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Murrow Science Communication Research Group The Edward R. Murrow College of Communication

-Recent grants and fellowship for Boyd

Amanda Boyd is the recipient of a 2016 Arctic-FROST fellowship. As part of this award she was invited to present her recent research on environmental health risk communication at the annual Arctic-FROST meeting in Vienna, Austria.


She has also partnered with collaborators on two new studies on communicating about contaminants, both funded by the Northern Contaminants Program of Canada. Boyd is working with partners at Laval University, University of Hawaii and Trent University to evaluate what the Inuit populations in Nunavik (an Arctic region of Canada) know and would like to know in regards to health messaging and dietary recommendations related to mercury exposure during pregnancy.


A second study involves assessing First Nation’s risk perceptions and awareness of current messages related to contaminants in traditional foods. Working with partners at Trent University and University of Waterloo, this research will inform project communication plans in the Northwest Territories and provide baseline data to evaluate the impact of public health messages over time.

– Hmielowski paper in Journal of Communication and Religion

Jay Hmielowski recently had a paper published in the Journal of Communication and Religion. The paper looks at whether hearing about environmental issues at religious functions is associated to concerns about the environment, and whether those concerns are related to environmental behaviors (e.g., talking about environmental issues, recycling). You can read more about this paper on his ResearchGate profile

-WSU Faculty at AEJMC

Murrow faculty and graduate students were well represented at this year’s annual conference for the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication. Indeed, Murrow faculty and graduate students made 33 research presentations during the conference. Of these presentations, 11 of them were student papers that did not include a Murrow faculty as an author. Murrow faculty and graduate students also racked up a total of 6 awards that included a second place student paper, a third place faculty paper, and top presentation awards. Science communication faculty members led a number of these presentations.

-Dixon Receives Seed Grant

Graham Dixon recently received a faculty seed grant from WSU. His project intends to look at whether combining message elements (i.e., consensus information and proposed solutions to climate change) increases people’s willingness to take action on the issue of climate change. He’s also examining whether tailoring these messages to specific groups (e.g., conservatives) increases the effectiveness of these messages.

-Recent publican and grant for Amanda Boyd

Amanda Boyd recently had a paper accepted to The Journal of Rural and Community Development. She also secured a grant through the WSU Energy Systems Innovation Center. Below are descriptions of her recently accepted paper and grant.


Boyd, A.D. and Paveglio, T. B. (2015). “Placing” Energy Development in a Local Context: Exploring the Origins of Rural Community Perspectives. The Journal of Rural and Community Development. 10(2): 1-20.

Abstract: There is a growing need for sustainable energy development to meet domestic and international demand for electricity and fuel generation. A critical component in energy systems development is support from the public, particularly the acceptance of these technologies among local populations. The goal of this study is to examine how locally affected populations view energy developments, especially with regard to community and place (ties to the area and local relationships). In-depth, face-to-face interviews and community observation were employed to better understand how residents in a rural Canadian community perceive of potential energy development in their locale. Our findings demonstrate that the unique combinations of local characteristics across rural communities are likely to have a bearing on the support for or opposition to energy development in those areas. Residents’ perceptions of energy systems are influenced by the intersection of local values, community relationships and place attachment. We present a framework of the intersecting factors that influenced community perceptions in the study location and discuss how the framework can be used to better anticipate and understand the origins of rural community perspectives of energy development.

Grant: Public Perceptions of Renewable Energy and Smart Grid Technologies (PIs Amanda Boyd, The Edward R. Murrow College of Communication and Ali Mehrizi-Sani, School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences). WSU Energy Systems Innovation Center, $10,000, 7/1/2015–5/31/2016

The objective of this research is to examine perceptions of smart grid technology. Understanding perceptions of smart grid technology will enable us to determine: (1) if a particular technology is likely to be opposed or supported; (2) how this can influence the design of the technology; (3) the communication strategies needed to provide more effective and targeted messaging to local residents. Furthermore, we will examine how public perceptions of these technologies can factor into policy development around smart grid technology.

-Dixon Paper in Journal of Communication

Graham Dixon (and co-authors) recently published a paper in the Journal of Communication exploring the complicated nature of correcting scientific misinformation. He and his colleagues found that exposure to conflicting information about a scientific issue, such as whether vaccines cause autism, can increase scientific misperceptions. The researchers then investigated whether including “weight-of-evidence” information (i.e., stating that only one view is supported by evidence and a scientific consensus) along with the conflicting information helped reduce the misperception effect. Including weight-of-evidence information fostered more accurate beliefs about an autism-vaccine link, but only for people with favorable pre-existing scientific views. However, this conditional effect disappeared when visual exemplars accompanied weight-of-evidence information, suggesting that visual depictions of a scientific consensus could be an important tool for science communication.


Dixon, G., McKeever, B., Holton, A., Clarke, C., & Eosco, G. (2015).The power of a picture: Overcoming scientific misinformation by communicating weight of evidence information with visual exemplars. Journal of Communication, doi: 10.1111/jcom.12159



Although most experts agree that vaccines do not cause autism, a considerable portion of the American public believes in a link. In an experiment (N = 371), we identified journalistic balance as a source of misperception about this issue and examined ways to attenuate misperceptions. In particular, by including weight-of-evidence information (i.e., stating that only one view is supported by evidence and a scientific consensus), we explored whether an article can present conflicting views without causing misperceptions. Including weight-of-evidence information fostered more accurate beliefs about an autism–vaccine link, but only for people with favorable pre-existing scientific views. However, this conditional effect disappeared when visual exemplars accompanied weight-of-evidence information. The findings of this study have both theoretical and practical implications for science communication.

– Boyd Article in Energy Research and Social Science

Amanda Boyd (and co-authors) recently had a paper published in the journal Energy Research & Social Science. The article examines the following: 1. Community responses to new energy development in Canada, 2. three questions communities are asking about the governance of new energy projects, 3. how a lack of effective governance is eroding public trust, and 4. the need for innovations in governance that will engage rather than marginalize communities. Below you will find the citation information for the article and the abstract.

Shaw, K., Hill, S. D., Boyd, A. D., Monk, L., & Einsiedel, E. F. (2015). Conflicted or constructive? Exploring community responses to new energy developments in Canada. Energy Research & Social Science, 8, 41-51.


A large-scale transition to low-carbon energy sources is necessary to mitigate climate change. In practice, however, when new energy projects are proposed in specific places and regions, their proponents often face public resistance. This paper is a synthesis of a multi-investigator study of community responses to new energy developments in four Canadian provinces. We identify three questions that communities are asking about the governance of these projects: (1) Are the decision-making and regulatory processes open, rigorous, and accountable? (2) Have local people been meaningfully engaged? (3) Are the costs and benefits fairly distributed? Overall, we argue that public resistance is often a legitimate response stemming from inadequate governance of energy development. Specifically, and partly because of the changing role of government in policy-making and regulation, local communities lose trust that governance reflects and will protect their social and ecological values. We conclude that innovation in community engagement is needed, particularly in the context of rapid institutional change and governments that might be unable or unwilling to oversee inclusive decision-making processes.

– Norton & Grecu Book Chapter

Todd Norton and recent Murrow PhD grad Natalie Grecu recently had a book chapter come out in the Routledge Handbook of Environmental Communication. Their chapter attempts to (1) discuss conceptual aspects and types of environmental communication campaigns, (2) outline select methods for public segmentation processes, and (3) punctuate what we see as four especially fruitful ‘frontiers’ of campaigns research and practice. Here’ the full citation information:

Norton, T., & Grecu, N. (2015). Publics, communication campaigns, and persuasive communication. In A. Hansen & R. Cox (Eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Environment and Communication (Vol. 1, pp. 354-367). New York: Routledge.

– Norton CEREO seminar

On April 1st Todd Norton and two Murrow College graduate students will be running a university sponsored seminar titled “Water and People: A Challenging Environment for Change.”  The event is is sponsored by Washington State University’s Center for Environmental Research, Education and Outreach (CEREO). Todd will be joined by Kakali Chakrabarti (PhD student) and Brian Anderson (MA student).

Here’s a brief description of the seminar:

Human relationship with water is in no way a new area of study. However, the human relationship with water is becoming at once more critical and complex as water supplies diminish and are degraded throughout the world. Together our research team hopes to better understand the complicated role various aspects of human existence have on our relationship with water and how those dynamics press upon us to cultivate or stall change at the individual and collective levels. Human dynamics including psychological, personal, social, cultural, and political all impact both human knowledge and perceptions about water and the likelihood of change in response to information about water contaminants. Our objective in this presentation is to summarize many—not all!—of these human dynamics and their role vis-à-vis human behavior change with regard to contaminants.