qualitatively rather than using quantitative figures. Risk-reduction measures were analyzed using a framework that distinguishes between personal and societal efficacy. Measures at the societal level were more commonly reported compared to the individual level.


This study assesses the correlation between reports on food risk published in scientific journals and in the printed mass media and changes in the meat market. It focuses on the case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in the United Kingdom. The findings suggest that during the time BSE and its related human disease were of noticeable public concern, there was a predominantly negative correlation between the number of reports on BSE published in the British printed mass media and meat market variables. In contrast, reports of scientific research on the disease contributed to reducing the perception of food risk because these numbers correlated positively with the meat market.


The recent events related to the spread of the influenza virus A (H1N1) have drawn again the attention of science communication experts to old issues, including a couple of issues we deem particularly important: risk communication and the role of scientific journalists in the society of knowledge.


The management of health risks related to scientific and technological innovations has been the focus of a heated debate for a few years now. In some cases, like the campaigns against the use of GMOs in agriculture, this debate has degenerated into a political and social dispute. Even risk analysis studies, which appeared in the 1970s in the fields of nuclear physics and engineering and were later developed by social sciences as well, have given completely different, and at times contradictory, interpretations that, in turn, have given rise to bitter controversies.


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