Research in Strategic Communication

The strategic communication group investigates the role of communication in a high-choice, digitalized information environment. It has a key interest in societal issues and challenges in the realm of life sciences, such as climate, biodiversity, health, and food security and with a special focus on citizen engagement and (political) participation. We are interested in the content of communication in a wide variety of forms and places, including (social) media, campaigns, and dialogues. We investigate how this communication comes about, is used strategically, and how it impacts individuals’ attitudes, opinions, knowledge and behaviour, collective actors like interest groups, political parties and government, as well as social practices and society at large.

Methodologically, we rely on a wide range of methods and encourage methodological diversity. We specialize in quantitative (computational) content analysis, new methods to collect and analyze digital data such as experience sampling, experimental, and survey research, as well as interventions and qualitative approaches, such as interviews, focus groups, discourse and narrative analyses.

More specifically, our research relates to four themes.

The first theme is sustainability communication. Here, research focuses on the use of communication to foster sustainability. Research projects focus on (persuasive) communication for behavioral and consumer change, interventions for sustainable and healthy lifestyles, climate change adaptation and structural change in food production, the importance of trust and risk perceptions.

The second theme is science communication. It addresses the role of experts in public debates, trust in science, and, importantly, the politicization of scientific knowledge. It investigates the way scientific knowledge is communicated in the media and adopted or refuted by citizens and political actors.

The third theme is digitalization and society. Research relates to the role artificial intelligence plays in everyday life, political processes, and in innovation in, for example, agriculture, what role data-driven communication plays in (election and advertising) campaigns, and how media consumption in a highly digitalized society changes and with what consequences.

The fourth theme is polarization and dialogue. We focus on how societal debates around important issues, such as climate change and public health, polarize. Also understanding the presence of mis- and disinformation, and its impact on society and on trust in the media and other institutions. Furthermore, we investigate citizen engagement through dialogue and civil society advocacy as a potential means to counter polarization and inequalities.

Overall, we conduct research to fundamentally understand the use, content, and effects of communication. We want to use this knowledge to have an impact on and change society for the better. This implies that we engage with multiple societal and policy actors during and after our research, with the aim to contribute to a more just, sustainable and equitable society. We devote substantial effort to the valorization of our findings.