Oceans & Health Seminar
Jay T. Cullen, University of Victoria, will discuss "Experiences in science and risk communication with the public about the Fukushima Dai-ichi disaster."
Abstract: The triple disaster of the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear reactor meltdowns that struck Japan in March 2011 led to the release of massive amounts of radioactive isotopes into the environment. Despite the high local levels in Japan, and global reach of contamination from Fukushima the international scientific community has determined that the short and long term impacts on environmental and human health will be difficult to detect. I began outreach and education efforts in the interest of the common good given questions and fear about the disaster among family, friends and members of the public. I was also motivated to correct scientifically inaccurate, poor quality, misinformation that at the time dominated the public domain. While most public response to my work on the Fukushima disaster has been positive, my outreach introduced me to the world of conspiracy theories, through a vocal minority who responded with personal threats, accusations of scientific fraud, and other attacks on my professional and personal integrity. I now have a firsthand understanding of the pitfalls of public science and risk communication. The purpose of this talk is to provide background to the reader about the nature of the disaster, known risks, and an account of how conspiracy ideation and poor science literacy colored a minority of the public feedback to my scientifically grounded monitoring program and evidence based outreach efforts.