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Biosecurity Communications Research and Practices

Investigators
Hallman, William
Institutions
Rutgers University
Start date
2007
End date
2012
Objective
  1. To provide the public, through land-grant universities, with science-based information about biosecurity events -- information that will enable audiences to respond in a manner that is in their best interest.
  2. To assess institutional communications practices regularly used in land-grant institutions in anticipation of and response to intentional or accidental biosecurity events and to diagnose the efficacy of those practices.
  3. To link the most current research in science and risk communication with the assessment of best practices to assist land-grant faculty and administrators in message development and delivery strategies when publicly communicating about biosecurity issues.
  4. To better educate members of the mainstream media on the capacity of land-grant universities to publicly address and explain biosecurity issues.
  5. To provide a forum for dialogue between communication researchers and practitioners at land-grant universities.
More information
NON-TECHNICAL SUMMARY: Consumers are unable to make informed decisions about food products produced through biotechnology. The purpose of this study is to aid companies and the agricultural community in their understanding of factors driving consumers attitutdes towards food biotechnology and help design appropriate educational and outreach materials.

APPROACH: Through a combination of national surveys, qualitative interviews, and media content analysis, researchers at the Rutgers Food Policy Institute will continue to address many of the objectives of this multi-state project on biosecurity communication. The specific research activities are listed after the number of the corresponding objective described above.

  1. Providing information to the public. While we are not specifically providing the public with science-based information about biosecurity events, we continue to study what the public knows about specific food contamination events, where the American public gets its information, what kinds of information they are interested in, and the gaps in the public knowledge. By understanding what people know and want to know about these issues, and communicating this with professionals, risk communicators will be better able to formulate their communications in the most appropriate possible way. This work is ongoing, and additional surveys will be conducted as significant food contamination issues arise.
  2. Institutional communication. We have conducted a qualitative research project examining communication between government agencies and industry, including representatives from a state department of agriculture, federal agencies, private companies, and industry trade groups who were involved in communicating with each other and the general public during the 2006 spinach contamination. Our analyses will help identify the links in the communications systems that worked well, and where work is needed to better facilitate communication between all groups responsible for informing the public about biosecurity issues.
  3. Best practices. We are currently focusing on risk perception and risk communication related to public knowledge and understanding of potential chemical and biological contaminants and have completed a book chapter regarding best practices in communicating about microbial risks.
  4. Media coverage. We are currently analyzing media coverage of food safety stories. We are looking at television stories about food recalls since 1995. We are conducting a review of both television and newspaper coverage about the spinach E. coli contamination of 2006 during the month following the outbreak, and our analyses will provide feedback to the media about the quality of their coverage.
  5. Forum for dialogue. In partnership with the NJ Department of Agriculture and industry leaders, we have already planned and hosted a number of forums in which academic, government, and industry representatives have met to discuss biosecurity issues. The topics have included avian influenza and the 2006 spinach contamination, and emergency preparedness for biosecurity events have been a consistent theme in the meetings. As biosecurity-related events continue to occur, we shall continue to host such meetings.
Funding Source
Nat'l. Inst. of Food and Agriculture
Project source
View this project
Project number
NJ15601
Accession number
212008
Categories
Bacterial Pathogens
Risk Assessment, Management, and Communication