Chelsea Schein wins $10,000 public interest communications research prize

Three scholars presented their work over the course of three days at the annual frank gathering, Feb. 6-9, 2018, in hopes of being selected as the first-place winner for the annual prize for Research in Public Interest Communications. The first-place winner receives a $10,000 cash prize and the two runner-ups receive $1,500 each. The cash prize is sponsored by the Joy McCann Foundation.

The three finalists, Chelsea Schein, Erica Ciszek and Hana Shepherd each participated in a series of on-stage interviews, allowing them to explain their research and its application for practitioners.  At the end of the gathering,  attendees cast a vote for the scholar whose work they believed deserved to win the grand prize.

 The finalists were selected from a pool of 44 applicants by a review committee of scholars and practitioners. Papers were considered based on their applicability to the field, contribution to public interest communications as an interdisciplinary academic discipline, methodological rigor and insight that can be used to innovate the social sector.

Chelsea Schein   Prize Winner

Name(s): Chelsea Schein, Ph.D. candidate, and Kurt Gray, Ph.D., University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Paper: The Unifying Moral Dyad: Liberals and Conservatives Share the Same Harm-Based Moral Template
Journal: Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin
Discipline: Social Psychology

Abstract: Do moral disagreements regarding specific issues (e.g., patriotism, chastity) reflect deep cognitive differences (i.e., distinct cognitive mechanisms) between liberals and conservatives? Dyadic morality suggests that the answer is “no.” Despite moral diversity, we reveal that moral cognition—in both liberals and conservatives—is rooted in a harm-based template. A dyadic template suggests that harm should be central within moral cognition, an idea tested—and confirmed—through six specific hypotheses. Studies suggest that moral judgment occurs via dyadic comparison, in which counter-normative acts are compared with a prototype of harm. Dyadic comparison explains why harm is the most accessible and important of moral content, why harm organizes—and overlaps with—diverse moral content, and why harm best translates across moral content. Dyadic morality suggests that various moral content (e.g., loyalty, purity) are varieties of perceived harm and that past research has substantially exaggerated moral differences between liberals and conservatives.Relevance

Political polarization is rampant.  One reason for this division is that our intuitions–and popular theories of morality–suggest that liberals and conservative rely upon fundamentally different moral considerations.  Here we show that the moral minds of liberals and conservatives are fundamentally the same, relying on the same harm-based mental processes.  Emphasizing this moral similarity across the political divide provides a potential way to reduce polarization.

*About the Presenter/Author: Chelsea Schein is a doctoral candidate in social psychology at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Schein is committed to contributing to the scientific understanding of morality. In her research, she adopt methods of social cognition to explore how people form moral judgments and how understanding our moral psychology can increase well-being and create a more tolerant society. Her work has been published in many top academic journals, including: Personality and Social Psychology Review, Emotion, Psychological Inquiry, Journal of Psychological Experimentation, and Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. As a doctoral student, she works alongside Dr. Kurt Gray, assistant professor at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, in the Mind Perception and Morality Lab. As a graduate student, she developed and taught courses on applying principles of social psychology to pressing social concerns.  Follower on Twitter @ChelseaSchein

EricaCiszek  Runner Up

Name: *Erica Ciszek, Ph.D., University of Houston
Paper: Activist Strategic Communication for Social Change: A Transnational Case Study of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Activism
Journal: Journal of Communication
Discipline: Strategic Communication

Abstract: Drawing from critical public relations research and communication for development and social change, this article argues activism is a form of cultural intermediation that often engages in strategic communication for social change. This study explores how lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activists engage in public relations, operating as cultural intermediaries (Bourdieu, 1984) to make, remake, subvert, communicate and circulate cultural identities, representations and imaginations by way of strategic communication for social change. Over a 4-year period (2012–2016), multiple sources of data were used in this study including digital texts (websites, blogs, social media content, articles) as well interviews with 40 activists representing 15 countries.

This research sheds light on activism as a form of cultural intermediation, positioning activists as strategic agents for global social change. Rather than emphasizing outcomes or effects, the focus of this study is an examination of how activists come to describe, explain, and account for the world in which they live and the processes through which activists bring about and contribute to shared understandings. Through symbolic work, activists, like public relations practitioners, have the potential to challenge and redefine cultural discourses, employing strategic communication for social change. These efforts work to influence public opinion and policy about issues impacting the lives of sexual and gender minorities around the world. This research takes a transnational approach to strategic communication for social change, requiring attention to the flows of people, goods, and knowledge and how this produces relationships and linkages between and among disparate people and places. This transnational research points to social change that has been made possible through global connectivity and digital communication.

*About the Presenter/Author: Erica Ciszek, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor in Integrated Strategic Communication. She is a New England native, hailing from Boston where she worked as a strategic analyst for Mullen Advertising and Public Relations. She has worked in strategic analytics, market research and has contributed to LGBT newspapers and magazines in New England. Dr. Ciszek’s research is focused on the intersections of identity, communication and technology and how organizations communicate with marginalized and minority populations. Her research has been published in peer reviewed journals, including Public Relations Review and the Journal of Public Relations. She has a chapter in the first ever book on LGBT issues in strategic communication. Follower her on Twitter @elciszek

Shepherd Runner Up

Name(s): Elizabeth Levy Paluck, Ph.D., Princeton University, *Hana Shepard, Ph.D., Rutgers University, and Peter M. Aronowc, Ph.D., Yale University.
Paper: Changing climates of conflict: A social network experiment in 56 schools
Journal:  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Disciplines:  Sociology, Psychology, Political Science

Abstract:Theories of human behavior suggest that individuals attend to the behavior of certain people in their community to understand what is socially normative and adjust their own behavior in response. An experiment tested these theories by randomizing an anti-conflict intervention across 56 schools with 24,191 students. After comprehensively measuring every school’s social network, randomly selected seed groups of 20–32 students from randomly selected schools were assigned to an intervention that encouraged their public stance against conflict at school. Compared with control schools, disciplinary reports of student conflict at treatment schools were reduced by 30 percent over one year. The effect was stronger when the seed group contained more “social referent” students who, as network measures reveal, attract more student attention. Network analyses of peer-to-peer influence show that social referents spread perceptions of conflict as less socially normative.

Despite a surge in policy and research attention to conflict anti-bullying among adolescents, there is little evidence to suggest that current interventions reduce school conflict. Using a large scale field experiment, we show that it is possible to reduce conflict with a student-driven intervention. By encouraging a small set of students to take a public stance against typical forms of conflict at their school, our intervention reduced overall levels of conflict by an estimated 30 percent. Network analyses reveal that certain kinds of students (called “social referents”) have an outsized influence over social norms and behavior at the school. The study demonstrates the power of peer influence for changing climates of conflict, and suggests which students to involve in those efforts.

*About the Presenter/Author: Hana Shepherd is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Rutgers University. She received her Ph.D. from Princeton in 2011 and she was a Postdoctoral Research Associate and Lecturer at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and the Department of Psychology at Princeton University from 2011-2013. She studies social networks, culture and cognition, and organizations. She is interested in how different types of social processes contribute to social change. She uses diverse methods such as network analysis, lab and field-based experiments, interviews, and archival research. Her recent projects include a year-long field experiment in 56 middle schools that used theories about social norms in relation to social networks to change school-level behavioral patterns. Her current projects examine the relationship between organizational context and network structure; how organizations implement new law in schools and in local labor enforcement offices; and how social networks can best be leveraged for social change in workplaces. Follow her on Twitter @hs329

About the Prize

The University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications is proud to continue its annual Research Prize in Public Interest Communications. This prize celebrates peer-reviewed research that informs the growing discipline of public interest communications.

The College awards three prizes for research that either:

  1. contributes to the understanding of the field as a unique discipline
  2. offers insight that can improve the effectiveness of public interest communications practice
  3. details a specific public interest communications campaign, including analysis of the reasons for its success or failure
  4. explores evaluative measures
  5. documents specific ways in which public interest communications differs from similar disciplines
  6. provides insight on how to communicate effectively

The college will award one $10,000 prize and two $1,500 prizes to research that meets one or more of these requirements. For more information about our awards program, check out our 201720162015 and 2014 prize winners.

What is Public Interest Communications?

Public interest communications is a growing discipline that uses science-based, strategic communications to drive positive social change on issues like education, better health and climate changeIt draws principally on the disciplines of public relations, advertising, marketing, journalism, sociology, communications, psychology, public health, and political science.

Governments, non-profits, foundations, public relations, advertising agencies and corporations all engage in public interest communications, but also engage in many others forms of communications. Examples of effective public interest communications include campaigns to change behavior such as reducing smoking, increasing seatbelt use, and inserting the concept of the designated driver into American culture, but also include efforts focused on policy change and activism.

While public interest communications has been practiced for decades and has contributed significantly to health and well-being throughout the world, it is only recently recognized as a unique academic discipline and profession.

Qualifying submissions

Only completed research intended for publication in a peer-reviewed journal or research that has already appeared in a peer-reviewed journal may be submitted for this prize. All research submitted should have been completed within the past two years.

Research may come from any discipline, and will be judged by its relevance to using communications to driving social change. Work from previous entrants has come from the disciplines of public relations, sociology, psychology and political science, though future submissions are by no means limited to those disciplines.

Submissions will be judged based on demonstration of the following:

  1. Sophistication, originality and rigor of research methodology.
  2. Relevance of the research findings to the study and practice of public interest communications.
  3. Contribution to the understanding of public interest communications as a unique form of communications.

The following must be submitted to our frank submissions page:

  1. A 200-word description of why the research is relevant to effective social change communications.
  2. A 300-word abstract.
  3. A pdf copy of the full-length paper. There are no length requirements for the paper.

We will post the 200-word description with the authors’ names to the frank website. We will edit these descriptions for clarity and consistency with frank.jou.ufl.edu style guidelines.

Finalists will participate in a coaching session to help them prepare their content and their visuals for their presentations during frank gathering, Feb. 5-8, 2019.

 

More Information

Finalists are expected to present their work during the frank gathering, a conference for social change communicators at the University of Florida.

The conference registration fee will be waived and hotel rooms will be provided. The winners will be expected cover their own airfare and other expenses through their award funds.

Conference organizers will reach out to the winners to discuss specifications for their presentations and to coordinate travel arrangements.

Submission Dates for 2019 prize

Submissions close November 1, 2018 at 5 PM ET

Finalists announced before the end of the year.

Questions about the prize should be directed to the frank research director Annie Neimand.