2018 Authors and Abstracts

Michael Scott Smith

Science framing of rhino horn in Vietnam: credibility issues with framing traditional medicine as superstition. According to Milliken and Shaw (2012) a surge in rhino poaching in South Africa was linked to increasing demand for rhino horn in Vietnam for medical and status symbol purposes. To reduce demand, ENGOs in Vietnam communicated that the espoused benefits of the horn had no scientific basis. Drawing on a methodology of framing analysis and semi structured interviews, this paper examines credibility and trust issues with the science frame, the “Voodoo Wildlife Parts” frame in ENGO press releases. This paper fills an important research gap by exploring the communication strategies and cultural considerations of ENGOs working in the illegal wildlife trade issue in Asia with the aim of mitigating this significant environmental problem.

Colene Lind

Who needs to know? Knowledge as resource in public debates about water From global warming to fake news, questions of knowledge in public decision-making burn hot. Science communicators work to overcome knowledge gaps created by differences in expertise, scale, interests, and partisanship. But today’s highly polarized debates demand that we consider information anew. Therefore, I ask not what does or should the public know, but what do members of the public think they need to know about scientific controversies? More specifically, I analyze how participants in a discussion about water supply use public knowledge as a rhetorical resource. Overall, I find that discussants operated under two contradictory presumptions about knowledge.

Nicole Krause, Dominique Brossard, Dietram A. Scheufele, Michael Xenos & Keith Franke

Poll trends: Americans’ trust in science and scientists Events like the 2017 “March for Science” indicate growing concern about public attitudes toward science and scientists. Our analyses of poll data show that Americans’ confidence in scientists has been high for roughly 40 years, and it remains high even for controversial topics. However, the polls are not without nuance. The data reveal divides in trust based on geographic location and religious affiliation, with smaller gaps between political partisans. Moreover, we find that although Americans feel scientists are likely to put the good of the country ahead of their own interests, many nonetheless feel that science often neglects moral considerations.

Karen Cannon, Kathleen Hunt, & Jamie Loizzo

Food dialog: An exploration of trust in science-focused agricultural advocacy communication Efforts by agricultural producer-led organizations to engage in dialogue with consumers questioning how comestible commodities are produced have increased markedly over the past decade. However, the position of these organizations as the representative voice for an economic industry participating in marketplace advocacy complicates their efforts to build trust through public engagement. Researchers investigated a 2017 USFRA Food Dialog conversation event focused on genetically modified crops, using discourse analysis to analyze dialogic, co-production of knowledge, and/or deficit model communication techniques employed, and types and structures of the panelists’ arguments to analyze their functions in promoting or inhibiting scientific trust and credibility in the event’s public conversation.

Nicole M. Lee, John Besley, & Geah Pressgrove

Trust, credibility, fairness, and deference: Untangling the variables used to measure public perceptions of scientists Both academics and science communication practitioners have long been interested in the public’s perceptions of scientists and the impacts of those perceptions. Despite the long-term interest, there is still a need to identify which specific perceptions are most important and how they relate to desired behavioral outcomes. Further, perceptual variables (e.g., trust, credibility, fairness, and deference) are inconsistently conceptualized and operationalized within the literature. Using a multi-stage scale development process, this study seeks to advance conceptual clarity, improve measurement, and identify how these perceptions influence other science-related attitudes and behavioral intentions.

Jean Goodwin

Trust and the humanities of science communication The science of science communication is exploring the message factors that predictably produce audience trust. Here’s the problem: under conditions of disagreement, audiences are likely to take the strategic deployment of any such factors as a reason for distrust (e.g., reactance, backfire effects). Scientists who want to earn audiences’ trust don’t need empirically validated factors; instead they need good reasons that can be given openly and responsibly. Exploring these good reasons for trust is a task for the humanities of science communication.

Lauren Cagle & Denise Tillery

Exceptional heroics and everyday activities: Building trust and credibility through commonplaces of scientific work on social media This presentation considers how science communicators build trust and credibility through social media. We trace the ways that two commonplaces about scientists intersect, and sometimes come into conflict, on social media: 1) the image of the scientist as a hero who speaks truth to power, and 2) the idea of science as a set of mundane knowledge-gathering activities. Focusing on popular #scicomm accounts, such as @realscientists and @IFLS, we examine how these commonplaces and their potential contradictions of each other can develop, undermine, or otherwise affect relations of trust and credibility between social media science communication accounts and their audiences.

Tony Van Witsen

How journalists establish trust in numbers and statistics: An exploratory study Statistics are an essential part of science communication, yet there is little theory about how journalists decide which numbers to trust. Qualitative interviews with nineteen working journalists showed that many believe the measured facts they report on are so real as to be unchallengeable. Over all, they tend to follow accepted statistical conventions observed by their beats in determining which numbers to use. These patterns broadly follow theories of trust in news sources and the general cultural belief in the truth and transparency of numbers and measured reality in general.

Shelley Rank, John Voiklis, Rupanwita Gupta, Fraser Fraser, & Flinner Kate

Understanding Organizational Trust of Zoos and Aquariums Zoos and aquariums (ZAs) play a pivotal role in wildlife conservation, including educating the public. Nevertheless, media depictions of ZAs that emphasize animal captivity may erode public trust. We report on the first systematic survey of organizational trust in ZAs, contrasting how people perceive the current performance of ZAs against people’s expectations for establishing trust. The largest disparities between perceptions and expectations were for items that assessed the ethical integrity of ZAs: how well they maintain and communicate about animal welfare. ZAs can fully earn public trust by adjusting their practices and/or their messaging related to ethical integrity.

Andra Steinberg

Framing credibility: A rhetorical examination of frames and scientific credibility in the pseudo scientific, live water website In this paper, I examine the techniques that pseudo-scientific websites use to present themselves as credible. Sites such as the Live Water website use the same techniques as scientific publications to evoke the credibility of research-based science while simultaneously rejecting scientific consensus, and I argue that framing is one method that pseudo-science websites use to enhance their credibility. To investigate the question of how pseudo-science websites persuade audiences, I will explore how the Live Water website uses sources and selective framing to establish its credibility by attacking consensus science.

Christina Standerfer, Emily Loker, Jason Lochmann

How trust and credibility are established or undermined in community meetings about diabetes: Investigating the discourse of certified diabetes educator led discussions The givens of “trust” and “credibility” are often glossed in research into the efficacy of community-based approaches to health issues. Here we focus on one type of community intervention aimed at increasing citizens’ interest in acting to address diabetes: a series of community discussions led by Certified Diabetes Educators (CDEs). We take a critical discourse analysis approach to answering several questions including: How does the discourse between CDEs and participants work to establish or hinder the CDEs’ credibility?

James T. Spartz

From somewhere to nowhere and back again: Ladders of abstraction and the role of place in creating knowledge. Understanding overlays between S.I. Hayakawa’s ladder of abstraction metaphor and R. Sack’s framework for the role of place in creating knowledge can help science communicators establish trust and credibility. Trusted science communication (e.g. The Best American Science and Nature Writing series) connects emplaced scenes of particularity to relevant higher-order abstractions such as land use, public health, economics, and ethics. As Alan Leshner stated at the 2017 Science of Science Communication III colloquium, taking “a global issue and make it meaningful at the local or the personal level” is “one of the most important principles of communicating anything effectively.”

Hwanseok Song

Revealing the attitude-strength attributes of trust in environmental risk managers This study seeks to improve theoretical understanding of trust in risk communication by integrating constructs related to attitude strength (e.g., certainty, knowledge, elaboration) into the conceptualization and measurement of trust. Findings from a survey on a local environmental dispute suggest that by measuring and modeling these attitude-strength attributes of trust, we can better predict when trust will protect risk managers from negative news stories and when the public will accept unfavorable decisions. In turn, these attitude-strength attributes are best predicted by direct communication experience with risk managers, followed by local news consumption and discussion of local affairs with close others.

Kristina M. Slagle, Alia M. Dietsch, David C. Fulton, Robyn S. Wilson, & Jeremy T. Bruskotter

From a bird’s eye view to a wolf’s eye view: Trust in wildlife management across a range of publics. State and federal wildlife agencies manage different wildlife-related risks, potentially leading to differences in public trust. We explore this via data from 3 nationwide surveys and a dataset surrounding wolf management. Nationally, trust scores for state and federal agencies were highly correlated (r = 0.70 – 0.75), but correlating trust with group identifications resulted in small relationships between trust and identity (r < 0.25). In the wolf dataset, correlations for some identities were moderate to large with trust in state agencies (r > 0.40) but small for federal agencies (r = -0.11 to -0.14). Context creates nuance between the agencies, and conservation success may hinge on how trust in an agency begins to crystallize and correlate with identity.

Karen L. Akerlof, Maria Carmen Lemos, Emily Therese Cloyd, & Erin Heath

Who isn’t biased?: Perceived bias as a dimension of trust and credibility in communication of science with policymakers How to provide science advice to policymakers has been a longstanding topic of interest for many fields. The role of perceived bias in information source credibility appears across multiple disciplines, but is not theoretically well-defined, and its effects on source credibility and persuasiveness can appear inconsistent. Perceptions of bias can decrease or increase credibility, dependent on the judge. This study—comprised of interviews with congressional staffers on the use of scientific information—finds that perceptions of bias play a critical role in the way in which policymakers evaluate information sources, building on early research on bias and opinion change.

Rachel Murdock

They’re smart, but you can’t trust them: Using communication principles to help scientists to increase their trustworthiness in public communication situations Scientists struggle with creating positive public perceptions with public audiences. This is true despite the generally positive view members of the public hold for science and scientists, including the contributions of scientists to society. In fact, members of the public feel separated from scientists, stand in awe of scientists, and are intimidated by scientists (Jacobs, 2011). Rhetoricians can help, as they have been grappling with and refining ways of building trustworthiness, respect, credibility, and connection between speakers and their audiences for centuries, and the communication principles developed through their work are particularly applicable to the difficulties faced by scientists engaging public audiences.

Reyhaneh Maktoufi

Can the manipulation of warmth impact the public’s curiosity and attitude towards scientists? With the existing gap between scientists’ beliefs and the public’s, in particular on controversial scientific topics, the scientific community needs to gain the trust of the public and elicit their curiosity to foster engagement. In this presentation I am exploring the design of an experimental study. I will look at the effect of the use of pop culture references when scientist provide information to the public, on the participants’ perception of trust and trustworthiness of the scientist and their curiosity towards the scientist and the scientific topic. Pop culture references will be used as a strategy to build warmth.

Ryan N. Comfort & YaoJun Harry Yan

Trust in Stereotypes: Implicit and explicit attitudes towards Native American sources in science news Native American nations have recently increased efforts to train and hire their own scientists to address community issues ranging from healthcare to natural resources management. As these scientists are tapped by news media to comment on issues affecting their communities, questions arise about how media audiences process and respond to more diverse scientific sources. The current in-progress study examines whether implicit and explicit racial attitudes and stereotypes affect audience evaluations of trust, expertise, and credibility in science news featuring Native American sources.

Tom Duncanson

“The Uninhabitable Earth,” Higher Pessimism, and Proceeding Independent of Trust David Wallace-Wells’ 2017 New York Magazine article "The Uninhabitable Earth," a famously pessimistic review of the global warming consequences research, has attracted widespread praise and equally prolific criticism. Why does reading Wallace-Wells hinge on trusting him and his sources? Why for so many readers does the author fail to overcome their ambivalence and self-protective cynicism? Finally, how is it possible to proceed independent of trust in climate change action? The answer here is located in complexifying experiences of trust and authority around vanishing arenas of judgment and stupefying experiences of ignorance.

Sara B. Parks

Teaching Trust and Credibility in Science Communication Pedagogies How should an instructor of science communication approach the post-normal issues of ethos, credibility, trust, and expertise? This analysis draws from recently published science communication course descriptions and pedagogical publications that describe science communication courses. Science communication pedagogies from multiple disciplines were categorized for their approach to post-normal questions and public engagement. Examples range from no consideration to centering post-normal concerns. Ultimately, this analysis complicates our assumptions since it shows instructional design might matter more than disciplinary norms. This finding has practical implications for hiring, housing, and silo-breaking in the academy.

Allison Arp

Using values to communicate agricultural science: An Elaboration Likelihood Model approach This study looked at how preexisting values influence audience processing of scientific information focusing on the topic of GMOs and how that may affect the audience’s interpretation of the message regardless of the communicator’s credibility or trustworthiness. Research found that attitude accessibility, agricultural identity and in some cases a biospheric value orientation were the most important predictors for a number of constructs related to GMO attitudes. Agricultural identity did not correlate with other value orientations, yet was the strongest predictor of many related attitudes. These results support previous ELM research and emphasize the complex nature of science and persuasive communication.

Shelly Galliah

Using (or Abusing?) Celebrity and Consensus: The Problematic Methods of and Responses to John Oliver’s “Climate Change Debate” Employing John Oliver and Bill Nye’s “Statistically Representative Debate on Climate Change” (May 11, 2014) as a case study, this presentation addresses the potential and problems of satirical comedians and celebrities acting as science communicators. Arguably, YouTube functions as “a media archive, a social network” (Burgess and Green 5) and a public sphere (Habermas 1991) for “engaging in debate and exchanging opinions” (Thelwall 627). Because YouTube comments reveal criticisms of Oliver and Nye’s methods as well as concerns about their trustworthiness and right to speak for/about climate science, analyzing these comments might disclose ways to improve satirical climate change communication.

Abigail Bakke

National Health Websites on the Participatory Web: A Catalog of Credibility Strategies Though using e-health is a common patient practice, unregulated and inaccurate online medical content can pose real dangers. To effectively convey important, accurate public health messages, online health organizations must make their information stand out as trustworthy. To identify credibility strategies, I present a rhetorical analysis of Parkinson’s Disease content from two well-known, national health outreach websites: NIH.gov and WebMD. The results show the variety of strategies, from more traditional to more social, that these organizations are using to communicate their credibility, and how those strategies are (or should be) changing to adapt to the context of the participatory web.

Adam Wellstead

Overcoming Ambiguity and Mistrust in the Science-Policy Gap Scientists often worry that evidence is not used properly in the policy-making process. This is a mistrust by this community. Few studies describe how the policy process works or how to engage effectively to improve the use of scientific evidence. I focus more on addressing ambiguity, combining evidence and persuasion to help policymakers define and communicate policy problems. I address the role that credibility and trust play in policy process literature. A systematic bibliometric study will be undertaken examining the use of credibility and trust in key policy process theories.

Cristi C. Horton & Tarla Rai Peterson

A critical review of the complex interactions between trust and credibility associated with Conservation Science The credibility enjoyed by natural science and scientists during most of the 20th Century has been challenged in the 21st Century. Philosophers of science have noted waning trust in science as an appropriate foundation for socio-political decisions (Haack 2012). We propose a critical review of professional conservation literature that defines trust, explains its emergence, and acknowledges benefits and risks associated with trust. Second, we explore how trust and credibility interact to enhance or detract from scientific legitimacy. We offer suggestions for how conservation scientists could better negotiate trust and credibility when contributing scientific information to decisions regarding natural resource management.

Dara M. Wald, Kimberly A. Nelson, Ann Marie Gawel, & Haldre S. Rogers

The Role of Trust in Public Attitudes toward Invasive Species Management on Guam: A Case Study The island of Guam has experienced widespread species loss and ecosystem transformation due to invasive species, most notably, the brown treesnake (Boiga irregularis). Despite Guam’s long history with invasives and extensive efforts to eradicate them, we know little about public attitudes toward environmental policy on the island. Using focused group discussions, we explore public attitudes toward invasive species and environmental governance. Respondents were familiar with the common invasive species on Guam. They expressed support for management activities, interest in more effective and frequent management initiatives, and desire to participate directly in conservation actions. Participants also expressed frustration with government institutions and lack of confidence in managers’ ability to control invasive species. Perceptions of managers’ trustworthiness, communication with managers, and positive personal experiences with managers were related to positive attitudes about management and support for existing initiatives, indicating the important role of trust and engagement for invasive species management.

Shuyang Qu & Kathleen Hunt

Trust in Science When It Seems Contradicting: Exploring Future Science Communicators’ Evaluation of the Portrayal of Science in Documentaries about GMOs The scientists’ findings and opinions in the documentaries related to GMO topics were presented inconsistently. This study is designed to explore future science communicators articulate the seemingly contradicting scientific findings on documentaries about GMOs. Students enrolled in a Risk and Environmental Communication course were asked to complete a survey followed by focus group discussions. The survey was to determine participants’ agroscience identity. The focus group discussions were followed by watching each of the two documentaries, GMO OMG and Food Evolution. We expect the findings to provide implications for guiding future science communicators about trust in science and source credibility.

Kate McKiernan

Intrinsic and Extrinsic Ethos in Science Communication Online Some modern publics show a growing distrust of institutions and formal markers of expertise that have traditionally been effective means of extrinsic ethos. In this situation, rhetorical moves that build intrinsic ethos may be more effective as means of of building trust and credibility. Furthermore, online science communication can become rapidly separated from the author and from established sources of extrinsic ethos. Here, I consider the roles of extrinsic and intrinsic ethos in online science communication and strategies for science communicators to construct a more effective overall ethos online.

Dara M. Wald & Kathleen P. Hunt

Post-Trust, Not Post-Fact: The Role of Source Credibility in Communication about Climate Change and GMOs This study explores the role of source credibility in continued public concern over climate change and GM foods, suggesting that skepticism regarding agro-environmental issues is more likely driven by perceptions of sources’ credibility, than by stakeholders’ knowledge (or deficit) on the same topics. This study will use data from the GSS survey, a nationally representative household survey of English-speaking persons in the U.S., to explore the potential for source credibility to influence public willingness to consume GM food and climate change skepticism. This study also explores the potential for source credibility to moderate the relationship between political affiliation and public skepticism of agro-environmental issues.

Michael Dahlstrom

Finding Trust in the Genes: Regulation of Gene-Edited Foods Gene edited foods represent a new agricultural technology that will likely create controversy and pose major governance challenges because of the disruptive potential of the novel gene editing technologies, existing social controversy toward genetically modified foods, and the ad hoc nature of current biotech regulations. In this complex environment, GEFs will pose regulatory challenges, and governance will probably extend beyond traditional regulatory mechanisms to include voluntary standards, rules, and norms. However, it is unclear what combination of governance oversight will earn the trust of different publics and how they should be best involved in the creation of these regulations. This presentation represents the beginning steps of a funded project designed to explore these questions.

Mary Beth Deline & Kajsa Darlymple

Water and Risk Information Avoidance Recent research indicates that between 30-37% percent of the population actively undertakes risk information avoidance (RIA) strategies when confronted with health and risk topics. Therefore, understanding how to mitigate, prevent and address risk requires a better understanding of RIA. Unfortunately, the risk and science communication field has largely focused on one information behavior: the acquisition of information. This focus has resulted in a body of research that prioritizes risk information seeking. To develop this area of inquiry, we propose the development, testing and production of a scale of RIA intentions. Implications for SHER scientists and practitioners will be discussed.