John C. Besley Ph.D.

John Besley

Ellis N. Brandt Professor of Public Relations

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(517) 884-4411


Dr. Besley studies public opinion about science and scientists' opinions about the public in the context of trying to help science communicators be more strategic. He wants to understand how views about decision-makers and decision processes affect perceptions of science and technology (S&T) with potential health or environmental impacts. This focus includes consideration of both mediated exposure through newspapers, television programs and web content, as well as face-to-face public engagement exercises (e.g., public meetings).
More generally, Dr. Besley explores the relationships between media use, public engagement and health and environmental risk perceptions. His research has touched on public perceptions of nanotechnology, biotechnology, and energy technologies (particularly nuclear and hydrogen and fuel cell technologies). He has also been involved in research into journalistic norms related to coverage of public engagement and research to better understand the impact of science and risk communication training.

Dr. Besley has published more than 80 peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters and this work has appeared in high-ranking journals including Risk Analysis, Science Communication, Public Understanding of Science, and the Journal of Risk Research as well as a range of edited volumes. He has received funding from the National Science Foundation, and the United States Department of Agriculture. He is the associated editor for risk communication for the journal Risk Analysis.

In addition to his regular research, Dr. Besley is the lead author for the 2014, 2016, 2018, and 2018 (ongoing) National Science Board chapters on public attitudes and knowledge about science and technology. This biennial report-Science and Engineering Indicators-is submitted to the executive branch and Congress and represents the definitive statement on Americans' views about S&T.

Dr. Besley received the Hillier-Krieghbaum ""Under 40″ Award"" from the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication in 2013. He also received a ""rising star"" award from the University of South Carolina in 2012.

As an instructor, Dr. Besley focuses on civic engagement, risk and crisis communication, science communication, and media relations.

Dr. Besley earned his Ph.D. in Communication from Cornell University in 2006 and both a master's (Public Administration, 2000), and bachelor's (Journalism, 1998) degree from Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. Prior to his Ph.D., Dr. Besley served as a policy analyst with Environment Canada's Policy and Communication's division for international environmental issues.

Contact Information

404 Wilson Rd, Room 378
Communication Arts and Sciences Building
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48824