Participation and Communication Approaches that Influence Public and Media Response to Scientific Risk: A Comparative Study of Two Biosecurity Events in New Zealand

By Marie J. McEntee.

Published by The Social Sciences Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Participatory science needs wide stakeholder input if scientific decision-making is to be inclusive, interactive, transparent, robust and accountable. This input is particularly important when society is exposed to scientific risk, and within this media have an important role as guardians of the public interest. Since 1996, Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city, has twice been subjected to the widespread, repetitive aerial spraying of biological insecticide to eradicate invasive exotic moths as part of the Government’s biosecurity response. These eradications generated high levels of both public concern and media interest regarding the risk of aerially spraying urban populations. Using interviews with key stakeholders, and content analysis of newspapers, this paper compares factors that increased community resistance, and influenced media coverage between the two eradications. Community acceptance of the eradications was affected by the extent to which scientific bureaucracies included the public, media and outside expertise. When local stakeholders were excluded and official communication was limited, media coverage was critical, emphasised risk and provided a channel for opposition voices to express their views. This paper argues that scientific bureaucracies must step beyond a narrow operational focus of their statutory responsibilities, and meaningfully engage with stakeholders to build consensus based on participation, trust and understanding.

Keywords: Participatory Science, Risk Communication, Biosecurity, Media Communication

The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, Volume 2, Issue 4, pp.195-204. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 658.455KB).

Marie J. McEntee

PhD Student, School of Geography, Geology and Environmental Science, The University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand

Marie McEntee holds an MA (Hons) and is currently studying for her PhD in the School of Geography, Geology and Environmental Science at The University of Auckland, New Zealand. She teaches an undergraduate course, ‘Communicating for a Knowledge Society’. Her research interests include science communication, social capital in environmental management, public participation and engagement in science, and media communication of science and technology.

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