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Title: Sensemaking, stakeholder discord, and long-term risk communication at a US Superfund site

Abstract

Abstract Introduction:Risk communication can help reduce exposures to environmental contaminants, mitigate negative health outcomes, and inform community-based decisions about hazardous waste sites. While communication best practices have long guided such efforts, little research has examined unintended consequences arising from such guidelines. As rhetoric informs stakeholder sensemaking, the language used in and reinforced by these guidelines can challenge relationships and exacerbate stakeholder tensions. Objectives:This study evaluates risk communication at a U.S. Superfund site to identify unintended consequences arising from current risk communication practices. Methods:This qualitative case study crystallizes data spanning 6 years from three sources: 1) local newspaper coverage of site-related topics; 2) focus-group transcripts from a multi-year project designed to support future visioning of site use; and 3) published blog entries authored by a local environmental activist. Constant comparative analysis provides the study’s analytic foundation, with qualitative data analysis software QSR NVivo 8 supporting a three-step process: 1) provisional coding to identify broad topic categories within datasets, 2) coding occurrences of sensemaking constructs and emergent intra-dataset patterns, and 3) grouping related codes across datasets to examine the relationships among them. Results:Existing risk communication practices at this Superfund site contribute to a dichotomous conceptualization of multiple and diverse stakeholders as membersmore » of one of only two categories: the government or the public. This conceptualization minimizes perceptions of capacity, encourages public commitment to stances aligned with a preferred group, and contributes to negative expectations that can become self-fulfilling prophecies. Conclusion:Findings indicate a need to re-examine and adapt risk communication guidelines to encourage more pluralistic understanding of the stakeholder landscape.« less

Authors:
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Univ. of Kentucky, Lexington, KY (United States)
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE
OSTI Identifier:
1537099
DOE Contract Number:  
FG05-03OR23032
Resource Type:
Journal Article
Journal Name:
Reviews on Environmental Health
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 32; Journal Issue: 1-2; Journal ID: ISSN 0048-7554
Publisher:
de Gruyter
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
Environmental Sciences & Ecology; Public, Environmental & Occupational Health

Citation Formats

Hoover, Anna Goodman. Sensemaking, stakeholder discord, and long-term risk communication at a US Superfund site. United States: N. p., 2017. Web. doi:10.1515/reveh-2016-0048.
Hoover, Anna Goodman. Sensemaking, stakeholder discord, and long-term risk communication at a US Superfund site. United States. doi:10.1515/reveh-2016-0048.
Hoover, Anna Goodman. Sun . "Sensemaking, stakeholder discord, and long-term risk communication at a US Superfund site". United States. doi:10.1515/reveh-2016-0048.
@article{osti_1537099,
title = {Sensemaking, stakeholder discord, and long-term risk communication at a US Superfund site},
author = {Hoover, Anna Goodman},
abstractNote = {Abstract Introduction:Risk communication can help reduce exposures to environmental contaminants, mitigate negative health outcomes, and inform community-based decisions about hazardous waste sites. While communication best practices have long guided such efforts, little research has examined unintended consequences arising from such guidelines. As rhetoric informs stakeholder sensemaking, the language used in and reinforced by these guidelines can challenge relationships and exacerbate stakeholder tensions. Objectives:This study evaluates risk communication at a U.S. Superfund site to identify unintended consequences arising from current risk communication practices. Methods:This qualitative case study crystallizes data spanning 6 years from three sources: 1) local newspaper coverage of site-related topics; 2) focus-group transcripts from a multi-year project designed to support future visioning of site use; and 3) published blog entries authored by a local environmental activist. Constant comparative analysis provides the study’s analytic foundation, with qualitative data analysis software QSR NVivo 8 supporting a three-step process: 1) provisional coding to identify broad topic categories within datasets, 2) coding occurrences of sensemaking constructs and emergent intra-dataset patterns, and 3) grouping related codes across datasets to examine the relationships among them. Results:Existing risk communication practices at this Superfund site contribute to a dichotomous conceptualization of multiple and diverse stakeholders as members of one of only two categories: the government or the public. This conceptualization minimizes perceptions of capacity, encourages public commitment to stances aligned with a preferred group, and contributes to negative expectations that can become self-fulfilling prophecies. Conclusion:Findings indicate a need to re-examine and adapt risk communication guidelines to encourage more pluralistic understanding of the stakeholder landscape.},
doi = {10.1515/reveh-2016-0048},
journal = {Reviews on Environmental Health},
issn = {0048-7554},
number = 1-2,
volume = 32,
place = {United States},
year = {2017},
month = {1}
}