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Submit a Manuscript to the Journal
Environmental Communication

For a Special Issue on
The Authority of Science in a Crisis Narrative. Scientific Expertise, Knowledge and Advocacy in Environmental Communication

Manuscript deadline
28 February 2023

Cover image - Environmental Communication

Special Issue Editor(s)

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Franzisca Weder, The University of Queensland, School of Communication and Arts
[email protected]

Dr. Sarah Kohler, Heinrich-Heine University Düsseldorf, Communication and Media Studies
[email protected]

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The Authority of Science in a Crisis Narrative. Scientific Expertise, Knowledge and Advocacy in Environmental Communication

Call for Papers: Environmental Communication Special Issue related to the pre-conference on the science of science communication:

The Authority of Science in a Crisis Narrative. Scientific Expertise, Knowledge and Advocacy in Environmental Communication

Editors: Dr. Franzisca Weder & Dr. Sarah Kohler

Submission deadline: Feb, 28, 2023

The beginning of the “Roaring 20s” of the new century is a time determined by global crises around climate change and biodiversity loss, migration and social inequalities – and a pandemic disease. By the same time, it is shaped by the advent of scientific and technological solutions to these problems (e.g. artificial intelligence, genetic modification, hydrogen). These processes of change emphasize the importance of science communication.

Science communication is highly relevant for decision-making in politics, environmental, cultural, and economic discourses and collaborations (Davis et al., 2018), the institutionalization of new social norms like sustainability (Weder et al., 2021) and social change processes among the general population (Fischhoff & Scheufele, 2013). Thus, the communication of and about science and technology and for environmental and social change includes new, digital and creative pathways to convey scientific knowledge, to foster public engagement, and to negotiate social implications of scientific research (Bucchi & Trench, 2021). In this context, the authority of science plays a crucial role (Bauer, Pansegrau, & Shukla, 2019). Deriving from this concept, scientific knowledge is assumed to be superior to other forms of knowledge (Weingart 2019, p. 22), and scientific experts and institutions are enlisted to provide solutions for wealth and health (Bauer et al. 2019, p. 14).   

As the pandemic has shown, the public has to deal with a novel situation. While it was still afflicted with scientific uncertainty, the diffusion of scientific claims and evidence to the public was necessary. The same is true for Environmental Communication, in which the prospect of an uncertain future is underlined with scientific facts and figures (e.g. limitation of the temperature increase). The complexity and the ambiguousness of scientific claims still have to be disseminated and explained to the public.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown how quick reactions and evidence-based decisions from Governments can create rapid change if there is the attention, awareness, knowledge and will to do so. Here, scientific experts and institutions, e.g. virologists, the WHO, CDC, emerged as key figures in public discourses related to the pandemic; they advocated for specific measures, have been referred to by journalists and governments, related institutions and other organizations. Through the past 2 years, scientific experts became science communicators and turned into “media stars” (Metcalfe, et al, 2021, p. 12) and (not always but mostly) trusted authorities in the field.

This raises the following question: if experts have advised for action on both global crises, the health and the environmental crisis, why have states taken extreme measures for COVID-19 but not the climate crisis? (van der Ven, 2021, pp. 13) Why are scientific experts and communicators visible in the media – and environmental communication still doesn’t have “a face”?

Environmental communication research published in this journal and elsewhere has begun to show the vital importance of investigating the authority of science in not only terms of information transfer, the reduction of complexity, education, raising awareness and behavior change, but also in terms of strategic communication. However, past research makes it clear that there is a tremendous amount of work yet to be done. Within and across the environmental communication literature, much more attention must be given to the diffusion of scientific knowledge and evidence as well as climate change experts, public intellectuals, journalists, strategic communicators (PR, Marketing, organizational communication) and campaigners at the nexus between science and society.

This special issue examines how the role of the authority of science in crisis narratives dramatically changed during the Covid-19-pandemic and what the learnings are for environmental and climate change communication in particular. Thus, with the special issue we aim to understand how “expertise” and "knowledge" is created and disseminated in science and environmental communication. We intend for learnings from COVID-19-communication to be better understood, defined and developed into novel frameworks, approaches and insights for improved environmental communication.

Potential submission topics include but are not limited to:

  • Scientific claims and evidence in environmental communication
  • Expertise in science and environmental communication
  • Authority & trust in science and environmental communication
  • Diffusion of scientific knowledge
  • Strategic environmental communication
  • Relationship between scientists, PR professionals and journalists
  • Responsibility, authorship and advocacy in science and environmental communication
  • New technologies bridging science and environmental communication
  • Climate change – a matter of science and/or environmental communication?
  • Science and environmental communication – disciplinary considerations…

Submission Instructions

We invite the following submission types: Longer original Research Articles (8,000 words) and shorter Research Insights (3,000 words) may draw on a variety of scholarly and practitioner perspectives and methods. Advanced Reviews (8,000 words) and shorter Commentaries (2-3,000 words) are also encouraged, emphasizing implications for research, praxis, current debates, and/or societal trends and decisions. All word limits include references and abstracts.

All manuscripts will undergo expedited peer review. Manuscripts must follow the APA Style (7th edition). To successfully pass peer review, all original research articles must present findings that are both theoretically informed and empirically sound; theory papers do not necessarily include empirical data. We welcome quantitative, qualitative, critical, and rhetorical scholarship. We encourage approaches such as case studies using interviews, ethnography, focus groups, textual analysis, critical discourse analysis, as well as surveys, experiments, quantitative content analysis, and meta-analysis of evaluative data. Regardless of method or approach, all articles should seek to bridge theory and practice, and should be written in a style that is broadly accessible to an interdisciplinary audience.

Submission Instructions

Please select "The Authority of Science in a Crisis Narrative. Scientific Expertise, Knowledge, and Advocacy in Environmental Communication” when submitting your paper to ScholarOne.

For queries, please contact Franzisca Weder ([email protected]) or Sarah Kohler ([email protected])

Instructions for AuthorsSubmit an Article

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