Current Projects

Risk Communication and Ocean Health

Communication about Marine Disease

Working in collaboration with a multidisciplinary team of researchers under the auspices of the NSF-funded Research Coordination Network on Evaluating the Impacts of a Changing Ocean on Management and Ecology of Infectious Marine Disease, this research examines ways to integrate risk perception and risk communication research into marine ecosystem management. The underlying premise is that intervention efforts must consider how individuals, communities, and societies value a healthy marine environment and weigh the risks and benefits of action versus inaction in the context of climate change.

Collecting data in the San Juan Islands

Using I-Pads to collect data from ferry passengers

Select Publications

  • Schuldt JP, McComas KA, Byrne SE. 2016. Communicating about ocean health: theoretical and practical considerations. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B 371, 20150214 doi:10.1098/rstb.2015.0214
  • McComas, K. A., Schuldt, J., Burge, C., & Roh, S. (2015). Communicating about marine disease: The effects of message frames on policy support. Marine Policy, 57, 45 – 52. doi: 10.1016/j.marpol.2015.02.012

Reviving Oysters in New York  Harbor

Center to coastal restoration, restoring oyster beds in the closed waters of the Hudson-Raritan estuaries has been slow due in part to regulatory barriers regarding public health risks. As part of a larger team that examines the feasibility of restoring oysters in these areas, we examine risk perceptions and communication about this topic.

One Health Risk Messaging

This is NOT an example of One Health messaging

Working in collaboration with colleagues at Cornell, the National Park Service, and the Wildlife Conservation Society, this project investigates how to develop risk messages that that foster understanding of the linkages biodiversity, species conservation, and public health, often in the context of infectious or zoonotic disease. Some of the research extends into examining these issues in the context of climate change. While showcasing the benefits of promoting the health of all species, a One Health approach draws attention to potential threats associated with human-animal interactions, including the transmission of zoonotic disease. As communication scholars, we know that unintended consequences of messages can and do occur, and one of the questions driving my research is whether some messages could result in boomerang effects, including decreased public support for species conservation.

Bats are suffering from White Nose Syndrome

Select Publications

  • Lu, H., McComas, K. A., Buttke, D. E., Roh, S., Wild, M., & Decker, D. J. (2017). One Health messaging about bats and rabies: how framing of risks, benefits and attributions can support public health and wildlife conservation goals. Wildlife Research. 44:200-206. 
  • Lu, H., McComas, K. A., Buttke, D., Roh, S., & Wild, M. (2016). A One Health Message about Bats Increases Intentions to Follow Public Health Guidance on Bat Rabies. PLoS One. Published online
  • Roh, S., Rickard, L., McComas, K. A., & Decker, D. J. (2016). Public understanding of One Health messages: The role of temporal framing. Public Understanding of Science. (DOI: 10.1177/0963662516670805).
  • Roh, S., McComas, K. A., Rickard, L., & Decker, D. J. (2015). How motivated reasoning and temporal frames may polarize opinions about wildlife disease risk. Science Communication. 37:340 – 370. DOI: 10.1177/1075547015575181
  • Rickard, L., McComas, K., Clarke, C., Decker, D., & Stedman, R. (2013). Exploring risk attenuation and crisis communication after a plague death in the Grand Canyon. Journal of Risk Research, 16, 145-167.
  • Decker, D., Evensen, D., Siemer, W., Wild, M., Leong, K., Stedman, R., & McComas, K. (2012) Public perceptions of wildlife-associated disease: risk communication matters. Human-Wildlife Interactions, 6, 112 – 122.

Risk Communication about New and Emerging Technologies

Reducing Losses to Late Blight

Late blight disease

As part of a larger, multidisciplinary research collaboration, our component of this USDA funded project examines what motivates or impedes growers from sharing information about late blight, as well as how the perceived fairness of scientific authorities relates to public support for agricultural biotechnology among U.S. adults. With regard to the latter, we look at this in the context of the prevention of crop disease and late blight, in particular. This work in particular seeks to “unpack” the notion of benefits in the perception of risk. Often, risk perception of new and emerging technologies is expressed as a cost versus benefit outcome, but the question of who benefits and who bears the costs has been less examined. Distributive fairness, or the fairness of outcomes, offers a more robust and nuanced framework in which to examine perceived benefits and perhaps offer a more precise explanation for findings. Our results show that fairness plays an important role alongside perceptions of risks and benefits in public support for agricultural biotechnology.

Selected publications on Information Seeking and Sharing about Late Blight

  • Liao, W., Yuan, Y., & McComas, K. A. (2016). Communal risk information sharing: Motivations behind voluntary information sharing for reducing interdependent risks in a community. Communication Research.
  • Liao, W., McComas, K., & Yuan, C. (2016) The Influence of Unrestricted Information Exchange on Willingness to Share Risk Information with Outsiders. Human Communication Research. DOI: 10.1111/hcre.12104

Contribution to The Conversation

Selected publications on Attitudes toward GM crops

  • Lu, H., McComas, K. A., & Besley, J. (2016). Messages promoting genetic modification of crops in the context of climate change: Evidence for psychological reactance. Appetite. 108, 104-116. DOI: 10.1016/j.appet.2016.09.026
  • Dixon, G., McComas, K. A., Besley, J., & Steinhardt, J. (2016). Transparency in the food aisle: The influence of procedural justice on views about labeling of GM foods. Journal of Risk Research, 19, 1158-1171.
  • McComas, K., Besley, J., & Steinhardt, J. (2014). Factors influencing U.S. consumer support for genetic modification to prevent crop disease. Appetite, 78C, 8 – 14. DOI: 10.1016/j.appet.2014.02.006

Understanding Views about Energy  and Energy Conservation

Several projects examine public views toward energy conservation and different energy technologies. Some of this research involves collaboration with faculty and staff at Cornell, which seeks to reach its carbon neutrality “net zero” goal by 2035. This work has involved investigating attitudes and behaviors of Cornell faculty, staff, graduate, and undergraduate students toward energy conservation on campus, as well as community members’ attitudes toward different strategies Cornell could use to reach carbon neutrality, which might have community impacts. Other research examines public views about the acceptability of trade-offs associated with renewable energy technologies.

Selected publications

  • McComas, K. A., Lu, H., Keranen, K., Furtney, M., & Song, H. (2016). Public perceptions and acceptance of induced earthquakes related to energy development. Energy Policy, 99, 27-32. DOI: 10.1016/j.enpol.2016.09.026
  • Dixon, G., Deline, M., McComas, K. A., Chambliss, L., & Hoffmann, M. P. (2015). Saving Energy at the Workplace: The Salience of Behavioral Antecedents and Sense of Community. Energy Research & Social Science, 6,121 – 127.
  • Hart, P., Stedman, R. C., & McComas, K. A. (2015). How physical proximity of climate mitigation projects influences the relationship between affect and public support. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 43,196 – 202. DOI: 10.1016/j.jenvp.2015.07.003
  • Besley, J., & McComas, K. (2014). Something old and something new: Comparing views about nanotechnology and nuclear energy. Journal of Risk Research  DOI: 10.1080/13669877.2014.896397
  • Dixon, G., McComas, K., Deline, M., Chambliss, L, & Hoffman, M. (2014). The use of comparative feedback to influence workplace energy conservation. Environment and Behavior (online first Jan. 27, 2014) DOI: 10.1177/0013916513520417
  • McComas, K., Stedman, R., & Hart, P. (2011). Community support for campus sustainability: The role of town-gown relationships. Energy Policy, 39, 2310 –

International Sustainable Development

Carrie Young in Malawi

Working in coordination with local partners, our research has examined ways to influence information seeking and sharing around sustainable development in different international contexts, including Zambia and Malawi.

Selected publications

Conflicts of Interest in Science

This research focuses on conflicts of interest in science and their potential to impact trust in scientists and support for their research. Recent work examined the extent to which scientists and engineers perceive conflicts of interest a salient problem and the extent to which they attribute responsibility to themselves or others to consider conflicts of interest.

Selected publications

  • Tallapragada, M., Eosco, G., & McComas, K. A. (2016). Aware, yet ignorant: Exploring the views of early career researchers about funding and conflicts of interests in science. Science and Engineering Ethics.
  • Eosco, G., Tallapragada, M., McComas, K. A., & Brady, M. (2014). Exploring societal and ethical views of nanotechnology REUs. NanoEthics, 8, 91 – 99. doi:10.1007/s11569-014-0192-z
  • McComas, K. A. (2012). Researcher views about funding sources and conflicts of interest in nanotechnology. Science & Engineering Ethics, 18, 699 – 714DOI: 10.1007/s11948-011-9264-4
  • McComas, K., Tuite, L., & Sherman, L. (2005). Conflicted scientists: The “shared pool” dilemma of scientific advisory committees. Public Understanding of Science, 14, 285 –