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.

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.


ComSHER in the Windy City – Calling for ideas for our 2017 field trip

As incoming Secretary, I am excited to be coordinating the field trip for next year’s AEJMC meeting in Chicago, Illinois. The last time we were in Chicago, we had a wonderful time visiting the Shed Aquarium and I look forward to planning another excellent excursion. Current suggestions include visits to The Field Museum or The Adler Planetarium.

The Field Museum of Natural History is one of the largest natural history museums in the world. Its exhibitions include Sue, the most complete and best-preserved Tyrannosaurus rex fossil ever discovered, and the new, interactive Grainger Science Hub, which allows visitors to engage with the museum’s scientists and collections.

The Adler Planetarium offers a number of itineraries, including a visit to the Space Visualization Lab where we can interact with experts to learn more about ongoing projects and engagement efforts, and participation in Skywatch Live! which uses real-time digital graphics to create an accurate scientific simulation of the night sky. We can also explore the possibility of doing an evening excursion at the planetarium.

I encourage you to reach out to me with more suggestions at

Kajsa Dalrymple

Upcoming PF&R Panels at AEJMC 2017

Panel #1: Communicating Science and Environmental Issues within the Context of Elections (co-sponsored with the 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? Panelist information TBA—stay tuned!

Panel #2: Global Inequities in Health—The Ethics of Forgotten Communities (possible co-sponsors: Media Ethics, Minorities and Communication, 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. Confirmed panelists: Katie Foss (Middle Tennessee State University), Adina Schneeweis (Oakland University), Ammina Kothari (Rochester Institute of Technology). Additional panelists TBA—stay tuned!

Sara Yeo

An Update from Science Communication

Science Communication: Linking Theory and Practice has been unofficially affiliated with AEJMC’s ComSHER Division and its predecessor, the Science Communication Interest Group, since the journal’s beginning in 1979. I am pleased to be able to report that the past year has been a really good one for us. As reported earlier in the summer, our two-year impact factor rose to 1.820 this past year, up 20% from 2014 and putting us in 14th place out of the 79 ranked communication journals. Our acceptance rate remained roughly steady at 18% for 2015, with the three prior years ranging between 15 and 17%. We received 150 manuscripts in 2015, 127 of which were research articles.

Almost all of these submissions received an initial decision within three months. We pride ourselves on providing timely, meaningful, and usually quite detailed feedback to our authors.

In hand at the moment: our October 2016 issue, which nicely illustrates the range of things we publish: An article on the strategies used by a Dutch food author to establish scientific credibility for his claims; an analysis of media coverage of the 2014 West Virginia Elk River chemical spill; an experiment comparing text-based and interactive presentations about NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope; and an article on how “green narratives” create affective responses that have implications for both environmental risk perception and policy. We also include two commentaries, one on informal science learning for older adults and one on “one scientist’s struggle” to become a better writer.

If you are not familiar with SC, you can learn more at – and you can even order a free sample issue there, in case your university does not subscribe. You’ll spot a number of familiar ComSHER names both among our editorial board members and our authors, and you can browse the contents and abstracts for all of our issues there – even if your library does not subscribe.

In addition to refereed research articles, which fill about 80 to 90% of the space in our six annual issues, we also publish roughly one or two commentary articles per issue. These are non-refereed opinion pieces commenting on trends in the field, describing innovative and successful programs, or analyzing issues and opportunities in science communication theory and scholarship.

We publish in the full range of ComSHER disciplines, including submissions with qualitative, quantitative, or rhetorical methods – as well as, occasionally, analytical or historical ones.

Looking for something to write about for us? Although we do not normally publish review articles (other than occasional meta-analyses), the editorial board has recently expressed some interest in our considering reviews that present the history of our field. We are now much too large and diverse for a single article to cover this well; the few existing review articles that cover our entire broad history are now increasingly outdated. So there is room for more than one project here. If you are interested in creating such an article, identify the aspect of the field that you know best and discuss it with me directly at One thing I can practically guarantee: If your submission is successful, it will probably earn a lot of citations.

Following up on our successful special issue on Visual Communication in the Digital Age (Mary Nucci, guest editor), published in February 2015, we have issued a call for papers for a new special issue on Science Communication and Broad Societal Change. You can find the full call at the ComSHER website. Search “call for papers” to go directly to the appropriate section or use this link:

The submission deadline for the special issue is November 1, 2016. Late papers for the issue may be considered on a space-available basis; contact me at the email above for status.

Susanna Priest, Editor-in-Chief



Teaching Panels Tackle Coding, the Ethics of Teaching Tech

By Rachel Young

Please join ComSHER and co-sponsors for two timely and stimulating teaching panels Thursday and Friday in Minneapolis.

Thursday from 11:45 am to 1:15 pm, come discuss best practices for teaching coding, a skill increasing in demand for journalism grads. Co-sponsored with Communication and Technology, “Cracking the Code: Tips for Teaching Coding to Journalism Students” will address how we can best prepare journalism students to be conversant in code. Topics include, which coding skills are most in demand among employers? And what classroom contexts, projects, and learning objectives are most appropriate when teaching coding? We have a top-notch panel lined up: Aaron Chimbel, Texas Christian; Dana Coester, West Virginia; Kevin Ripka, Iowa; and Cindy Royal, Texas State.

Friday morning from 8:15 to 9:45 am we will engage with the ethnical issues that arise when incorporating technology in the classroom. Co-sponsored with Media Ethnics, our panel on “Inclusivity and Teaching Technology” will discuss the gender gap in technology circles, socioeconomic and K-12 disparities in technology access and exposure, assumptions often made about students’ technology skills, and the use of technology in grading and assessment. Expert panelists are Kathleen Cartzen Bulver, Wisconsin-Madison; Aileen E. Gallagher, Syracuse; Andrew Mendelson, CUNY; and Cindy Royal, Texas State.

ComSHER Leads Submissions for 2016

By Avery Holton

This year AEJMC received 1,564 submissions, more than eight percent of which went to ComSHER. We received more submissions than any other division (129), accepting 65 papers. One-hundred-fourteen peer reviewers helped to ensure three reviews for every submission. Z Scores ranging from 1 (worst) to 5 (best) were used to rank order papers. Scores ranged from 2.07 to 4.83 with a median score of 3.47.

Nineteen papers will be presented in four exciting refereed research sessions, including our Top Faculty Paper Session on Saturday, August 6 from 5:15 – 6:45 p.m. Hosted by Michael Dahlstrom (Iowa State), the panel will feature:

Top Faculty Paper
Science in the Social Media Age: Profiles of Science Blog Readers; Paige Jarreau and Lance Porter, Louisiana State

Second-Place Faculty Paper
Using Weight-of-Experts Messaging to Communicate Accurately about Contested SciencePatrice Kohl and Sharon Dunwoody, Wisconsin-Madison

Third-Place Faculty Paper
Sharing Health-Related Information on Facebook: An Integrated ModelMing-Ching Liang, Metropolitan State

Top Student Paper; Lori Eason Prize
Testing the Effects of Dialogic Communication on Attitudes and Behavioral Intentions Related to Polarized and Non-polarized Scientific Issues; Nicole Lee, Texas Tech

Our other refereed research sessions include Friday’s “Science and Evolving Methods of Information Conveyance” moderated by Sara Yeo (Utah), Saturday’s “Communicating Health: Messages, Social Support, and the Construction of Knowledge” moderated by Avery Holton (Utah), and Sunday’s “New (Theoretical) Considerations of Environment and Risk” moderated by Jessica Gall Myrick (Indiana).

ComSHER scholar-to-scholar sessions will take place on Friday from 5:00 – 6:30 p.m. and Saturday from 3:30 – 5:00 p.m.


Minneapolis Highlights

By Michael Dahlstrom

Minneapolis may be known for its parks and lakes, but it will soon add one of the best ComSHER programs to its tourist brochures. This year was one of our most competitive research competitions and we are excited to showcase some excellent research sessions with our top paper session being held on Saturday, August 6 from 5:15 to 6:45 p.m. Our teaching and PF&R chairs have also put together some innovative panels that I encourage you to check out. If you need a break from sessions but long for more science communication, our off site field trip will take us on a tour of the James Ford Bell Museum of Natural History.

But now on to business. The ComSHER business meeting will be Saturday, August 6 from 7 to 8:30 p.m., which is immediately after our top paper session. This is the time 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 minutes of last year’s business meeting beforehand (

Not only does participating in the business meeting give you a voice in the future of our division, but it is a great way for newer members to meet scholars with similar interests and to get better aquatinted with our division. And to help lubricate this networking, we are holding the ComSHER social just after the business meeting. Join us in at 8:45 p.m. at the Skywater Lounge in the Hilton.

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.

And with that, I will end my final newsletter post as chair. I have been involved with the ComSHER leadership team for six years and it has been a great experience. Not only do all standard metrics confirm our division as one of the strongest in AEJMC (submissions, membership, fiscal operations, etc.) but also I remain impressed that we also continue to feel free to try new ideas and have fun doing it. Thanks to all and I look forward to seeing you in August.