1. Communicating about uncertain environmental health risks

Lead supervisor: Associate Professor Kelly Fielding, QAEHS and School of Communication and Arts, UQ

Other supervisors: Associate Professor Coral Gartner, QAEHS and School of Public Health, UQ

Contact: k.fielding@uq.edu.au

 

Project description

A major challenge in environmental health risk communication is how to effectively communicate about uncertain risks. One example of this is Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) which are man-made chemicals used for industrial and commercial purposes since the 1950s. Although animal studies show that PFAS is associated with certain cancers and endocrine effects, health effects in humans is uncertain. The PhD project will focus on case studies of uncertain environmental health risks to develop and assess effective risk communication methods and content for these types of risk contexts.

The research programme will involve the use of social science research methods to develop and test effective ways to communicate about uncertain environmental health risks. These will include qualitative methods (e.g., focus groups) and qualitative experiments. The information from this project can be used to inform risk communication efforts in Australia and internationally. Through this project the PhD student will develop a comprehensive theoretical, empirical and practical understanding of risk communication with a specific focus on communication about uncertain risks. 

Preferred educational background: Undergraduate Class I or IIA honours or Masters degree in a health or social science discipline. Although preference will be given to applicants with a health or social science background, good candidates from other disciplines will be consider if they have a keen interest in risk communication. 

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2. Chemical exposure concerns and how they relate to health- and environment-related decisions

Lead supervisor: Associate Professor Kelly Fielding, QAEHS and School of Communication and Arts, UQ

Other supervisors: Associate Professor Coral Gartner, QAEHS and School of Public Health, UQ

Contact: k.fielding@uq.edu.au

 

Project description

Past research has shown that individuals have misperceptions about chemicals that can influence their health and environment-related behaviour. Examples include scepticism about vaccines because of the belief that they contain harmful chemicals, and drinking bottled rather than tap water because of beliefs about chemicals used in water treatment. There is a need to develop a better understanding of individuals’ chemical concerns and how these relate to their behaviour. There is also a need to find ways to effectively communicate about the risks of chemical exposures to encourage warranted concerns and behaviour while avoiding unwarranted concerns and behaviours.

This PhD represents an interdisciplinary project informed by the health and social sciences. The research programme will entail qualitative interviews and surveys to develop an understanding of chemical concerns and experimental studies to test effective risk communication to address chemical concerns. The information from this project can be used to inform risk communication efforts in Australia and internationally. Through this project the PhD student will develop a comprehensive theoretical, empirical and practical understanding of risk communication and how this relates to chemical concerns as well as expertise in social science research methods.

Preferred educational background: Undergraduate Class I or IIA honours or Masters degree in a health or social science discipline. Although preference will be given to applicants with a health or social science background, good candidates from other disciplines will be consider if they have a keen interest in risk communication.

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