Forget the Cubs’ win … ComSHER is back in town

by Anthony Dudo, Division Head

Chicago and the annual AEJMC conference go together like peanut butter and jelly. So how very fitting that we’ll be celebrating our organization’s 100th annual conference on the banks of Lake Michigan! What’s more, judging by the looks of this year’s phenomenal program, us ComSHER folks will be in a festive mood.

Our Teaching and PF&R chairs have engineered some truly engaging and timely panels that I hope you all will be able to attend. Our secretary has arranged what promises to be a magnificent field trip to Chicago’s famed Adler Planetarium. And, as has become the norm, our research program is poised to showcase research that is innovative and in line with this year’s conference theme: enhancing links between communication research and communication practice. Please mark your calendar now for our top paper session, which will be held on Friday, Aug. 11 from 5:15 to 6:45 p.m.

Please also note that the ComSHER business meeting will be held immediately after the top paper session on Friday, Aug. 11 from 7 to 8:30 p.m.  This meeting is when we will recognize our many award winners, including the Top Faculty Paper, Eason Prize for best student paper, Article of the Year, and Top Poster Award. Approval of the minutes from last year’s meeting will also be an order of business, so please review the them beforehand here:

For those of you who haven’t attended our business meeting yet, it’s the place to be if you want to have a voice in the future of our division. It also provides an exceptional opportunity for newer members to meet other “SHER” scholars who may share similar interests. And, to help bolster these networking opportunities, we will hold the always-popular ComSHER social immediately following the business meeting. Join us at 8:30 p.m. in the Rush Bar & Lounge in the Marriott Chicago Downtown.

For those interested in leadership, the process according to our bylaws is as follows. For elected leadership—Head, Vice Head, Vice Head-Elect, and Research Chair—nominations must be submitted to me ( ) via email 48 hours before the business meeting. In order to qualify for any of the elected leadership positions, a member must have served as an officer at any level for a minimum of one year and reviewed papers for at least two years. The bylaws also make clear that a stable succession of leadership from Research Chair to Vice Head-Elect to Vice Head to Head is highly desirable. This succession order should only vary if someone is unable or unwilling to continue in the leadership progression.

For appointed positions in leadership—Professional Freedom and Responsibility Chair, Teaching Chair, Secretary, Newsletter Chair, Social Media Chair, Website Chair, Membership Chair, Grad Student Liaison—up to two people can be appointed to each of these positions to facilitate transitions to new chairs and involve more people in division activities. Graduate students may only serve in the capacity of Grad Student Liaison, Secretary, Newsletter Chair, Website Chair, and Social Media Chair. Although all division members are eligible and can indicate interest for these positions, preference will be given to members with a history of involvement with and service to the division, most importantly work in other appointed division positions, reviewing conference papers, panel organization/participation and attendance/involvement at division panels, events, and meetings.

Enjoy reading through the rest of our summer 2017 newsletter. This marks my last newsletter post as the head of ComSHER. I was first introduced to our division in 2005, when it was still an “interest group” with a different name. My how we have grown. I’ve been a part of the ComSHER leadership team for the last seven years and it’s been wonderful watching our membership and accomplishments expand so rapidly. We continue to exhibit some of the top metrics among AEJMC divisions, while balancing that productivity with our trademark friendly vibe. I look forward to seeing you all in August. And I look forward to our division’s future in the hands of its exceptional leaders and members.

Another Banner Year for ComSHER Submissions

by Rachel Young, Research Chair

This year ComSHER received 124 research paper submissions, on par with the 129 received in 2016. By adding an additional paper session and poster session, we were able to accept 70 papers. We had a particularly strong year for student submissions, with 34 student-only papers, 17 of which were accepted.

Many thanks to the 104 reviewers who read and ranked the submissions. Each paper received three reviews, with the highest scores winning top paper honors. ComSHER Chair Anthony Dudo will moderate the top paper panel from 5:15 to 6:45 p.m. on Friday. This year, our top papers span the domains of health, environment, and risk:

First Place Faculty Paper
Risk as Anxiety in Mental Illness: Negative Emotions, Coping Responses, and Campaign Engagement Intention
Jiyoung Lee and Hua Jiang, Syracuse

Second Place Faculty Paper
Exploring the Effects of Character and Cued Typicality in Health Narratives
Jiangxue (Ashley) Han and Shanshan Lou, Appalachian State University

Third Place Faculty Paper
Promoting Multivitamins to College Women: An Examination of Source, Message, and Audience Characteristics
Jennifer Ball, Temple University, Allison Lazard, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Michael Mackert, University of Texas

Fourth Place Faculty Paper
Communicating the Flood: The Role of Communication During Extreme Weather Events in Shaping Climate Change Engagement
Ashley Anderson, Colorado State University

Eason Prize Winner/Top Student Paper
Do Narratives Attenuate Message Resistance? A Meta-Analysis
Chelsea Ratcliff, University of Utah

Twenty more papers will be presented in paper sessions on risk communication during outbreaks and health misinformation online (Wednesday), climate communication (Thursday), and health campaigns (Saturday). Forty-five papers will be presented as posters at scholar-to-scholar sessions at 5 pm on Thursday and 12:15 p.m. on Friday. We’re looking forward to lots of great discussions in Chicago. Thanks again to the reviewers who make this massive undertaking possible!

ComSHER Teaching Panels at AEJMC 2017

Teaching Controversy in the Classroom: Best Practices for Engaging Students about Politically Contentious Science, Environmental, Health, and Risk Issues
Wednesday, August 9, 5 – 6:30 p.m.

Co-sponsors: ComSHER and Political Communication Interest Group

Bringing together junior and senior scholars with expertise in political and/or science/health/environmental/risk (SHER) communication, panel participants will discuss their best practices for teaching graduate and undergraduate students about the intersection of political and SHER communication. In particular, how can we effectively discuss motivated reasoning, political polarization, and other concepts in the classroom with the next generation of SHER/political communication scholars? The panel discussion will touch on must-have course readings, must-cover theoretical frameworks and topics, and must-do class assignments and activities.

Katie Abrams
Department of Journalism and Media Communication
Colorado State University

Zeynep Altinay
Department of Mass Communication
Iona College

Ashley Anderson
Department of Journalism and Media Communication
Colorado State University

Amy Bree Becker
Department of Communication
Loyola University Maryland

Sharon Dunwoody
School of Journalism and Mass Communication
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Public Relations, Public Health, Public Good: Preparing a New Generation of Nonprofit and Public Sector Communications Professionals
Wednesday, August 9, 8:15 – 9:45 a.m.

Co-sponsors: ComSHER and Public Relations Division

This panel will demonstrate varying approaches to prepare students for work in nonprofit public relations with a special focus on health, science, and the environment. Panelists will share their experiences with classroom innovation in this area, including examples of effective activities and case study suggestions that will help prepare students for the unique challenges within a non-profit career path.

Brooke McKeever
School of Journalism and Mass Communications
University of South Carolina

Geah Pressgrove
Reed College of Media
West Virginia University

Katherine Rowan
Department of Communication
George Mason University

Autumn Shafer
School of Journalism and Communication
University of Oregon

Christopher Wilson
School of Communications
Brigham Young University

ComSHER PF&R panels at AEJMC 2017

Communicating Science and Environmental Issues within the Context of Elections
Friday, Aug 11, 2017, 3:30 – 5:00 pm

Co-sponsors: ComSHER and Political Communication Interest Group

This panel will explore the intersection of media and politics with an eye toward scientific and environmental issues facing society. How are issues at the interface of science and society communicated to publics in periods of heightened media attention? What does this mean for journalists working in these areas? How do political and science/environment topics overlap in mediated spaces and what are the implications of these connections?

Dietram A. Scheufele (confirmed)
John E. Ross Professor in Science Communication,
Department of Life Sciences Communication
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Dhavan Shah (confirmed)
Maier-Bascom Professor
School of Journalism & Mass Communication
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Arthur Lupia (invited)
Hal R. Varian Collegiate Professor of Political Science
University of Michigan

Shannon Heffernan (confirmed)

Moderator: Sara K. Yeo, University of Utah (ComSHER)

Global Inequities in Health: The Ethics of Forgotten Communities
Friday, Aug 11, 2017, 1:45 – 3:15 pm

Co-sponsors: ComSHER and International Communication

In March 2014, Ebola cases emerged in West Africa. In total, 11,315 people died from the epidemic. 11,309 deaths occurred in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Nigeria. And yet, American media covered little of the epidemic until September, focusing primarily on the four cases in the United States. Likewise, Zika was given very little attention until a case emerged in Florida. This ethnocentric news coverage in American is not unique, nor is it a contemporary phenomenon. The proposed panel showcases the health concerns of different groups have been ignored, marginalized, and delegitimized, reinforcing hegemonic notions of race, ethnicity, socio-economic class, and other intersections. Through research on HIV in Tanzania, cultural barriers for the Roma people in Europe, eradication discourse of polio, and other studies, we will discuss the ethical implications for media’s role in these global inequities.

Katie Foss (confirmed)
Assistant Professor
School of Journalism
Middle Tennessee State University

Adina Schneeweis (confirmed)
Associate Professor
Department of Communication and Journalism
Oakland University

Ammina Kothari (confirmed)
Assistant Professor
School of Communication
Rochester Institute of Technology

Janet Kwami (confirmed)
Associate Professor
Department of Communication Studies
Furman University

Moderator: Irene Awino, University of Oregon

AEJMC ComSHER Article of the Year Award 2017

Declaration form for Nominees

The ComSHER Article of the Year is an annual award given to the year’s best science, health, environment and/or risk article by an AEJMC member to encourage better quality of scholarship in the field and within the association. Any AEJMC member may nominate a journal article by an AEJMC member for consideration for the award. Self nominations are allowed. For multiple-author publications, only one author needs to be an AEJMC member.

To nominate an article, you agree that:

  • You are an AEJMC member in 2017
  • The nominated article(s) is a ComSHER focused English-language article from a peer-reviewed journal
  • The nominated article’s author was an AEJMC member in 2016
  • For articles published in print journals, article(s) nominated are not pre-prints available online but are published in print in 2016
  • For online-only journal articles, they first appeared online in 2016
  • Only one first-author journal article per member is considered
  • In the event that a scholar is a non-first author on more than two articles nominated, that scholar has to select a maximum of two papers that will receive consideration

Up to six articles will be selected by the ComSHER leadership for full consideration by an Award Review Panel consisting of past ComSHER heads, peer-reviewed journal editors or associate editors, and/or full professors. The quality and originality of the research, as well as the expected impact of the work to scholarship in the areas of science, health, environment and risk communication will constitute the evaluation criteria.

The winner(s) will be presented with a certificate recognizing their accomplishment during the ComSHER business meeting at the AEJMC Annual Convention. Winners can indicate on their curriculum vitae and elsewhere that they received the AEJMC ComSHER Article of the Year Award, and their names will also be highlighted on the ComSHER website.

To nominate an article, send an email to ComSHER Vice Head Sol Hart ( listing a citation for the nominated article and confirming that you have read the above requirements and that all are fulfilled. Attaching the article to the email is greatly appreciated as well. The deadline for nominations is 15 May 2017.

Assistant or Associate Professor – Agricultural Communications at Iowa State

The Department of Agricultural Education & Studies at Iowa State University seeks applicants for a 9‐month, tenure track position at the Assistant or Associate Professor rank focused on agricultural communication in agriculture and life sciences. The position is 70% teaching and advising, and 30% research. The successful candidate will join a growing agricultural communication program and will be expected to collaborate closely with faculty and staff to strengthen and expand the program.

For further information, please visit:

Call for papers for a special issue of Science Communication

Public science in a wired world: How online media are changing science communication

Guest Editors: Sarah R Davies (University of Copenhagen), Joachim Allgaier (Alpen-Adria University Klagenfurt), and Noriko Hara (Indiana University).

Science communication – public dissemination and debate of scientific knowledge – is increasingly taking place online. From the websites of scientific organizations such as universities or scholarly societies to social media platforms such as YouTube, Facebook groups or Reddit, science is negotiated by public audiences in online spaces alongside traditional formats such as the mass media, public lectures, or popular science writing. Social research is starting to engage with these spaces and tools, and to understand how science communication is produced and consumed in digital and social media. Recent work has, for example, explored how authority is negotiated in science blogs (Riesch & Mendel 2013), what kind of science is presented online (Brossard 2013), how Twitter is used to engage with scientific projects (Gastrow 2015; Kahle et al 2016), or how blogging is used to manage scientific identity (Steinke 2013). As of yet, however, there has been no dedicated volume or special issue devoted to science communication in digital and social media, and this emergent body of research remains dispersed. This special issue will showcase cutting edge research in online science communication and thereby consolidate and draw together this emerging field.

Potential focus areas for papers (which may use any recognized systematic methodological approach, whether qualitative or quantitative) might include (but are not limited to):

  • Science videos on YouTube, TED or other platforms;
  • Science as a social media phenomenon (such as Facebook pages or science on Twitter);
  • Science blogging by scientists or non-scientists;
  • University websites and online branding activities;
  • The role of science journalism in an online era;
  • Online public information campaigns (such as Science: It’s a Girl Thing!);
  • Discussion forums and online dialogue and debate by scientists or non-scientists.

We welcome papers that interrogate these developments by critically exploring, for instance, how online media are affecting scientific authority, the visions of science that are being constructed through online communication, the reception and interpretation of science online, or how online science communication is managed, produced and/or misused.

Full papers are due May 1, 2017, for publication likely in late 2017 or early 2018. Earlier submissions are very strongly encouraged. Mention the special issue in your cover letter. Late papers may be considered if extra space is available. Papers should follow the Science Communication guidelines for length and format; submit at Our ideal manuscript is between 7,000 and 9,000 words, inclusive of notes, references, and other material. Additional guidelines can be found at Queries regarding the special issue can be addressed to the guest editors (Sarah Davies, Joachim Allgaier, and Noriko Hara; contact at or to the journal’s editor, Susanna Priest, at



Brossard D (2013) New media landscapes and the science information consumer. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 110(Supplement 3): 14096–14101.

Gastrow M (2015) Science and the Social Media in an African Context The Case of the Square Kilometre Array Telescope. Science Communication 37(6): 703–722.

Kahle K, Sharon AJ and Baram-Tsabari A (2016) Footprints of Fascination: Digital Traces of Public Engagement with Particle Physics on CERN’s Social Media Platforms. PLOS ONE 11(5): e0156409.

Riesch H and Mendel J (2013) Science Blogging: Networks, Boundaries and Limitations. Science as Culture 23(1): 51–72.

Steinke J (2013) In Her Own Voice: Identity Centrality and Perceptions of Workplace Climate in Blogs by Women Scientists. International Journal of Gender, Science and Technology 5(1): 25–51.

ComSHER in Minneapolis

by Anthony Dudo

The ComSHER Division’s continued growth and excellence was on display at our 2016 annual meeting in beautiful Minneapolis, MN. We received more paper submissions than any other AEJMC division—again!—and enjoyed well-attended research, teaching, and PF&R programming across the board. We also facilitated yet another enjoyable SHER-themed field trip and, as always, shared laughs at our social. Our annual business meeting was productive as usual; here are some highlights in case you missed it:

We received eleven entries for the annual Article of the Year award, which were evaluated by seven judges comprised of either past ComSHER heads, journal editors or senior professors. First place was presented to Erik Nisbet, Kathryn Cooper, and R. Kelly Garrett for their article “The partisan brain: How dissonant science messages lead conservatives and liberals to (dis)trust science.” The second place article went to Jeannette Sutton et al. for “A cross-hazard analysis of terse message retransmission on Twitter.” The 2016 Top Poster Award, which was determined by fourteen judges across forty-six posters, was awarded to Jay Hmielowski, Rebecca Donaway, and Yiran Wang’s poster “Examining the differential effects of emotions: Anxiety, despair, and informed futility.” Both of these competitions showed the high-caliber scholarship that characterizes SHER-focused research. Congratulations to all the winners.

ComSHER continues to be financially healthy. Last year, we raised faculty member dues from $15 to $20 and this increase has helped strengthen our security and, crucially, has helped sustain our Eason prize, which continues to he the largest financial award given to graduate students in all of AEJMC. Our membership also remains robust (>230 members), but we discussed the importance of trying to enliven our graduate students’ involvement with the division, in terms of attracting more student members and in terms of the type of support, mentoring, and recognition the division can provide. This is one of our goals for 2016/2017.

Another goal for the coming year relates to teaching. Given our division’s impressive growth and our extensive award system for SHER-focused research, we decided it is an ideal time to consider how we might also reward our members for their SHER-focused teaching efforts. Led by our current teaching chair, Chris Clarke (George Mason U.), a committee of ComSHER officers will explore what it will take to initiate an Excellence in SHER Teaching Innovation annual award. Please stay tuned for more information about this exciting new award in the coming months.

Last, let’s all be sure to thank our former head, Michael Dahlstrom (Iowa State U.), for his many years of committed service to ComSHER. For the last decade, Michael has played a key part in the rapid growth of our division …  and he did it all with a radiant smile on his face. And thanks in advance to the new roster of ComSHER offices who are already working together to ensure another successful year for our division.

ComSHER Teaching Panels

by Chris Clarke

I am delighted to announce two interesting and insightful Teaching Panels for AEJ 2017 that ComSHER will either lead or co-sponsor.

Panel #1: Teaching Controversy in the Classroom: Best Practices for Engaging Students about Politically Contentious Science, Environmental, Health, and Risk Issues 

Organized by ComSHER, co-sponsored by the Political Communication Interest Group

From climate change to stem cell research to nuclear power, there is no shortage of contentious science, health, environmental, and risk issues that divide Americans along political lines. As these issues become more connected to ideologically divisive debates over government regulation, individual liberty, and other topics, science communication in effect becomes political communication (and vice-versa) as scholars seek to understand how this divisiveness emerges, how motivated reasoning shapes people’s reactions to information, and how to engage in public conversations across these fault lines. A related challenge is how to train the next generation of political and SHER scholars (both undergraduate and graduate students) to do the same. In this panel, junior and senior scholars with expertise in political and/or SHER communication will address this topic by drawing on their own course experiences and best-practices. Discussion topics will touch on must-have course readings, must-cover topics, and must-do class assignments and activities.

Panelists TBA: Stay tuned!


Panel #2: Public Relations, Public Health, Public Good: Preparing a New Generation of Nonprofit and Public Sector Communications Professionals

Organized by the Public Relations Division, co-sponsored by ComSHER

In recent years, public relations has become more focused on doing public good. The areas of health, science, and environmental communication have been recognized as growing areas within public relations and concurrently, the number of nonprofits that address these issues continues to increase. While public relations, science, and health are often considered separate domains, education in these areas overlap, particularly related to strategies and tactics that nonprofit organizations use to reach audiences and motivate actions. In response to student interest in these careers, sector demand for trained communicators, and the service-focused missions that many universities are adopting, numerous colleges are experimenting with varying pedagogical approaches. For instance, numerous public relations programs have been enhanced with courses focused specifically on nonprofit organizations. Health, science, and environmental communication courses and certificate programs are proliferating across the country. Still other colleges and schools are experimenting with preparing students through special topics and skills courses, and service and experiential learning.

This panel will demonstrate how varying approaches can be used to prepare students to work in nonprofit public relations with a special focus on health, science, and environment. Panelists will share their experiences from classroom innovation including examples of effective activities and case study suggestions that will help prepare students for the unique challenges that face them in their chosen career paths.

Panelists include: Brooke McKeever (University of South Carolina); Geah Pressgrove (West Virginia University); Katherine E. Rowan (George Mason University); Autumn Shafer (University of Oregon); and Christopher Wilson (Brigham Young University)


2016 Research Paper Competition Summary

By Sol Hart

2016 was another excellent year for the ComSHER research paper competition! We received more paper submissions (129) than any other division. That means that of the 1,564 submissions across all of AEJMC, 8% were submitted to ComSHER. ComSHER is now truly one of the largest research divisions at AEJMC – we had more research paper submissions than any other division in 2016, 2015, and 2013, and were tied for the most submissions in 2014. While we continue to receive a high volume of submissions, we have been able to maintain reasonable acceptance rates. In 2016 we accepted 65 of the 129 submissions, for an acceptance rate of 50.3%. 59 of the accepted papers were faculty submissions, and 6 were student only submissions.

1Looking to the topics of the accepted papers, Health Communication again accounted for a little over half of the ComSHER papers. The remaining papers were roughly evenly distributed between Science, Environmental, and Risk Communication.


2The paper competition is made possible by the generous contribution of all of our reviewers. 114 reviewers volunteered to review for the 2016 paper competition. This is an increase from the 107 reviewers we had in 2015, and ensured that all submitted papers received 3 reviews, and reviewers had an average of 3.8 reviews to complete. Thank you to all of our reviewers!

We look forward to another excellent paper competition in 2017!

Table 1
ComSHER Research Paper Submission Summary 2013-2016
Submitted Accepted Acceptance Rate
2013 148 69 46.6%
2014 134 85 63.4%
2015 139 80 58%
2016 129 65 50.4%


Table 2
Topic of ComSHER Papers, 2013-2016
2013 (n=69) 2014 (n=85) 2015 (n=80) 2016 (n=65)
Science 2 (3%) 11 (13%) 9 (11%) 10 (15%)
Health 41 (59%) 46 (54%) 45 (56%) 36 (55%)
Environment 7 (10%) 16 (19%) 17 (21%) 10 (15%)
Risk 16 (23%) 9 (11%) 2 (3%) 13 (20%)
Multiple 3 (4%) 3 (3%) 7 (9%) *

*for 2016 there were a few papers that had overlapping categories, but we included them in all of the respective categories to offer a better sense of the distribution of paper topic areas. Thus the paper totals for the 2016 topics (69) presents a higher cumulative amount than the total papers accepted (65) due to multiple coding for some of the papers.