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Investigating the Role of Identities and Opinion Leadership on Risk Information Seeking and Sharing about Proposed Natural Gas Drilling in New York’s Marcellus Shale
Unformatted Document Text:  24 aspects of these judgments as information is found and shared (or not). These relationships can be studied using panel studies that capture time-lagged effects (Slater, 2007). These areas raise several study limitations. To what extent can the interviews shed light on potential causal paths (Cook & Campbell, 1979)? Qualitative methods can explore causality through nuances of meaning in terms of why people communicate as they do (Maxwell, 2004). Also, from a generalizability perspective, it is likely that the perspectives identified are a function of those who participated in the study. However, this research did not seek to map social networks of opinion leaders that might (and likely do) exist about Marcellus Shale. Rather, it studied communication behavior among a sample of perceived leaders to explore the opinion leader identity- behavior link, build theory, and discuss future research (see Shapiro, 2002). From a practical perspective, controversies like the Marcellus Shale involve divergent interpretations about the existence and management of risk, and risk communication can take different forms, including persuasive and engagement-based strategies (Haut, Williams, Burnett, & Theodori, 2010). The latter may include public input on policy decisions, attaining consensus on a particular course of action, and facilitating stakeholder understanding of diverse viewpoints (Chess & Purcell, 1999) - methods that are reflective of what some scholars dialectical risk communication. This approach involves helping stakeholders “evaluate the scientific and technical merits of the information” (McComas, 2004, p. S65) in an effort to facilitate skills for “informed participation in decision-making processes” (Scherer, McComas, Juanillo, & Pelstring, 1999, p. 209). Searching for and critically evaluating messages is crucial so that citizens “acquire information needed to deal effectively with… nuances and complexities of risk” (p. 209).

Authors: Clarke, Chris.
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aspects of these judgments as information is found and shared (or not). These relationships 
can be studied using panel studies that capture time-lagged effects (Slater, 2007). 
These areas raise several study limitations. To what extent can the interviews shed light 
on potential causal paths (Cook & Campbell, 1979)? Qualitative methods can explore causality 
through nuances of meaning in terms of why people communicate as they do (Maxwell, 2004). 
Also, from a generalizability perspective, it is likely that the perspectives identified are a function 
of those who participated in the study. However, this research did not seek to map social 
networks of opinion leaders that might (and likely do) exist about Marcellus Shale. Rather, it 
studied communication behavior among a sample of perceived leaders to explore the opinion 
leader identity- behavior link, build theory, and discuss future research (see Shapiro, 2002).
From a practical perspective, controversies like the Marcellus Shale involve divergent 
interpretations about the existence and management of risk, and risk communication can take 
different forms, including persuasive and engagement-based strategies (Haut, Williams, Burnett, 
& Theodori, 2010). The latter may include public input on policy decisions, attaining consensus 
on a particular course of action, and facilitating stakeholder understanding of diverse viewpoints 
(Chess & Purcell, 1999) - methods that are reflective of what some scholars dialectical risk 
communication. This approach involves helping stakeholders “evaluate the scientific and 
technical merits of the information” (McComas, 2004, p. S65) in an effort to facilitate skills for 
“informed participation in decision-making processes” (Scherer, McComas, Juanillo, & Pelstring, 
1999, p. 209).  Searching for and critically evaluating messages is crucial so that citizens “acquire 
information needed to deal effectively with… nuances and complexities of risk” (p. 209).

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