Affiliate Spotlight: Dr. Abel Gustafson

Abel Gustafson

This week, we highlight the work of our newest Faculty Affiliate with the Center for Public Engagement with ScienceDr. Abel Gustafson, Assistant Professor in the UC Department of Communication.  

Dr. Gustafson studies public opinion and strategic communication in science and environmental issues. Using surveys and communication experiments, he assesses how various demographic and political groups think about and respond to these issues. For example, his research has identified how political polarization develops on environmental issues, and how the public reacts to portrayals of uncertainty in science.  His findings help develop more effective strategies for communicating science to the public  

Dr. Gustafson became interested in science and environmental communication as a graduate student. At the time, he was studying theories of persuasion and social influence. However, he wanted his research to make a positive impact on society. This led him to study persuasive communication related to climate change and other environmental issues. 

Dr. Gustafson has collaborated with a wide range of scholars (from political scientists to geographers and literary scholars) and a wide range of organizations (from nonprofit advocacy groups to media companies). A primary goal of his work is to help these different groups improve the way that they communicate about science issues to the public.

A key player in public science communication is the news media. In a forthcoming report, Dr. Gustafson and his colleagues at Yale and George Mason Universities use public opinion data to show that many Americans want the news media to do more to address the issue of climate change. Dr. Gustafson says this study is particularly important, because many people get their information about science and environmental issues from the news. If news organizations are made aware that their audience wants more and better information about important issues like climate change, this may lead to increased news coverage, which can in turn have large impacts on public support for climate action.

Dr. Gustafson noted that the current COVID-19 pandemic is a fascinating example of the oftentimes fraught and polarized relationship between science and the public. Currently, opinions about the dangers of pandemic and participation in recommended preventative actions show a sharp divide along party lines. Dr. Gustafson noted that this is a clear example of the need for clear, effective science communication from trusted experts. In a study conducted earlier this spring, Dr. Gustafson and his colleagues found that the CDC’s official recommendation to wear masks resulted in an immediate and dramatic increase in mask-wearing behavior.

You can read more about Dr. Gustafson’s publications and work here

Potochnik took part in Climate Interpreter Workshop

Back in January Center Director Angela Potochnik took part in a Beginner’s Workshop from the National Network for Ocean and Climate Change Interpretation (NNOCCI). NNOCCI, working across 38 different states, is committed to spreading the word about climate change and training others to do the same. This eight-hour workshop was put on by folks from the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden and took place at the Cincinnati Museum Center. NNOCCI describes this training as a way to “get grounded in the way Americans think about climate change and introduced to the communications tools at your disposal.” This collaboration between different Center affiliates and community partners is just one more way of connecting to the public and engaging them in climate science!

Nancy Tuana interviewed about climate change and social justice

In this Humanities Unbound episode of the Taft Research Center at the University of Cincinnati, Nancy Tuana (Penn State) speaks with Taft Center Director Amy Lind about how climate change affects women and men differently and other topics about climate change and social justice. You can listen to the episode here (link); the Humanities Unbound series is also available on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.

This episode was recorded when Tuana visited Cincinnati this fall for CLIMATE CHANGE/CINCINNATI, an event series the UC Center for Public Engagement with Science put on with the Mercantile Library. See here (link) for a writeup about this series in CityBeat.

Tonight! Climate Change and Cincinnati Life

Audience from the second event of the CLIMATE CHANGE/CINCINNATI series, which focused on the social justice implications of climate change.

The third and final event of the CLIMATE CHANGE/CINCINNATI series at the Mercantile Library in downtown Cincinnati is tonight. The series is cosponsored by our Center and the Taft Research Center, also at UC. This event, Climate Change and Cincinnati Life, is a panel discussion with local experts on sustainability steps being taken by local government and other entities, how local farming is impacted by climate change and can contribute to sustainability, and energy use and changes in our region.

Chris Anderson has written a really nice discussion of the Climate Change/Cincinnati series. Read the full article here (link).

Nancy Tuana addresses climate change and social justice in Cincinnati

Nancy Tuana, Dupont/Class of 1948 Professor of Philosophy and Women’s Studies at Penn State, addressed a full house at the Mercantile Library in downtown Cincinnati. She discussed the formidable social justice implications of climate change, worldwide and locally here in Cincinnati. This was the second of three events in the series CLIMATE CHANGE/CINCINNATI.

Climate Change and Social Justice

The second event of the CLIMATE CHANGE/CINCINNATI series the Center has organized with the Mercantile Library is tomorrow, September 12! Nancy Tuana, Professor of Philosophy and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Penn State, will address the relationship between climate change and social justice, showcasing the importance of the humanities to addressing scientific topics.

Learn more about the CLIMATE CHANGE/CINCINNATI series here. All three events in the series are full, so the Mercantile Library is no longer accepting reservations for Tuana’s talk. But you can still catch Tuana’s talk at UC on Friday, September 13. Details below.

Understanding Climate Change

Taking place Thursday, August 29, in the beautiful Mercantile Library in downtown Cincinnati

Click here to see UC News coverage of the series.

The first event in the Climate Change/Cincinnati series at the Mercantile Library is this Thursday! This panel discussion, Understanding Climate Change, features Professor Brooke Crowley (Anthro & Geo), Professor Carlie Trott (Community Psych), and Cincinnati Museum Center Curator Brenda Hunda.

This free event is now full with 300 reservations; make your reservation online here for the second or third event (Climate Change and Social Justice; Climate Change and Cincinnati Life), as those events are also almost full.

This series is a collaborative project with the UC Center for Public Engagement with Science, the Mercantile Library, and UC’s Taft Research Center.