A Socioenvironmental Shale Gas Controversy: Scientists’ Public Communications, Social Responsibility and Collective Versus Individual Positions

Gregoire Molinatti, Lionel Simonneau

In this case study, we analyze the discourse, practices and representations of a group of scientists who issued public statements about the French shale gas controversy. The reasons they gave for engaging in this process of communication focused on their social responsibility, their collective ad hoc expertise and the neutrality of their position. We also investigated how these scientists actually produced their communications, despite the tensions between individual and collective positions. We discuss how this experience led them to reflect both individually and collectively on their representations of science in society.



Can media monitoring be a proxy for public opinion about technoscientific controversies? The case of the Italian public debate on nuclear power

Federico Neresini, Andrea Lorenzet

Is it possible to infer information about public opinion by looking at how the media discuss controversial technoscientific public issues? We conduct content analysis on media coverage of nuclear power in Italy in the years 1992–2012 and compare it with longitudinal public opinion surveys. By treating a large amount of textual data and applying an innovative methodology based on indicators of the presence of ‘risky terms’, that is, keywords referring to the issue of risk and danger, very high correlation has been found between media discourse on risk and opposition within public opinion. The analysis is conducted testing as a preliminary step Mazur’s hypothesis on quantity of coverage and opposition towards controversial technoscience. Then, risk content measures are used in order to gain stronger correlations between media and public attitudes towards nuclear power.


A Diffusion of Innovations Approach to Understand Stakeholder Perceptions of Renewable Energy Initiatives

Kami J. Silk, Allison Hurley, Kristin Pace, Erin K. Maloney, Maria Lapinski

This study uses diffusion of innovations (DOI) as a framework for formative research to understand different stakeholders’ perceptions of renewable energy initiatives (i.e., wind, solar, and biomass). Focus groups (N =12) were conducted with several different stakeholders in Michigan: farmers (n = 17), rural residents (n = 20), urban residents (n = 30), citizen activists/environmentalists (n = 13), and individuals who live in tourist-based economies (n = 7). Data were analyzed based on DOI constructs. Results suggest that farmers would be considered early adopters, while urban residents would fall in the late majority. Overall, stakeholder groups perceived renewable energy to be relatively advantageous and compatible with their values.


Assessing the quality of a deliberative democracy mini-public event about advanced biofuel production and development in Canada

Holly Longstaff, David M Secko

The importance of evaluating deliberative public engagement events is well recognized, but such activities are rarely conducted for a variety of theoretical, political and practical reasons. In this article, we provide an assessment of the criteria presented in the 2008 National Research Council report on Public Participation in Environmental Assessment and Decision Making (NRC report) as explicit indicators of quality for the 2012 ‘Advanced Biofuels’ deliberative democracy event. The National Research Council’s criteria were selected to evaluate this event because they are decision oriented, are the products of an exhaustive review of similar past events, are intended specifically for environmental processes and encompass many of the criteria presented in other evaluation frameworks. It is our hope that the results of our study may encourage others to employ and assess the National Research Council’s criteria as a generalizable benchmark that may justifiably be used in forthcoming deliberative events exploring different topics with different audiences.