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Reading List for Course on "Science, the Environment and the Media" at American University

April 16, 2011, 4:14 PM

This semester, 22 undergraduate and graduate students from a diversity of majors at American University have participated in a new course that I created titled “Science, Environment and the Media.” 

Early in the semester, the students split into four project teams choosing to examine the communication and policy dimensions of a contemporary science or environmental debate.  After covering major themes and trends in the field, I tailored the second half of the course readings to each of the teams’ chosen issues.

Below I have pasted the assigned readings for the course with links to their online full text availability, abstract or book listing.  You can also watch below video of guest speaker events organized in conjunction with the course.

As they worked on their projects, which culminate with research-based policy relevant reports, members of each team have also been filing blog posts on their chosen topics.

Posts by students in the course:


Jan. 24  Introduction to Key Themes and Issues

  • Nisbet, M.C. & Scheufele, D.A. (2009). What's Next for Science Communication? Promising Directions and Lingering Distractions. American Journal of Botany, 96 (10), 1767-1778. (PDF).

Jan. 26 Special Class Event with Seth Mnookin author of The Panic Virus.

Watch highlight reel of event below.  [Read web story.]

Jan. 31 Communication and the Environmental Movement

  • Cox, R. (2006).  Environmental Communication and the Public Sphere.  Pp. 1-65.  Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. [Description]
  • Schellenberger, M. & Nordhaus, T. (2004).  The Death of Environmentalism:  Global Warming Politics in a Post-Environmental World.  The Breakthrough Institute.  [PDF]
  • Brulle, Robert J. and Jenkins, J. Craig.  2006.  Spinning our way to sustainability?  Organization and Environment 19:1  82-87. [PDF]

Feb. 7  Models for Planning and Evaluating Communication

  • Wynne, B. (2009).  Interview: Rationality and Ritual.  In Cayley, D. Ed, Ideas:  On the Nature of Science.  Frederickton, CA: Goose Lane. [Also listen to episode.]
  • Brossard, D., & Lewenstein, B. V. (2009). A Critical Appraisal of Models of Public Understanding of Science: Using Practice to Inform Theory. In L. Kahlor & P. Stout (Eds.), Communicating Science: New Agendas in Communication (pp. 11-39). New York: Routledge. [Description]
  • Trench, B. (2008).  Towards an Analytical Framework of Science Communication Models.  In B. Schiele et al (eds.), Science Communication in Social Contexts.  London: Springer.  [Abstract]
  • Sarewitz, D. (2010).  Not by Experts Alone.  Nature, August 2010 [HTML]
  • Maibach EW, Roser-Renouf C, Leiserowitz A (2008). Communication and Marketing as Climate Change Intervention Assets: A Public Health Perspective. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 35(5), 488-500. [HTML]

Feb. 14  Experts and their Organizations

  • Bocking, S. (2006).  Nature’s Experts:  Science, Politics, and the Environment.  New Jersey:  Rutgers University Press, pp 16-46 and pp. 106-134. [Description]
  • Guber, D. & Bosso, C. (2009).  Past the Tipping Point? Public Discourse and the Role of the Environmental Movement in a Post-Bush Era.  In Environmental Policy: New Directions for the 21st Century, 7th ed., Norman Vig and Michael Kraft, eds. CQ Press, 2009: 51-74. [Description]
  • Pielke, R.A. (2007). The Honest Broker: Making Sense of Science in Policy and Politics. New York: Cambridge University Press, pp 1-22 and pp 135-162. [Description]

Feb. 17. Special Class Event with Prof. Larry Engel, Eugenie Scott of the National Center for Science Education and Jay Labov of the National Academies.  Panel discussion of the PBS series The Human Spark and the debate over teaching evolution in schools.

Watch highlight reel of panel discussion below.  [Read a web story].

Feb. 21:  News Organizations and Journalists

  • Lewenstein, Bruce V. 1995. Science and the Media. In Handbook of Science and Technology Studies, edited by S. Jasanoff, G. E. Markle, J. G. Petersen and T. Pinch. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage. [Introduction]
  • Brumfiel, J. (2009). Supplanting the Old Media? Nature, 458, 274-277. [PDF]
  • Fahy, D. & Nisbet, M.C. (in press).  Science Journalists Online: Shifting Roles and Emerging Practices. Journalism: Theory, Practice, Criticism.

Feb. 28  The Framing of Stem Cell Research and Regenerative Medicine

  • Kolata, G. (2010). Glimpsing a Scientific Future as Fields Heat Up.  New York Times.
  • Wade, N. (2010). Rare Hits and Heaps of Misses to Pay For.  New York Times.
  • Blackman, S. (2009). Promises, Promises.  The Scientist.
  • Simon, A. F., & Jerit, J. (2007). Toward a theory relating political discourse, media, and public opinion.  Journal of Communication, 57(2), 254-271. [Abstract]     
  • Nisbet, M. C., Brossard, D., & Kroepsch, A. (2003). Framing Science: The Stem Cell Controversy in an Age of Press/Politics.  Harvard International Journal of Press/Politics, 8(2), 36-70. [PDF]
  • Caulfield, T., & Bubela, T. (2007). Why a Criminal Ban? Analyzing the Arguments Against Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer in the Canadian Parliamentary Debate. The American Journal of Bioethics, 7(2), 51-61.  [PDF]     

March 14  Public Opinion and Perceptions of Promise

  • Nisbet, M. C. (2004). Public Opinion about Stem Cell Research and Human Cloning. Public Opinion Quarterly, 68 (1), 131. [PDF]   
  • 2010 VCU Life Sciences Survey. [PDF]
  • Ho, S. S., Brossard, D., & Scheufele, D. A. (2008). Effects of Value Predispositions, Mass Media Use, and Knowledge on Public Attitudes Toward Embryonic Stem Cell Research. International Journal of Public Opinion Research. [Abstract]
  • Review “Perceptions of Promise” web site and art exhibit.
  • Read Eighteen Bridges magazine article on exhibit, go to page 41
  • Kirby, D.A. (2008). Cinematic Science: The Public Communication of Science and Technology in Popular Film," in Handbook of Public Communication of Science and Technology , B. Trench and M. Bucchi (eds), New York: Routledge. [Description]

March 28 Climate Change: Values and Perceptions

  • Hulme, M. (2010). Why We Disagree About Climate Change.  London: Cambridge University Press, pp 143-247.  [Description]

April 11 The Food Biotechnology Debate

  • Nisbet, M.C. & Huge, M. (2007).  Where Do Science Policy Debates Come From? In D. Brossard, J. Shanahan, & C. Nesbitt (Eds.) The Public, the Media, and Agricultural Biotechnology (pp 193-230). New York: CABI/Oxford University Press. [Abstract]
  • Bittman, M. (2010).  Why Aren’t GM Foods Labeled?  New York Times.com
  • Hallman, W.K. (2009).  GM Foods in Hindsight.  In E. Einsiedel (Eds), Emerging Technologies: From Hindsight to Foresight.  Vancouver, CA: UBC Press. [Description]
  • Kanter, J. (2010).  Europe’s New Approach to Genetically Modified Food. New York Times.
  • Watch 6 minute segment from NOVA/Frontline special on GM food, focusing on genetic salmon.
  • Pollack, M. (2010).  Genetically Altered Salmon Set to Move Closer to Your Table.  New York Times.
  • Marden et al (2009).  Transgenic Salmon: Regulatory Oversight of an Anticipated Technology.  In E. Einsiedel (Eds), Emerging Technologies: From Hindsight to Foresight.  Vancouver, CA: UBC Press.  [Description]

April 18 Framing, Obesity, and Organics

  • Lawrence, R. G. (2004). Framing Obesity: The Evolution of News Discourse on a Public Health Issue. International Journal of Press/Politics, 9, 56-75. [PDF]
  • Darmon, K., Fitzpatrick, K., & Bronstein, C. (2008). Krafting the obesity message: A case study in framing and issues management. Public Relations Review, 34(4), 373-379. [Abstract]
  • Palmer, E. L., & Carpenter, C. F. (2006). Food and Beverage Marketing to Children and Youth: Trends and Issues. Media Psychology, 8(2), 165-190.  [HTML]    
  • Hughner, R. S., McDonagh, P., Prothero, A., Shultz, I., Clifford, J., & Stanton, J. (2007). Who are Organic Food Consumers? A Compilation and Review of Why People Purchase Organic Food. Journal of Consumer Behaviour, 6(2 3), 94-110. [PDF]   
  • Pollan, M. (2008).  Open Letter to the Next Farmer in Chief.  New York Times Magazine.
  • Martin (2010).  Budgets Squeezed, Some Families Bypass Organics.  New York Times. 



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