Professor Alison Anderson

Professor Alison Anderson

Professor in Sociology

School of Society and Culture (Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Business)

Professor Alison Anderson can be contacted through arrangement with our Press Office, to speak to the media on these areas of expertise.
  • Science communication
  • Climate change and media
  • Public engagement and climate change
  • Nanotechnology and public
  • Digital media and health
  • COVID-19 and the media


My research focuses on risk communication particularly in terms of environmental issues and health. I am author of Media, Culture and the Environment (Routledge) and Media, Environment and the Network Society (Palgrave Macmillan) as well as numerous articles on media and risk communication. As well as my role as Professor of Sociology at the University of Plymouth I am Adjunct Professor in the School of Social Sciences, Monash University, Australia. I have been part of grant awards totalling in excess of £1 million from a variety of funders including ARC, ESRC, ERDF, Health Foundation and the British Academy.

I am a founding member of the International Environmental Communicaiton Association and former Editor-in-Chief of the Routledge journal Environmental Communication. I am currently an Editorial Board member of Environmental Communication and on the International Advisory Board of Environmental Media. At Plymouth, I am the research lead for the Environment, Culture and Society research group. At Masters level I teach a module on 'Media, Culture and the Environment' on the MA Environmental Humanities programme.

I welcome enquiries from potential PhD students.


BA (Hons.) Sociology, University of York, 1986

PhD, University of Greenwich, 1993

Postgraduate Certificate in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, University of Plymouth, 1992.

Professional membership

  • Elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and Manufacture (FRSA)
  • Elected Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences (FAcSS)
  • Founding member of International Environmental Communication Association 
  • Member of Board of Directors 2013-2017
  • Member of the British Sociological Association (BSA)
  • Member of International Sociological Association (ISA) and Research Committee on Sociology of Science and Technology
  • Member of European Association for the Study of Science and Technology (EASST)
  • Member of European Communication Research and Education Association (ECREA)
  • Member of European Sociological Association Research Group on Sociology of Risk and Uncertainty (SoRU)

Roles on external bodies

  • 2014- 2017 Editor-in-Chief of Environmental Communication, official journal of the International Environmental Communication Association
  • Editorial Board Member, Journal of Environmental Media, 2019-
  • 2013-2017 Board member, International Environmental Communication Association (IECA)
  • 2011- Member of International Advisory Board, International Journal of Climate Change: Impacts and Responses.
  • 2011-2013 Editorial Board Member of Sociology.
  • 2009- Editorial Board Member of Environmental Communication
  • 2008-2011 Associate Board member of Sociology.
  • 2009- 2016 Associate Editor, International Journal of Technoethics
  • 2006-2010 Editorial Board Member of Sociological Research Online.
  • 1996-2000 Book Review Editor for Sociology, journal of the British Sociological Association



Teaching interests

Media; Environmental Issues; Health Communication; Social Movements; Crime Reporting; Methods

Alison teaches on all three years of the undergraduate programme and is currently Module Leader for:

  • SOC3546 Dissertation 
  • SOC3547 Media, State and Society
  • GOV1000 One Planet: Society and Sustainability
  • MSR723 Media, Culture and the Environment

Supervision and Examining

She also supervises undergraduate dissertation students and MPhil, ResM and PhD students. 



Research interests

Mass Media and Culture; Risk; Genetics; Nanotechnologies; Environmental Sustainability; Marine Pollution; Social Movements; Science Communication

Other research

Crime Reporting, Digital Media and Big Data

Research degrees awarded to supervised students

PhD ‘Sustainable Development: The Reflexive Governance of Risk', Gregory Borne.

PhD 'The Distribution of Attitudinal Attachment to the Male Breadwinner Role: A quantitative study of the Plymouth travel to work area', Suzanne Chamberlain ESRC funded.

PhD 'Managerial Decision Making: A Discursive Analysis', Teri McConville.

PhD 'An Exploration into how Students with Dyslexia identify with their Condition, with Particular Reference to the Tensions which Surround Public and Private Perceptions of Dyslexia’, Deborah Shenton.

PhD 'Metaphors of Health and Disease in Nazi Film Propaganda', Melanie Wright.

PhD ‘', Julie Parsons.

PhD 'The Discourses and Lived Experiences of 'Maternal Obesity' and Gestational Diabetes Mellitus (GDM) or Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus in Pregnancy (T2DM) Rachel Jarvie, ESRC funded.

ResM 'Faith in Practice: A Mixed Method Study Exploring the Impact of Faith Based Organisations in Delivering Voluntary and Community Sector Activities in Cornwall', Lois Wild, ESF funded.
PhD 'An exploration of how agency and socio-cultural milieu support greater or lesser controlled gambling and recovery from gambling addiction', Ed Pyle, Plymouth University.

Grants & contracts

2017-2020 'A sociological study of patients' use of digital media', Australian Research Council (Alan Petersen PI, Timothy Caulfield, CI) $366,000

2017-2020 Stewart, I., Anderson, A. and Pahl, S. Plymouth work package in EU ESIF project led by Geothermal Engineering Limited, overall value £18 million, European Regional Development Fund (ERDF 5R16PO1205)

2015-2016 Beating the Micro-bead (with Sabine Pahl, Richard Thompson, Kayleigh Wyles and Jane Grose) ISSR Small Collaborative Award, PI

January 2011 - June 2013 'What is Revalidation in Practice? Shaping the Future Development of Revalidation', Health Foundation grant of £80,000 (with Julian Archer and Sam Regan de Bere)

January 2011 - July 2011 'A Toolkit for Embedding Methods Teaching within a Sociology Fieldtrip' (with Carole Surron). C-SAP, £14,120 (including matched funding)

2010- 2011 - Higher Education Academy/JISC Open Educational Resources £250,000 (PI Stephen Gomez). Work Package Three: Qualitative Research Methods

2006-2007 Co-investigator with Alan Petersen on British Academy study, 'Striking a Balance? How Scientists and Policymakers Portray the Benefits and Risks of Nanotechnologies as Applied to Medical and Environmental Sustainability'

2003 -2005 Principal Applicant 'Nanotechnology and News Production: Scientists', Journalists' and Editors' Views.' £48,000 ESRC (with Alan Petersen and Stuart Allan)

1999 - awarded a start-up grant of £20,000 by the European Science Foundation (with colleagues in the UK, Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany and Italy)




Petersen, A., Schermuly, A.C. & Anderson, A. (2022) ‘A platform for goodness, not for badness’: The heuristics of hope in patients' evaluations of online health information', Social Science and Medicine.

Anderson, A. & Maffey, G. (2021) Five steps for astronomers to communicate climate change effectively', Nature Astronomy, vol. 5, no. 9, pp. 861--863, doi:10.1038/s41550-021-01481-2

Schermuly, A.C., Petersen, A. & Anderson, A. (2021) ‘I’m not an activist!’: digital self-advocacy in online patient communities. Critical Public Health, 31:2, 204-213.

Petersen, A., Schermuly, A.C. & Anderson, A. (2020) Feeling less alone online: patients' ambivalent engagements with digital media. Sociology of Health & Illness, 42, 6: 1441-1455.

Howarth, C. & Anderson, A. (2019) Increasing local salience of climate change: The un-tapped impact of the media-science interface, Advanced Review, Environmental Communication, 13 (6): 713-722.

Anderson, A. (2019) ‘Climate Change Communication in the UK’. Oxford Research Encyclopaedia of Climate Science. 10.1093/acrefore/9780190228620.013.458

Petersen, A., Anderson, A. & Schermuly, A. (2019) ‘The shifting politics of patient activism: From bio-sociality to bio-digital citizenship', Health: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 23 (4): 478-494. 

Anderson, A. (2017) 'Source Influence on Journalistic Decisions and News Coverage of Climate Change.' Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Climate Science. 10.1093/acrefore/9780190228620.013.356

Anderson A.G, Grose J, Pahl S, Thompson R.C, Wyles K.J (2016) Microplastics in personal care products: Exploring perceptions of environmentalists, beauticians and students. Marine Pollution Bulletin,

Anderson (2015) Reflections on Environmental Communication and the Challenges of a New Research Agenda. Environmental Communication, 9 (3): 379-383.

Anderson, A. (2013) 'Together we can Save the Arctic': Celebrity Advocacy and the Rio +20 Earth Summit', special issue of Celebrity Studies, 4 (3): 339-52.

Anderson, A. (2011) Sources, Media and Modes of Climate Change Communication: The Role of Celebrities. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change, 2 (4): 535-46.

Anderson, A. (2010) Editorial - 'Mediating Risk: Towards a New Research Agenda', Special Issue of Journal of Risk Research, 13 (1) 1-3.

Allan, S., Anderson, A. & Petersen, A. (2010) 'Framing Risk: Nanotechnologies in the News', Journal of Risk Research, 13 (1) 29-44.

Anderson, A. and Petersen, A. (2010) 'Shaping the ethics of an emergent field: scientists’ and policymakers’ representations of nanotechnologies,' Special Issue of International Journal of Technoethics, 1 (1): 32-44. Winner of IGI Global’s ‘Fourth Annual Excellence in Research Journal Awards,’ celebrating the best articles from the 2010 volume year.

Petersen, A., Anderson, A., Allan, S. and Wilkinson, C. (2009) 'Opening the black box: Scientists’ views on the role of the news media in the nanotechnology debate', Public Understanding of Science, 18 (5): 512-530.

Anderson, A. (2009) 'Media Politics and Climate Change: Towards a New Research Agenda', Sociology Compass, 3.

Anderson, A. & Marhadour, A. (2007) 'Slick PR? The Media Politics of the Prestige Oil Spill', Science Communication, 29, (1): 96-115.

Ettorre, E. and Anderson, A. (2007) Editorial: Politics, Responsibility and Risk', Special Issue, Sociological Research Online, 12 (2).

Petersen, A. and Anderson, A. (2007) ‘A Question of Balance or Blind Faith? Scientists’ and Policymakers’ Representations of the Benefits and Risks of Nanotechnologies’, NanoEthics, 1 (3), 243-56.

Petersen, A., Anderson, A., Wilkinson, C and Allan, S. (2007) Editorial: Nanotechnologies, risk and society, Health, Risk and Society, 9 (2), 117-124.

Wilkinson, C., Allan, S., Anderson, A and Petersen, A. (2007) From uncertainty to risk?: scientific and news media portrayals of nanoparticle safety. Health, Risk and Society,.9 (2), 145-157.

Anderson, A. 'Spinning the Rural Agenda' (2006) Special Issue of Social Policy & Adminstration, 40, (6).

Anderson, A., Allan, S., Petersen, A. and Wilkinson, C. (2006) 'Nanotechnology in the news',, January (

Anderson, A. and Ettorre, E. (2006) Editorial: Families, Intimacy and Social Change, Special Issue, Sociological Research Online, 11 (2).

Anderson, A., Petersen, A. and Allan, S. (2005) 'Science Fiction/Science Fact? Metaphor and Imagery in News Stories on Medical Genetics', New Genetics and Society. 24, (3), 337-53.

Anderson, A., Petersen, A, Wilkinson, C. & Allan, S. (2005) 'The Framing of Nanotechnologies in the British Newspaper Press', Special Issue of Science Communication, 27 (2): 200-20.

Anderson, A. (2003) 'Risk, Terrorism and the Internet', Knowledge, Technology and Society, 16, (2),24-33.

Anderson, A. (2003) 'Communication, Conflict and Risk in the 21st Century', Sociological Research Online.

Anderson, A. (2002) 'The Media Politics of Oil Spills', Spill Science and Technology Bulletin, 7, (5), 7-16.

Anderson, A. (2002) 'In Search of the Holy Grail: Media Discourse and the New Human Genetics', New Genetics and Society, 21, (3), 327-37.

Ettorre, E., Anderson, A., David, M. and Wilkinson, I (2002) 'Editorial: Taking Genetics Seriously', New Genetics and Society, 21, (3), 261-66.

Anderson, A. and Gaber, I. (1993) 'The Road from Rio: The Causes of Environmental Antisappointment', Intermedia, 21, (6), 27-9.

Anderson, A. and Gaber, I. (1993) 'The Yellowing of the Greens', British Journalism Review, 4 (2) 49-55.

Anderson, A. (1991) 'Source Strategies and the Communication of Environmental Affairs', Media, Culture & Society, 13, (4), 459-476.

Anderson, A. (1990) 'The Production of Environmental Meanings in the Media: A New Era', Media Education Journal, (10), 18-20.


Anderson, A. (2014) Media, Environment and the Network Society. Palgrave Macmillan: Houndmills.

Anderson, A. (2010) Special Issue of Journal of Risk Research, (13) 1.

Anderson, A., Petersen, A., Wilkinson, C. and Allan, S. (2009) Nanotechnology, Risk and Communication. Palgrave Macmillan: Houndmills

Ettorre, E. and Anderson, A. (2007) Special Issue of Sociological Research Online,  12 (2).

Petersen, A., Anderson, A., Wilkinson, C and Allan, S. (2007) Special Issue of Health, Risk and Society, 9 (2).

Anderson, A. and Ettorre, E. (2007) Special Issue of Sociological Research Online, 11 (2).

Meethan, K., Anderson, A., Miles, S. (eds.) (2006) Tourism, Consumption and Representation. Wallingford:CAB International.

Ettorre, E., Anderson, A., David, M. and Wilkinson, I (2002) Special Issue of New Genetics and Society, 21, (3).

Miles, S., Anderson, A., Meethan, K. (eds.) (2001) The Changing Consumer: Markets and Meanings. London: Routledge.

Anderson, A. (1997) Media, Culture and the Environment. London: Routledge.


Anderson, A. (in press) News Organisation(s) and the Production of Environmental News. In Hansen, A. and Cox, R. (eds.) (2nd Edition) Handbook of Environment and Communication. London: Routledge.

Anderson, A. (2021) 'Sustainability in Environmental Communication Research: Emerging Trends and Future Challenges'. In Weder, F., Krainer, L. & Karmasin, M. (Eds.) The Sustainability Communication Reader: A Reflective Compendium. Berlin: Springer.

Anderson, A. (2018) 'Environment and Popular Culture'. In Castree, N., Hulme, M. & Proctor. J. (Eds.) The Companion to Environmental Studies. London: Routledge.

Anderson, A. (2015) 'The Mediatization of Environmental Conflict in the ‘Network Society’'. In Eskjær, M., Hjarvard, S. & Mortensen, M. (Eds.) The Dynamics of Mediatized Conflicts. London: Peter Lang, 31-50.

Anderson, A. (2015) 'Rethinking Climate Change Communication' Invited commentary on Part IV ‘Future Directions on Climate Politics Scholarship’. In Boykoff, M. and Crow, D.A. (eds.) Culture, Politics and Climate Change: How information shapes our common future. London: Routledge

Anderson, A. (2015) Climate Politics and the News Media. In Backstrand, K. and Lovbrand, E. (eds.) Research Handbook on Climate Governance. Edward Elgar.

Anderson, A. (2015) News Organisation(s) and the Production of Environmental News. In Hansen, A. and Cox, R. (eds.) Handbook of Environment and Communication. London: Routledge.

Anderson, A. and Petersen, A. (2013) Nanotechnologies and Trust. In Candlin, C.N. and J. Crichton (eds.) Discourses of Trust. Basingstoke: Palgrave.

Anderson, A. (2010) 'Communicating Chemical Risks: Beyond the Risk Society'. In Eriksson, J., Gilek, M. and Ruden, C. (eds) Regulating Chemical Risks: Multidisciplinary Perspectives on European and Global Challenges. Springer.

Anderson, A., Allan, S., Petersen, A and Wilkinson, C. (2008) 'Nanoethics: news media and the shaping of public agendas'. In Luppicini, R. & Adell, R. (eds) Handbook of Research on Technoethics, Idea Group.

Anderson, A. (2007) 'Spinning the Rural Agenda' . In Giarchi, G. (ed.) Challenging Welfare Issues in the Global Countryside. Oxford: Blackwell.

Anderson, A. (2006) 'Media and Risk'. In Walklate, S. & Mythen, G. (eds.) Beyond the Risk Society. Open University/McGraw Hill.

Allan, S., Anderson, A. and Petersen, A. (2005) ‘Reporting Risk: Science Journalism and the Prospect of Human Cloning’. In Watson, S. and Moran, A. (eds.) Risk, Trust and Uncertainty. London: Palgrave.

Anderson, A., Petersen, A. and David, M. (2005) 'Communication or Spin? Source -Media Relations in Science Journalism'. In S. Allan (ed) Journalism: Critical Issues. Buckingham: OUP.

Anderson, A. (2004) 'Media Analysis'. In M. David and C. Sutton (eds.) Social Research: The Basics. London: Sage.

Anderson, A. (2004) 'Risk, Terrorism and the Internet'. In Clarke, D. (ed.) Technology and Terrorism (pp 155-66). London: Transaction.

Anderson, A. (2003) 'Environmental Activism and News Sources'. In S. Cottle (ed.) News, Public Relations and Power. London: Sage.

Anderson, A. (2001) 'News Media Representations of Environmental Issues.' In The Role of the Mass Media in Environmental Education, Environmental Studies Information Centre (CEIA), Catalan Institute of Technology, Barcelona, Spain.

Anderson, A. (1999) 'Environmental Pressure Politics and the 'Risk Society'' In S. Allan, B. Adam & C. Carter (Eds.) Environmental Risks and the Media. London: Routledge.

Anderson, A. & S. Miles (1999) 'Just Do It?' Young People, the Global Media and the Construction of Consumer Meanings. In S. Ralph, J. Langham-Brown & T. Lees (eds.) Youth and the Global Media. Current Debates in Broadcasting 5, University of Luton Press, 105-112.

Anderson, A. (1993) 'Source-media Relations: The Production of the Environmental Agenda'. In A. Hansen (ed.) The Mass Media and Environmental Issues. Leicester: Leicester University Press


Wyles, K.J., Hildlgo-Ruz, V., Pahl, S., & Anderson, A. (2015) 'Social Aspects of Microplastics in the Marine Environment'. In Kershaw, P.J. (Ed.) 'Sources, fate andeffects of microplastics in the marine environment - a global assessment’.GESAMP Reports & Studies Series. GESAMP(IMO/FAO/UNESCO-IOC/UNIDO/WMO/IAEA/UN/UNEP/UNDP Joint Group of Experts onScientific Aspects of Marine Protection)

Other Publications

Anderson, A. (2005) Book review of Gold, J.R. (2004) 'Representing the Environment', Journal of Rural Studies, July.

Anderson, A. (2006) Book review of Tumber, H. & Palmer, J. (2004) Media at War: The Iraq Crisis. London: Sage, War and the Media Network. publications/reviews/Palmer_tumber.html

Anderson, A. (2007) Book review of Berube, D. (2006) 'Nano-hype', Health, Risk and Society, 9, (2).

Anderson, A. (2011) Book review of Mario Pagliaro (2010) 'Nano Age: How nanotechnology Changes our Future', Journal of Applied Organometallic Chemistry.