In 2014, the Annenberg Public Policy Center opened an area of study in the Science of Science Communication, to investigate how scientific evidence can be more effectively conveyed to the public. This research looks at the failure to dispel public controversy over such issues as climate change, vaccinations, and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) despite the presence of valid, compelling and widely accessible scientific evidence. “There’s a persistent gap between expert knowledge of scientific issues and public perception on myriad issues,” APPC director Kathleen Hall Jamieson said. “Through empirical testing, we will examine ways to close this gap and separate the issues in communicating science from the evidence that is being presented.” This research builds on past APPC projects such as the dissemination of media guidelines for suicide coverage, and the Annenberg Health Communication wiki, a site to help professional health communicators make better use of state-of-the-art social science. Current projects include the Annenberg Science Knowledge survey on issues of importance such as Zika virus, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and vaccination, and the Science Media Monitor, which analyzes news coverage of science to increase public understanding of the scientific process.
Concerns over infecting others play a greater role in people’s willingness to be vaccinated in sparsely populated areas, according research from APPC and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.