Corporate Science Communication and Its Effect on Scientific Knowledge and Attitudes

Project: Research project

Project Details


Corporate Science Communication and Its Effect on Scientific Knowledge and Attitudes Corporate Science Communication and Its Effect on Scientific Knowledge and Attitudes Overview For-profit entities in the science, health, and technology sectors have become major players in the public communication of science. Science communication can significantly influence the decisions individuals make related to health behaviors, technology adoption, and policy support. Since the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980, U.S. scientists have had the right to patent and commercialize the findings of publicly funded research, which has contributed to a shifting science communication landscape. Despite the substantial influence of science communication and the prevalence of science communication from industry, little research has focused specifically on its effects. This project will identify the strategies direct-to-consumer (DTC) genetic testing companies use to communicate science to consumers and determine what effect these communication strategies have on understanding of science, perceptions of science, and behavioral intentions related to scientific information. This knowledge will be used to inform policy and determine what best practices should be adopted by science communicators to mutually benefit industry, science, and individuals in society. Using social science methods, this project will consist of two phases: a content analysis of emails from DTC genetic testing companies and a survey of U.S. adults. This mixed method approach will allow us to first understand how the companies communicate and then assess the effects of that communication. Intellectual Merit The proposed research makes empirical contributions to science communication and public relations and expands the subfield of science public relations, which is the study of how organizations communicating about science build and maintain relationships with internal and external stakeholders and the effects of those relationships. The proposal advances knowledge in this area regarding: 1) how for-profit organizations communicate about science and what is unique about their communication strategies, 2) how this communication influences public understanding of science, perceptions of science, and behavioral outcomes, and 3) what specific messages or tactics can help organizations achieve their goals while also having a positive influence on society. Broader Impacts The research and dissemination of findings cover an array of broader impact priorities focused on the science system and society. It will connect academia and industry through a joint event and educational materials created for industry. It will develop a stronger STEM workforce who understands the challenges of communicating science and the need for open and honest communication of science. This will be accomplished through the research, which will develop best practices, and the dissemination plan, which will share research findings with current and future science communication professionals. Finally, it will improve science literacy and support and better the daily lives of individuals in society by helping them make informed decisions about their health and privacy. This is not possible without understanding how corporate science communication influences individuals and how it can be improved for their benefit
Effective start/end date9/1/218/31/23


  • National Science Foundation (NSF): $210,188.00


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