Risk analysis research points to news media as an important mediator that filters signals about risk events, intensifying (or attenuating) public risk perceptions. From this research we know that news coverage of scientific studies that provide strong evidence about technological and health risks tends to amplify public risk perceptions. We also know that subsequent news coverage that criticizes those same studies as deeply flawed and/or publicizes that they have been retracted, tends to attenuate those risk perceptions. Beyond this, we simply lack much scholarship to understand the broader societal impacts of news coverage of article retractions. For instance, does retraction news coverage reduce public trust in science? Or, once established, does public trust stay elevated?
The Seed Grant will allow me to explore these questions related to ‘social trust’ by conducting two survey-based experiments. I will examine the effects of two recent and highly publicized retractions; (1) Séralini et al. (2012) study, which claimed that rats fed GM-corn, developed tumors, and (2) Obokata et al. (2014) study, which claimed to provide an easy method to generate multipurpose stem cells. Identifying social factors that affect public trust is critical at a time when scholars are increasingly pointing towards a legitimacy crisis in science.