New faculty profile: Neil Stenhouse explores impact of science comm on political behavior

Neil Stenhouse joined the faculty in the Department of Life Sciences Communication as an assistant professor this August.

Briefly describe your career path—up to this point.
IMG_0235I got my BS in Psychology at the University of Otago in New Zealand, where I’m from. Following that I spent two years teaching English in Japan, where I became interested in getting a graduate degree in political science. I started that degree at the University of Auckland when I returned to New Zealand. In the midst of that degree I became interested in the politics of climate change, and found out about the Center for Climate Change Communication (4C) at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. Their work seemed an ideal match between my main area of interest and the kind of quantitative social science research I’d done up until that point. So I applied to start a Communication PhD at George Mason, and did research for 4C all the way through my degree.

What is the main focus of your research program?
Understanding how communication affects political behavior related to climate change, energy development, and other controversial scientific issues. What kinds of communication cause people to participate politically – or not participate – for issues like this? How could our methods of communicating about these issues be changed to help different stakeholders work together better? I aim to answer questions like that.

What drew you to UW-Madison?
The Department of Life Sciences Communication (LSC) is deservedly renowned in the science communication world for the superbly high quality of their work. I met several of the LSC faculty and graduate students through the course of my degree at George Mason and found them to be great people in person, as well as leading scholars. Also, I was very attracted by the commitment of the department and of UW-Madison to having research serve the people of the state, and the wider world.

What do you like to do outside of work?
Watch movies – especially the works of John Carpenter, Dario Argento, Edgar Wright, and others of that ilk.