Recapping ComSHER in Montreal

By Shirley Ho, Head

The 2014 conference in Montreal was a progressive one for the ComSHER Division. With an enlightening field trip to the Biodome, a record-breaking number of papers, new awards, old and new friends, our division continues to grow.

We scored several “firsts” in the Montreal conference. We unveiled our Facebook interest group and sent live updates of the conference in Montreal. The real-time updates were well received, and it generated buzz among our conference attendees. This was the first year that ComSHER presented complimentary conference registration passes to our one Lucky Reviewers, out of our record number of 120 dedicated reviewers. Not only that, this was the first time that the top poster award winners walked away with a monetary poster prize of $100, sponsored by the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information at Nanyang Technological University. Based on the good response, we will continue these practices in 2015.


One of our stellar research panels from Montreal

In addition, we had a smooth running of the ComSHER Article of the Year Award competition, as well as the Top Faculty and Top Student Paper Awards competition. Our sincere thanks go to the cadre of volunteer judges and paper reviewers who worked diligently and silently behind the scene.

Among our many “firsts,” we also scored a record high of 85 papers accepted at the Montreal conference. In terms of topical representation of ComSHER (science, health, environment, and risk), a quick glance at the figures over the last six years tells us that the share of the overall percentage of papers on science and environmental topics has increased as well (see table below).

During our annual business meeting in Montreal, members put forth the suggestion of allowing eligible Top Student Paper submissions to be student-led with faculty co-authors. This may help to boost the number of student members in our division. We will explore this possibility for the 2015 conference.

Finally, on behalf of the new executive committee, I would like to say a “BIG THANK YOU” to our outgoing Head, Amanda Hinnant, for her ComSHER service and leadership over the years.


Past head Amanda Hinnant with her co-authors


ComSHER has a wonderful line up of officers this year. I am sure my team of committed and driven folks will continue to bring you enriching content and exciting programming in San Francisco!

Topic of ComSHER Papers, 2009-2014














Science 8














Health 2














Environment 4














Risk 8














Multiple 1















ComSHER Needs Paper Reviewers to Match its Growth

By Michael Dahlstrom, ComSHER Vice Head

ComSHER has grown to become one of the largest divisions in AEJMC in only a few years and we are looking into ways to recruit and reward paper reviewers so we can keep pace with our growth.

One idea is to begin a good faith expectation that submitting a paper to ComSHER also represents an agreement to review for the division that year. This would not be a formalized requirement within the paper call, but a friendly email asking the eligible submitters to consider supporting the division with the same amount of time that others will spend reviewing their submission. This expectation encourages participation within the division, which could further strengthen cohesion among our members.


Joy Rodgers our 2014 Lucky Reviewer

Last year we started the Lucky Reviewer award where we provided free registration to one reviewer randomly selected out of the reviewer pool. To encourage high quality reviews, every review submitted on time with at least 100 words of comments counted as one entry into the lottery, and there was no limit to the amount of reviews a reviewer could request – although no one outside of the executive board request more than seven. Last year’s winner was Joy Rodgers from the University of Florida. We intend to continue this award into the future to continue to reward (randomly) the hard work of our reviewers.

If you have reviewed in the past, we sincerely thank you for your service to the division and we hope you will sign up again to review this year. If you have not, please consider doing so. Regardless, please encourage your friends and colleagues with any interest in science, health, environment or risk communication to sign up to review.

We will send you an email around mid-January or early Feb 2015 with instructions on how you can support the division as a reviewer.

PF&R Panels at AEJMC

By Avery Holton, PF&R Chair

ComSHER will be hosting two exciting PF&R panels at the 2015 AEJMC conference. Both focus on highly salient topics, tackling issues of effective media coverage of health and illnesses, health communication campaigns, risk communication, risk management, and the use of digital and social media for health communication and positive behavior changes.

For the panel #Risk: Using Social and Digital Media for Effective Risk Messages, panelists will present on various fields of communication, health, risk management, and technology from online worlds, social media, gaming, and virtual reality, focusing on how these platforms may serve as effective channels for risk communication and related forms of communication.

Panelists (tentative list):

Chris Clarke, George Mason University
Jesse Fox, The Ohio State University
Roselyn Lee, The Ohio State University
Jeremy Bailenson, Stanford University
Jorge Pena, University of California, Davis
Helen Harris, Google
Sun Joo (Grace) Ahn, University of Georgia

The second panel, Reporting Crises in Africa: From Arab Spring to the Deadly Ebola Virus, includes discussions of disaster reporting in Africa through the lens of Ebola, health communication and behavioral change during the Ebola outbreak, and examinations of US and African media coverage of Ebola and other topical issues.

Panelists (tentative list):

Imafidon Olaye, William Paterson University
Chris Ogbondah University of Northern Iowa
Charles Okigbo, North Dakota State University
Angela Nkiru Nwammuo, Anambra State University

ComSHER Part of the AEJMC Oligarchy

By Michael Dahlstrom, ComSHER Vice Head

The ComSHER division has seen tremendous growth over the past few years, rising to join the handful of divisions that routinely receive over 100 submissions per year.

In 2013, ComSHER received the most submissions out of all the divisions at 148, and in 2014 tied for second place with the Mass Communication and Society division, both at 134 submissions. The Newspaper and Online News Division received the most submissions at 142 for 2014.


Saleem Alhabash and Chen Lou, 2014 Top Poster Winners

While numbers are the easiest to display in a table, more important is the quality of the work that is submitted. The top paper awards, for both faculty and students, were shining examples of exceptional scholarly work within science, health, environment and risk communication. The top four faculty winners include: (1) Andrea Tanner, Otis Owens, Diana Sisson, Vance Kornegay, Caroline Bergeron, Daniela Friedman, Megan Weis, Lee Patterson and Teresa Windham, all from South Carolina; (2) Carmen Stavrositu from University of Colorado, Colorado Springs; (3) Erik Nisbet, Kathryn Cooper and R. Kelly Garrett, all from Ohio State; and (4) Ryan Thomas, from Missouri, Edson Tandoc, Nanyang Technological University and Amanda Hinnant, also from Missouri. The top three student authors include: (1) Jeanine Guidry, Virginia Commonwealth University, (2) Jiun-Yi Tsai from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and (3) Hannah Lee from Ewha Womans University.

Thanks to all our presenters and their hard work to further our understanding of the communication of science, health, environment and risk communication.


2013 2014
Submitted Accepted % Submitted Accepted %
ComSHER Division 148 69 46.6 134 85 63.4
Other Divisions 1397 698 49.9 1371 713 52
Minimum 13 8 41 17 9 43.6
Maximum 148 76 69.2 142 85 80.4


ComSHER Biodome Trip During AEJ 2014 = Magnifique!


Veronique, our tour guide at the Montreal BioDome

ComSHER members were treated to an exciting trip to the Montreal Biodome during the 2014 AEJMC Convention. The Biodome houses four distinct environments – including an Antarctic ice sheet, tropical rainforest, and temperate, hardwood forest – within a self-controlled, temperature regulated building. It is also the only facility of its kind in the world to artificially mimic seasons as they occur throughout the year.

The trip began with an hour-long, self-guiding tour of the facility, followed by a special behind-the-scenes tour of everything from alternative facilities for housing plants and animals when they are not in the main enclosure to the industrial-size kitchen where animal meals are prepared to exact specifications. The visit concluded with a Q&A session with one of the Biodome staff (Yves Paris), where we discussed the many community education programs the facility runs and the challenges it faces in an era of decreased city and provincial funding.


It’s feeding time at the BioDome

After yet another successful and enriching field trip, I invite suggestions for the 2015 ComSHER field trip in/around San Francisco, CA.  One idea is to visit Muir Woods, one of the best-preserved stands of coastal redwoods on the West Coast.  Located about 45 minutes from the city, it features a variety of easy to intermediate hiking trails amid some of the most majestic trees on earth.

If we were to visit Muir Woods, I would work to arrange a one-on-one session with the National Park Service rangers who conduct visitor education and engagement activities, so that we can get a sense of the opportunities and challenges they face.

I welcome other suggestions as well:

Teaching Panels Address Student Engagement, Public Intellectuals

By Sol Hart, Teaching Chair

Teaching panels planned for San Francisco promise to continue our tradition of excellent, engaging panels on timely topics of interest to ComSHER members. Take a look:

Innovative methods for student engagement

Co-sponsored with PCIG, the purpose of this session is to highlight new and innovative approaches to facilitating student engagement in the classroom with a particular emphasis on large lectures. Panelists will discuss alternative class models as well as approaches to integrating new technology into the classrooms. Topics will include discussion of a “flipped” classroom, where students learn content online (typically through video lectures), and class time is focused on interaction and applied work. Additional topics will include how to successfully integrate social media platforms such as Twitter, and new classroom software, such as Top Hat. Panelists will discuss their own experiences with implementing these methods in some of their courses on health communication, science journalism, and political communication. Panelists will also discuss the benefits and challenges to the methods they have employed.

Jensen Moore, Louisiana State University
Katy Culver, University of Wisconsin- Madison
Scott Talan, American University
Nikki Usher, George Washington

Academia 2.0, when professors become public intellectuals: benefits and detriments
: The purpose of this session is to bring together scholars and professionals to discuss whether beyond the classroom, research, and service, professors should also see their role as public intellectuals. Continuing a debate started in 2014 at AEJMC in Montreal on the distribution of responsibilities, panelists will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of engaging in public debates. More specifically, using science communication and science journalism as the contexts, panelists will discuss the impact of social media on public engagement and how to use such opportunities for career advancement.

Dietram Scheufele, University of Wisconsin, Madison
Dominique Broussard, University of Wisconsin, Madison
Declan Fahy, American University, Washington D.C.
Liz Neeley, COMPASS