Using marketing concepts to facilitate upstream public engagement with science : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Marketing at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand
This thesis investigates whether marketing theories and methodologies can be used to
facilitate upstream public engagement with contentious scientific issues. Upstream
engagement requires the early involvement of citizens in decisions about new science or
technology from the conceptualisation stage onwards; before ingrained attitudes, social
representations or frames in the media bias responses. Contemporary approaches to science
communication lack consensus on the most appropriate approach to engage the public with
new science and technology.
The research addresses upstream communication in the context of climate engineering.
Scientists and the International Panel for Climate Change are considering climate engineering
as a potential solution to global warming, given that the present methods of mitigation and
adaptation have so far failed to sufficiently reduce global temperatures to a level of 1.5
degrees above pre-industrial levels. The communication of potential solutions to global
warming is a vital part of a critical global issue that will impact the planet’s eco-systems,
biodiversity and future generations. Marketing may be able to provide methodologies and
techniques for evaluating and measuring public perceptions of climate engineering.
As well as contributing to upstream science communication and public engagement, the
research contributes to marketing theory in two ways. First, it extends the application of
brand image research founded on the Associative Network Theory of Memory (ANTM) to
science concepts, demonstrating the robustness of the theory. Second, it extends the
information dual-processing theory to investigate the effects of intuitive and deliberative
thinking on concept evaluations, and whether these views change with greater deliberation.
In the qualitative phase, thirty exploratory semi-structured depth interviews, using two
methods of attribute elicitation, provided 12 common attributes associated with climate
engineering. The findings identified an overall negative public reaction to the four climate
engineering technologies tested. The independent qualitative findings also revealed a
strikingly clear result – Carbon Dioxide Removal technologies are perceived more positively
than Solar Radiation Management technologies.
The subsequent quantitative on-line surveys tested public perceptions of six climate
engineering techniques in Australia (n =1,006) and New Zealand (n =1,022). The results of
the on-line surveys supported the qualitative findings that associations with climate
engineering techniques are predominately negative, and allowed further diagnostic insights
into the sources of these evaluations for each of the individual techniques tested. The analysis
established the data are robust and stable across the two countries and the methodologies are
validated by the strikingly similar aggregate findings across the qualitative and quantitative
For the comparison of intuitive and deliberative thinking on memory associations with
climate engineering the effects are measured by comparing within sample groups split by the
length of time taken to complete the online survey. In Australia, the findings show that
greater deliberative thinking is associated with more negative evaluations, indicating that
intuitive and deliberative thinking do give different results in magnitude, if not in direction
for these data. In New Zealand, greater deliberative thinking is not associated with more
negative evaluations suggesting that the effect of deliberative thinking on the evaluation of
climate engineering concepts is moderated by the country of study, or by the prior beliefs of
the country’s population.
A final stage of research used five focus groups in New Zealand to investigate whether
deliberative arguments and interactions help participants make sense of unfamiliar, multifaceted
or contentious issues, and whether different perspectives are influenced by age,
gender or the ethnicity of participants. Overall, most participants were sceptical of climate
engineering, although some between-group differences were apparent. Knowledge of climate
engineering varied between groups, with younger participants unaware of climate
engineering, and reluctant to consider research on the technologies. Conversely, in the retiree
group all but one participant had heard of climate engineering and the most of the participants
were receptive to the idea of proceeding with research on climate engineering technologies.
This further demonstrates that the effects of deliberation may be context specific.
The results confirm the practicality of extending concept testing and measurement of memory
associations to upstream engagement for controversial scientific methods, showing
convergent validity across countries and methods. The results demonstrate that mixed mode
research using marketing techniques yields a range of insights that are not otherwise available
in upstream public engagement. Finally, the research finds that more deliberative responses
may affect the magnitude of concept evaluations, but the effect is contextual. This highlights
the need for further research to provide better understanding of the effect of deliberation on
Material removed from thesis for copyright reasons: Wright, M. J., Teagle, D. A. H., & Feetham, P. M. (2014).
A quantitative evaluation of the public response to climate engineering. Nature Climate Change, 4(2), 106-110. doi:10.1038/NCLIMATE2087