Publication on communicating science issues wins ‘Article of the Year’ award

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A publication by two Penn State faculty members and an alumna of the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications was recognized as the “Article of the Year” by Communicating Science, Health, Environment and Risk (ComSHER), a division of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.

The article, written by associate professors of advertising-public relations Lee Ahern and Colleen Connolly-Ahern, and Jennifer Hoewe, assistant professor at the University of Alabama, demonstrated how political framing can affect attitudes toward science issues.

"It's a real honor to be recognized alongside the past winners and runners up for this award, who are among the best science communications scholars in the academy,” Ahern said. "Being recognized in a non-blind review process is a very nice affirmation that some of the top people in the discipline know and respect your work."

The article, titled “Worldviews, Issue Knowledge and the Pollution of a Local Science Information Environment,” was published in Science Communication. The study set out to examine how political frames might impact attitudes toward a local environmental science issue (storm water runoff problems).

Results supported the notion that combining social and political factors affected how much people support pro-environmental science policy solutions for a local issue. Extending past research, they found issue knowledge, political orientation and message factors combine in consistent but somewhat unexpected ways in their impact on audience attitudes.

ComSHER describes its annual award as recognizing “top work in the field.” The division focuses on communication scholarship geared toward science communication.

Ahern said the paper was “a result of a lot of the things we're trying to build and promote in the Science Communication Program."

Ahern, who directs the Science Communication Program at the Bellisario College, said the recognition aligns with the goals of his program, which launched this year and is focused on building multi-disciplinary collaborations and improving the effectiveness of communicating science issues. Ahern is a senior research fellow in the Arthur W. Page Center for Integrity in Public Communication, also housed in the Bellisario College. Ahern's area of expertise, and primary contribution to grant-funded research, includes evaluation, measurement, analysis and interpretation of science communications campaigns. He teaches introduction to advertising, digital advertising, and search marketing, as well as graduate seminars on strategic communications measurement and the science of science communication.

Connolly-Ahern’s research interests include international political advertising and health communications, as well as issues of culture, framing and media access in strategic communications. She is also a senior research fellow in the Page Center and teaches a wide range of undergraduate advertising and public relations classes, and serves as the course co-coordinator for COMM 420 Advertising and Public Relations Research. She also teaches graduate seminars (COMM 511 Qualitative Research Methods and COMM 597 International and Intercultural Strategic Communications). 

Hoewe earned her doctorate in mass communications from the University in 2015. 

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Last Updated July 19, 2017