Katherine E Rowan

Katherine E Rowan

Katherine E Rowan


Risk and crisis communication, science communication, public relations.

Katherine E. Rowan is an emerita professor of communication at George Mason University, Fairfax, VA. She retired from full-time teaching in 2020 and now teaches on an occasional basis.  Her research concerns the public relations challenges of earning trust and explaining complexities in risk and crisis communication contexts, and she teaches public relations, science communication, and crisis communication. You can reach her on email.
Professor Rowan is proud to be both an alumna of Mason and one of its retired faculty.  She received her bachelor's degree from George Mason's English Department in 1975 and was a member of its inter-collegiate competitive public speaking team, the forensics team.
After graduation, she worked for the Smithsonian Institution's Office of Public Affairs. Her master's degree was earned in communication and journalism from the University of Illinois, and her doctorate in the teaching of rhetoric and composition from Purdue's English Department. She joined Purdue's Communication Department in 1985, earning tenure in 1991 and full professor status in 1996. She joined Mason's faculty in 2000.
She is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and past chair of its section on General Interest in Science and Engineering.  She has authored or edited over 70 scholarly and governmental publications concerning effective methods for earning trust and explaining complex science. Her research has been funded by Virginia Sea Grant and the National Science Foundation. She has given lectures on risk communication, science communication, and crisis communication for organizations such as the National Library of Medicine, the National Institutes of Health's Office of Behavioral and Social Science Research, the U. S. Department of Agriculture, the National Academy of Sciences, the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, and Emory and Henry College.

Current Research

I am working with teams on several projects.

One characterizes the communication goals of professionals in institutional contexts (legislative arenas, government agencies, nonprofits, universities).  This project is led by Dr. Karen L. Akerlof.  Another, also led by Dr. Akerlof, concerns the scholarly literatures where one can find research on environmental science communication.

Another is a team effort led by Dr. Chris Clarke on assessing the Alan Alda approach to science communication training for scientists.

A third is a team effort led by Dr. Julia Hathaway on best practices for teaching research, writing, and presentation of briefings to decision-makers, particularly briefings that provide decision makers with a range of options, not just one.



Selected Publications

Principal investigator.  Science communication education for VASG Fellows.  Funded, Virginia Sea Grant, 2013-2017, $56,000.

Co-principal investigator, National Science Foundation, Enabling TV meteorologists to provide viewers with climate change-related science education based on ISE “best practices.” 2009-2011, $1 million.

Rowan, K. E., Kotcher, J., Walsh-Thomas, J., Baldwin, P., Trowbridge, J., Thaker, J. T., Witte, J., Klinger, B. A., Cohen, L., Tresch, C., & Maibach, E. W. (in press).  Best practices of “innovator” TV meteorologists who act as climate change educators.  In D. O’Hair (Ed.), Risk and Health Communication in an Evolving Media Environment.  London:  Routledge.

Jacobsen, K. H., Aguirre, A. A., Bailey, C. L., Baranova, A. V., Crooks, A. T., Croitoru, A., Delamater, P. L., Gupta, J., Kehn-Hall, K., Narayanan, A., Pierobon, M., Rowan, K. E., Schwebach, J. R., Seshaiyer, P., Sklarew, D. M., Stefanidis, A., & Agouris, P. (2016).  Lessons from the Ebola outbreak: Ten action items for emerging infectious disease preparedness and response.  Ecohealth, 13 (1), 200-212.

Akerlof, K. L., Rowan, K. E., La Porte, T., Batten, B. K., Ernst, H., & Sklarew, D. M. (2016).  Risky business: Engaging the public on sea level rise and inundation, Environmental Science and Policy, 66, 314-323.

Rowan, K. E. (2015).  Why some health risks upset us and others do not:  Risk perception and risk communication.  Spectra, magazine of the National Association of Communication, March, 51 (1). 

Akerlof, K. L., Rowan, K. E., Fitzgerald, D., & Cedeno, A. Y. (2012). Communicating climate projections in U. S. media: Politicization of model uncertainty. Nature Climate Change, 2, http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nclimate1542.html

Rowan, K. E., Botan, C. H., Kreps, G. L., Samoilenko, S., & Farnsworth, K. (2009). Risk communication education for local emergency managers: Using the CAUSE Model for research, education, and outreach (pp. 168-191). In R. Heath & H. D. O’Hair (Eds.), Handbook of crisis and risk communication. New York: Taylor & Francis.

Rowan, K. E. (2003). Informing and explaining skills: Theory and research on informative communication. In J. O. Greene & B. R. Burleson (Eds.), The handbook of communication and social interaction skills (pp. 403-438). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Expanded Publication List



Grants and Fellowships

Clarke, C., PI, Rowan, K. E., Co-PI, Zhao, X., Co-PI, Besley, J., Seiter, C., & Hathaway, J. (2019-2021) Assessing the Alan Alda Center's science communication training.  Funded, $164, 932 by the Alan Alda Center for Science Communication, Stony Brook, NY.

Akerlof, K. L., PI, Clarke, C., Co-PI, Rowan, K. E., Co-PI, & Olds, J. Co-PI (2019-2020).  Conservation and environmental science communication.  Development of a transdisciplinary curriculum.  Curriculum Impact Grant. Funded by the Office of the Provost, George Mason University for $38,750.00. 

Rowan, K. E., PI. (2018-2019).  Alan Alda Communicating Science Training Assessment. Alan Alda Center for Science Communication, Stony Brook, NY. $8,000.

Gest, J., PI, Schar School of Policy and Government, & Rowan, K. E., Co-PI (2018-2019). Policy Communication, Curricular Impact Grant.  Funded by the Office of the Provost, George Mason University, $9,000.

Rowan, K. E. Contractor, & Hathaway, J. R. (2019).   Workshop developer and report author Triaging the News from Hundreds of NHLBI Studies: A Workshop Where YOU Help Shape Criteria and Processes, $1,500 from ICF Strategic.  Presented to the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD.

Rowan, K. E. Contractor, & Hathaway, J. R.  (2018).  Communicating YOUR Science. Workshop for the National Institutes of Health Office of Behavioral and Social Science, Bethesda, MD.  $3,000.

Rowan, K. E., and Akerlof, K. L. (2013-2017). Science communication education for VASG Fellows.  Funded, Virginia Sea Grant, $56,000.

Maibach, E. W., Rowan, K. E., & Wilson, K. (2009-2011). Co-principal investigator, National Science Foundation, Enabling TV meteorologists to provide viewers with climate change-related science education based on ISE “best practices," $1 million.

Recent Presentations

Rowan, K. E., Engblom, A., Hathaway, J., Lloyd, R., Vorster, I., Anderson, E., & Akerlof, K. L. (in press-available in 2021). Science communication as strategic communication:  Applying the CAUSE Model to communicate climate change. In C. H. Botan (Ed.), The International Handbook of Strategic Communication. NY: Wiley-Blackwell.

Dissertations Supervised

Julia R. Hathaway , A Social Identity Approach to Fostering Collective Action on Climate Change (2019)

Christy L. Forrester, Managing the Risk of Rapid Vessel Capsize: An Exploratory Study of Sensemaking among Oregon Dungeness Crab Commercial Fishing Captains (2019)

Yuxiang Du, Identity Negotiation and Perceptual Change: Examining the Confucius Institute’s Effects on Perceptions of China (2016)

Andrew S. Pyle, Intercultural Emergency Communication: Making Sense of Intercultural Communication Competence in Emergency Response Contexts (2014)