Nuclear engineers have to be communicators; the very name of our field invites curiosity and questioning. Yet many, maybe most, nuclear engineering students get no formal training in communicating science to the public, let alone a deep dive into the field that studies the science of communicating science.
After a few requests, I decided to put together a short introductory list of journal articles for people interested in risk communication. This is barely enough to get your feet wet, but these papers cover topics from how and why people perceive risks to the values that influence whether people feel positively or negatively about nuclear power.
Disclaimer, I have not yet gotten to conduct significant academic research in the field of science communication (yet), but I have been learning from experts, taking graduate-level college courses, and most of all, reading the scientific literature for years now.
This is a living list. First published: June 8, 2020. Last updated: May 20, 2021
Publicly available articles: Read these first
Perception of Risk
Slovic, P. (1987). Perception of Risk. Science, 236(4799), 280–285. https://science.sciencemag.org/content/236/4799/280/tab-pdf.
The Future of Nuclear Power: Value Orientations and Risk Perception
Whitfield, S. C., Rosa, E. A., Dan, A., & Dietz, T. (2009). The Future of Nuclear Power: Value Orientations and Risk Perception. Risk Analysis, 29(3), 425–437. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1539-6924.2008.01155.x
How Safe is Safe Enough? A Psychometric Study of Attitudes Towards Technological Risks and Benefits
Fischhoff, B., Slovic, P., Lichtenstein, S., Read, S., & Combs, B. (1978). How Safe is Safe Enough? A Psychometric Study of Attitudes Towards Technological Risks and Benefits. Policy Sciences, 9, 127–152. Available here
Seven Cardinal Rules of Risk Communication
Covello, V., & Allen, F. (1998). Seven Cardinal Rules of Risk Communication. US Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Policy Analysis. Available from the EPA
Devoured those, looking for more? Let’s go deeper…
I am not advocating going to Sci-Hub to get these papers, but you can find them there ;)
Science Literacy or Value Predisposition? A Meta-Analysis of Factors Predicting Public Perceptions of Benefits, Risks, and Acceptance of Nuclear Energy
Ho, S. S., Leong, A. D., Looi, J., Chen, L., Pang, N., & Jr, E. T. (2019). Science Literacy or Value Predisposition? A Meta-Analysis of Factors Predicting Public Perceptions of Benefits, Risks, and Acceptance of Nuclear Energy. Environmental Communication, 13(4), 457–471. https://doi.org/10.1080/17524032.2017.1394891
Understanding the nuclear controversy: An application of cultural theory (not open access, available through Sci-Hub)
van de Graaff, S. (2016). Understanding the nuclear controversy: An application of cultural theory. Energy Policy, 97, 50–59. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.enpol.2016.07.007
“I can live with nuclear energy if…”: Exploring public perceptions of nuclear energy in Singapore (not open access, available through Sci-Hub)
Ho, S. S., Looi, J., Chuah, A. S. F., Leong, A. D., & Pang, N. (2018). “I can live with nuclear energy if…”: Exploring public perceptions of nuclear energy in Singapore. Energy Policy, 120, 436–447. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.enpol.2018.05.060
Risk, communication and trust: Towards an emotional understanding of trust
Engdahl, E., & Lidskog, R. (2012). Risk, communication and trust: Towards an emotional understanding of trust - Emma Engdahl, Rolf Lidskog, 2014. Public Understanding of Science. http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0963662512460953
What Do Lay People Want to Know About the Disposal of Nuclear Waste? A Mental Model Approach to the Design and Development of an Online Risk Communication (not open access, available through ResearchGate or Sci-Hub)
Skarlatidou, A., Cheng, T., & Haklay, M. (2012). What Do Lay People Want to Know About the Disposal of Nuclear Waste? A Mental Model Approach to the Design and Development of an Online Risk Communication. Risk Analysis, 32(9), 1496–1511. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1539-6924.2011.01773.x. ResearchGate link
Books or book chapters
Social Theories of Risk
Available from Amazon
Two chapters of particular interest are by Rayner, Cultural Theory and Risk Analysis, and by Renn, Concepts of Risk: A Classification.
I want to specifically thank Professor Dominique Brossard in the department of Life Sciences Communication and Professor Vicki Bier in Industrial & Systems Engineering for being the ones to assign most of (potentially all?) of these readings to me and for teaching me so much.
If you have any thoughts or would like to add articles to miy list (it’s far from a comprehensive source, but I always welcome new additions that may be of interest to engineers without formal social science training), you can either Contact Me, or open an issue on the GitHub repo for this website