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  Communicating Climate Science to Diverse Audience Groups in a Changing World (COVENTRY_PSY23CDCC)

   School of Psychology

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  Prof K Coventry, Dr I Lorenzoni  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

Primary Supervisor - Prof Kenny Coventry

Secondary Supervisor - Dr Irene Lorenzoni

Supervisory Team - Dr Jordan Harold 

In the 2020s it is essential to understand the ways in which messaging can impact how and when to act in light of the AR6 WGI SPM report. Guidelines have been formulated for more effective presentation of climate change visualizations based on research in the cognitive sciences (Harold et al., 2016, 2020). Key is understanding the ‘Audience’, so that communications can be tailored to maximise comprehension and access. There are significant challenges regarding how best to capture differences between audiences, including those that distrust science, and where there are contested beliefs of appropriate courses of action to respond to climate change. As attitudes and societal messaging change in real time, it is important to understand how presentation and interpretation of visualizations also change, so they can be adapted to maximise comprehension and reach.

The project will:

1)      Understand the processes by which different audiences engage with climate science visualisations over time, tracking how changing attitudes and beliefs feed into adaptive understanding (cross-sectionally and longitudinally). 

2)      Use that understanding to co-produce visualisations with climate scientists (e.g., IPCC authors), social scientists, information designers, relevant institutions, and stakeholder groups.

3)      Explore creative approaches to the production of ‘visual narratives’ for effective communication of visual data that engage audiences by turning data into meaningful stories. 

Mixed methods will be employed, including online/eye tracking studies to understand how audiences process and engage with visualisations of data, and qualitative methods to develop visuals co-production as well as their translation into meaningful stories, to understand beliefs interact with narrative comprehension. 


The student will join a vibrant research community within the School of Psychology that affords training in quantitative (e.g. eye tracking, advanced statistical analyses, online platforms) and qualitative (e.g. thematic analyses) methods. In addition, the student will benefit from the extensive network-wide training opportunities across ClimateUEA, the Tyndall Centre and the UEA doctoral college.

Person Specification

A first degree and a Masters degree in psychology or related discipline. Skills in quantitative methods are preferred, with experience of designing experiments/analysing data. Experience of designing online studies would be an advantage, as would experience of interviewing/qualitative approaches.

The start date is 1 February 2024.

This project is part of the Critical Decade for Climate Change PhD programme, please visit for more information about the project and making an application.

Environmental Sciences (13) Psychology (31)

Funding Notes

Successful candidates will be awarded a 3 year, 8 month studentship covering tuition fees, a maintenance stipend (£18,622 per year in 2023/24) and funds to support the research project and associated training.
Applications are only open candidates who qualify for UK tuition fees.
Part-time studentship awards are subject to approval.
For more information about the ‘Critical Decade’ programme click here.
This project has been selected for the Critical Decade for Climate Change programme, funded by UEA and the Leverhulme Trust. Shortlisted applicants will be invited to an online interview, to be held late November/early December 2023.


Cohn, N. (2020). Visual narrative comprehension. Universal or not? Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, 27, 266-285.
Harold, J., Lorenzoni, I., Shipley, T. F., & Coventry, K. R. (2016). Cognitive and psychological science insights to improve climate change data visualisation. Nature Climate Change, 6, 1-11.
Harold, J., Lorenzoni, I., Shipley, T. F., & Coventry, K. R. (2020). Communication of IPCC visuals: IPCC authors’ views and assessments of visual complexity. Climatic Change, 158, 255-270.
Kahan, D. et al. (2012). The polarizing impact of science literacy and numeracy on perceived climate change risks. Nature Climate Change, 2, 732-735.

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