Untitled Design (25)
Risk Communication

Student Paper Competition

The RCSG has held a student paper competition since 1996. All submissions are full papers, blind reviewed by a panel of distinguished judges. Interested students must submit an extended abstract and identify the Risk Communication Specialty Group when indicating their interest in a specialty group student merit award. By the second Monday in October, students must submit a full paper for review. All students with accepted abstracts who indicated interest in the competition will be contacted via email by the chair with details on submitting their full paper. No contest will be held if there are too few entries or if the judges decide that the quality of the papers is not high enough for there to be a winner. Dr. Robert Griffin, Professor Emeritus in Journalism and Media Studies from Marquette University, ran the competition from 1996 to 2016. Dr. Janet Yang, Professor of Communication from the University at Buffalo, has been running the competition since 2017.

Each paper will be judged according to the following criteria:

  • The purpose of the paper is stated clearly
  • The paper is organized effectively
  • The literature review is adequate
  • The conclusions are related directly to the purpose of the paper
  • The subject represents a significant direction for risk communication research;
  • Risk communication is a central theme of this paper
  • The questions addressed in this study are handled creatively
  • The writing is good; and
  • The paper is relevant to the focus of the RCSG.

Papers based on quantitative data or qualitative observations will also be judged according to the following criteria:

  • The research method is appropriate and effective
  • The evidence is good and related to the purpose of the paper
  • The evidence is presented clearly; and
  • The evidence supports the conclusions.

Judges will also consider their own overall summary evaluation of the quality of each paper submitted. Please note that the paper must focus centrally on some aspect of risk communication. Risk communication cannot be just incidental to the theme of the paper.


Students are eligible if:

  1. The paper abstract has been accepted for presentation at the SRA convention;
  2. The lead author is a student enrolled in a post-baccalaureate degree program at the time the abstract is submitted (students and non-students (e.g., faculty) may serve as co-authors); and
  3. The author(s) indicated, along with the abstract submission, that they wanted this work to be considered for a merit award.
  4. Papers are accepted for peer review for the RCSG merit award on the understanding that they are not already under review by other conferences. Submitted papers should not have been presented to other conferences or published in scholarly or trade journals prior to presentation at the SRA conference. Multiple submissions from the same author or authors are acceptable, as long as the above conditions are met for each paper. Notices are being sent directly to authors whose abstracts qualify and who can be reached. Those with questions about eligibility should contact Dr. Janet Yang (zyang5@buffalo.edu).

Previous Winners

2023: Xinxia Dong, University at Buffalo (co-author Janet Yang). Paper titled “Uncertain and relevant? How conflicting message influences information processing about PFAS contamination.”

2022: Rebekah Wicke, Cornell University (co-author Chelsea L. Ratcliff, Alice Fleerackers, Yidi Wang, Andy J. King, & Jakob D. Jensen). Paper titled “Investigating the influence of preprints in COVID-19 news coverage on vaccine booster intentions.”

2021: Catherine Lambert, Cornell University. Paper titled “Competing imaginaries of energy and place in negotiations of local geothermal energy acceptance.”

2020: Jody Wong, University at Buffalo (co-author Janet Yang). Paper titled “The blame frame: Predicting the U.S. public’s prosocial responses during the coronavirus pandemic.”

2019: Zhuling Liu, University at Buffalo (co-author Janet Yang). Paper titled “In the wake of scandals: How media use and social trust influence risk perception and vaccination intention among Chinese parents.”

2018: Alexa Tanner, University of British Columbia (co-authors Toshio Fujimi and Stephanie Chang). Paper titled “Earthquakes, flooding, landslides, and volcanic eruptions: Multi- hazard risk perceptions and management priorities in Kyushu, Japan.” 

2017: Hwanseok Song, Katherine A. McComas, & Krysten L. Schuler, Cornell University. Paper titled “Source Effects on Psychological Reactance to Regulatory Policies: The Role of Trust and Similarity”

2016: Jialing (Catherine) Huang, University at Buffalo (co-author Janet Yang). Paper titled “Beyond ‘Under the Dome’: Amplified risk perception increases knowledge and public engagement about air pollution in China.”

2015: (tie)  Lexin Lin, Lund University, Lund, Sweden. Paper titled “Communicating risk in a disaster risk management system:  A study based on developing and utilizing the national risk and vulnerability assessments in Sweden.”

Hang Lu,  William F. Siemer, Meghan S. Baumer, and Daniel J. Decker, Cornell University. Paper titled “Exploring the Matching Effect between Message Framing and Point of Reference in Risk Communication about Human-Wildlife Conflicts: A Construal Level Perspective.”

2014: Paper withdrawn.

2013: Joseph Steinhardt, Cornell University (co-author Michael Shapiro). Paper titled “The impact of narrative messages on prospect theory framing effects.”

2012: Hye Kyung Kim, Cornell University (co-authors S. Kim and J. Niederdeppe). Paper titled “Predicting cancer preventive intentions with an Integrative Model of Behavioral Prediction: Behavior novelty as a potential moderator of descriptive norm—intention relationship.”

2011: No contest held.

2010: Laura Rickard, Cornell University (co-authors Clifford W. Scherer and Sara B. Newman). Paper titled “Exploring attribution of responsibility for visitor safety in a U.S. national park.”

2009: Andrew Binder, University of Wisconsin-Madison (co-authors Dietram A. Scheufele, Dominique Brossard, and Albert C. Gunther). Paper titled “Interpersonal amplification of risk? The influence of discussion on perceptions of risks and benefits of a biological research facility.”

2008: Janet Yang, Cornell University (co-authors Katherine McComas, Geri Gay, John P. Leonard, Andrew J. Dannenberg, Hildy Dillon, and R. Kornhaber). Paper titled “The Role of Positive Affect in Motivating Risk Information Seeking and Processing – a Study on Communication about Clinical Trial Enrollment.”

2007: First Place – Rachel Hirsch, University of Western Ontario (co-author Jamie Baxter). Paper titled “The Look of the Lawn: Pesticide Policy Preference and Risk Perception.”

Second Place (tie) – Philip Hart, Cornell University (co-authors Erik Nisbet and James Shanahan). Paper titled “Environmental Values and the Social Amplification of Risk: An Examination of the Public Response to an Outbreak of Chronic Wasting Disease in Upstate New York.”

Justin Lessman, Kansas State University (co-authors Mun-Young Chung and Meijing Fan). Paper titled “Framing Risk: Differences in Cross-National News Coverage of North Korea Nuclear Tests.”

2006: Louie Rivers III, Ohio State University. Paper titled “Win some, lose some: Chronic loss and its implications for risk communication and management.”

2005: Insufficient entries, no contest held.

2004: Dolores (Lori) Severtson, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Paper titled “The Influence of Information and Experience on Beliefs about Arsenic Risk, Policy, and Protective Behavior.”

2003: (tie) Erika Waters, Rutgers University (co-authors Neil D. Weinstein, Graham A. Colditz, and Karen Emmons). Paper titled “Using Graphical Displays to Improve Comprehension of Risk Tradeoffs.”

Robyn Wilson, Ohio State University. Paper titled “Improving Environmental Risk Management: Striking a Balance between Affect and Analysis in Decision-Making.”

2002: Melissa Simons, Ohio State University. Paper titled “Communicating the Risks of Wildland Fire: Using Mental Models Research to Identify Natural Resource Risk Communication Needs.”

2001: Felicia Wu, Carnegie Mellon University. Paper titled “Public perceptions and opinions of genetically modified foods: Insights from Prospect Theory.”

2000: Felicia Wu, Carnegie Mellon University. Paper titled “Cryptosoporidium Risk Communication: An analysis of what people know and what they need to know.”

1999: Joseph Arvai, University of British Columbia. Paper titled “Utilizing a Value-Focused Risk Communication Strategy to Aid Decision Making.”

1998: (tie) Joseph Arvai, University of British Columbia. Paper titled “Evaluating Risk Communication Process: NASA and the Cassini Mission to Saturn.”

Katherine McComas, Cornell University. Paper titled “Speaking about risk: The impacts of public meetings on participants’ risk perceptions.”