Date of Award

5-2014

Level of Access

Campus-Only Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Communication

Advisor

Laura Lindenfeld

Second Committee Member

Linda Silka

Third Committee Member

Kathleen Bell

Abstract

This research project is primarily grounded in a sustainability science perspective, with a focus on producing actionable science that will be of use in both the place-based location of the study, Maine, as well as in the larger scientific and political community. This research most broadly focuses on the relationships between science, policy, and media, as they all serve as spaces for knowledge production, information sharing, and decision-making. Researchers have long noted the gap between the institutions of policy and science across a wide range of geographical boundaries and contexts, noting different demands, timelines, and purposes for each. However, pushing for evidence-informed decision-making is particularly important to the field of sustainability science, which focuses on shifting the production of scientific knowledge away from the "ivory tower" and moving it toward decision-makers and others who may use the information.

To outline how science, policy, and media conflict, overlap, and influence one another, I use three distinct yet complementary studies to understand different facets of the complex science/policy/media relationship. In Chapter 1,I focus broadly on the relationship between science being produced at the University of Maine and how policymakers at the state level perceive that research. In Chapter 2,I use alternative energy research taking place at the University of Maine as a case study to more fully understand how media portrayals of scientific advancement are related to political regulation. I utilize a quantitative analysis on media messages to understand if different levels of media coverage about alternative energy are associated with bill introduction to the state legislature. As a final dimension to the research, in Chapter 3 I move to a conceptual analysis of how communication research can work to enhance sustainability science, outlining how media studies can be integrated into transdisciplinary research projects. These three approaches provide a better understanding of barriers between these different arenas, how communication and decision making influence one another, and what action can be taken to facilitate change in an effort to become more sustainable.

Share