University of Tasmania

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Translation of environmental knowledge to policy : bridging the gap between scientists and societal change

posted on 2024-06-28, 02:19 authored by Israel AdesekoIsrael Adeseko

Since the early 2000s, environmental communication research has prioritised effectively translating environmental science for non-experts, favouring participatory models over the deficit model. Nevertheless, gaps remain in translating environmental knowledge through mediated and non-media means in complex socio?political contexts. This thesis asks: how can we understand externalities to effective environmental knowledge translation and engage effectively in places with existing environmental conflicts? Using a place-based approach, this study locates Tasmania as a place with existing environmental conflicts and the 2018-19 Tasmanian bushfire as both a critical discourse moment and teachable moment. The study uses a mixed methods approach that includes quantitative content and discourse analysis, expert interviews, and the direct observation of participants to investigate and develop place-based specialised environmental knowledge translation solutions. Further, it examines the discursive practices of actors, particularly Tasmanian forest and fire scientists in news media at a critical discourse moment. Results show that in the mediated communication following the 2018-19 Tasmanian bushfire, mostly non?scientists gained media visibility and meaning-making power in forest-related scientific discourses because they employed policy-facing discourse strategies. Thus, the 2018-19 Tasmanian bushfire -- rather than being a critical discourse moment for the diffusion of forest knowledge -- was a moment of silence for scientists. This finding provides an important insight into the performative functions of actors’ discursive practices and the ‘honest brokering role’ of Tasmanian forest and fire scientists in mediated communication. Moreover, by characterising the 2018-19 Tasmanian bushfire as a teachable moment and interrogating public narratives of the bushfire, the study identifies a unique framework that illustrates how the Tasmanian public tells bushfire stories and how the framework provides contextual values and behavioural cues in designing environmental knowledge translation strategies. The study also pinpoints two effective approaches for engaging the Tasmanian public in forest and fire science, as well as encouraging them to embrace and use new knowledge for behavioural changes and participation in forest management policy discussions. These approaches are the Participatory Action Research (PAR) paradigm and the TM+ISL approach. The latter approach is novel and combines concepts of teachable moments and informal science learning for effective public engagement and environmental knowledge translation. Overall, the study contributes a unique understanding and practice of environmental knowledge translation – both through mediated and non-media means – in places where environmental conflicts exist.



  • PhD Thesis


xix, 309 pages


School of Creative Arts and Media


University of Tasmania

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