Arthur N. Rupe Biannual Conference

Arthur N. Rupe Chair and Biannual Conference

The Arthur N. Rupe Chair in the Social Effects of Mass Communication

The Arthur N. Rupe Foundation is dedicated to achieving positive social changes by shining light on critical and controversial issues through the production and dissemination of scholarly studies, public forums, debates, documentary films, and other media. The Foundation endowed the Chair in the Department of Communication to conduct teaching, research, and the biannual Rupe Conference about social implications of mass and digital media. Ronald E. Rice has been the Rupe Chair since 2004.

Rupe Conferences

2019: The Secret Lives of Plastic: Materials, Recycling, Oceans, & Communication

2017: Science, Communication and Uncertainty (Evening Presentation; Workshop)

2015: International Communication Association's Environmental Communication Division Post-conference on Climate and Sustainability Campaigns

2015: Sustainable Science Communication Conference

2013: Rupe/Figuring Sea Level Rise Conference: Risk and Uncertainty and the Communication of Sea Level Rise (part of Critical Issues in America Series)

2011: Net Worth: Media Distribution in the Digital Era

2009: Media and the Presidential Election: Humor, Race, and Coverage

2007: Media and the Environment

2005: Rupe Conference on Media Ownership: Research and Regulation (part of Critical Issues in America Series)

2019: The Secret Lives of Plastic: Materials, Recycling, Oceans, & Communication

Corwin Pavilion

Tuesday April 30, 2:00 – 5:15 and 7:00 - 9:00 (4 sessions)

Free; with refreshments

For full details (participants, abstracts, directions, parking, video interviews, articles, books, films, news, videos and websites) click here.

Conference Themes

More and more people are becoming aware of plastics gyres and microplastics in the oceans, cities around the world are banning plastic bags and straws, and China has stopped accepting most of the world’s plastic for recycling. Scientists, policy-makers, municipalities, industries, and countries are struggling with the positive and negative implications of plastic. Topics include interdependencies and challenges in the life cycle of plastics, from design of materials, to uses, down- and up-recycling, energy and cost trade-offs, to pollution and ocean microplastics, sustainability, and communicating the issues. This event brings together experts from universities (administrators, science/social science/humanities professors), government, non-profit agencies, and industry, and presents a fascinating and troubling film, to discuss a variety of timely questions. 

The first two sessions focus on the world-class expertise in chemical engineering and sustainable chemistry, environmental studies and policy, and environmental communication, at UC Santa Barbara and in the Santa Barbara city and county.

The evening session begins with an overview of the current issues, changes, lifecycle, and challenges involving plastic recycling, and a local high school project measuring microplastics.  The movie is about  the implications of plastic for the ocean, given the major emphasis on marine science at UCSB and the concern about ocean sustainability in the area and indeed the world. Recent reports and cutting-edge research explore the diffusion of plastics into and out of ocean gyres, the breakdown of plastics into microplastics in the water, the rise of the plastisphere as a new ocean ecology, the role of microplastics in spreading toxic chemicals and invasive species, the vast amount of plastic material that is dispersed into microparticles in the seabed and oceans, all with pervasive and long-term consequences for marine life as well as humans.

The website provides a diverse array of resources and participant video interviews. During the conference, and in the videos, participants will discuss their thoughts on the following questions:

  • What are advantages and disadvantages of plastic?
  • How are plastic and its alternatives designed, made, used, re-used, trashed, burned, recycled, and spread throughout the earth and oceans?
  • What do biodegradable, compostable, and sustainable actually mean?
  • How should we make economic and environmental tradeoffs between paper and plastic?
  • What are local agencies and industries doing about plastic recycling?
  • What should the general public know about plastic recycling?
  • How do, and should, we communicate about plastics and recycling?
  • What are scientific developments and innovations in plastic and alternative materials?
  • What are important legal and policy initiatives and challenges in managing plastics?

Faculty can offer extra credit for attendance at any session; just provide sign-up rosters to Ron Rice

Click on the poster to download a .pdf document.

Session 1: 2:00-3:15

Welcome, introduction, short video, presentations, audience Q&A

Mahdi Abu-Omar
Mellichamp Professor in Green Chemistry
Plastics from Nature for a Prosperous Future

Aaron McKinnon
Reseacher, University of Hamburg, Germany
Imke Hoppe
Professor, University of Hamburg, Germany
Responsibility Framing in Californian News Coverage of Marine Debris

Patricia Holden
Professor, Bren School of Environmental Science & Management
Director, UCSB Natural Reserve System
Synthetic Microfibers: Emissions, Pathways, and Fates

Carlyle A. Johnston
Project Leader, Resource Recovery & Waste Management Division 
Public Works Department, County of Santa Barbara
China, Global Trade, and How They Impact Recycling in Santa Barbara

Session 2: 3:30-4:45

Introduction, short video, presentations, audience Q&A

Ronald E. Rice
Arthur N. Rupe Professor in the Social Effects of Mass Communication
Department of Communication
Plastic Recycling Communication Campaigns

Roland Geyer
Professor, Bren School of Environmental Science & Management
Production, Use, and Fate of All Plastics


Jessica Schmitt
Recycling and Compost Coordinator, Associated Students
Heather Perry
Sustainable Procurement Analyst, Purchasing
Tanner Dorrough
Outreach Corordinator, Associated Students Recycling
Managing Plastic at UCSB

Session 3: 4:45-5:15

Informal meeting of each presenter with interested students (undergrad and graduate); we will show a slide listing where each presenter will be in the audience seats.

Session 4: 7:00-9:00

Welcome, Introduction, keynote presentation, short video, movie, panel discussion, audience Q&A

Dylan de Thomas
Vice President of Industry Collaboration
The Recycling Partnership
What's Next for Plastics Recycling's Future Past?

Stacy Rebich-Hespanha
Flourish Strategy and Analytics
Donald Bren School of Environmental Science & Management
Save Our Seas News: Kids Taking Action against Microplastic Pollution

Oceans: The Mystery of the Missing Plastic
Director: Vincent Pérazio; Studio: Via Découvertes Films. 2016, 55 minutes

“99% of the plastic that should be floating in the oceans is missing. Even accounting for the plastic that washes up on beaches or is trapped in arctic ice, millions of tonnes has simply disappeared. As most plastic never deteriorates, it simply breaks down into smaller and smaller particles that are invisible to the human eye, what happens to this missing ocean plastic is a mystery. In this investigation, scientists embark in search of the micro-plastics. Small, mostly invisible, toxic, they are home to a new ecosystem: the plastisphere. But where are they? Ingested by organisms? Buried under the ocean floor? Degraded by bacteria? And what is the impact of them entering the food chain?” (Green Planet Films)

Organizers and Sponsors

Ronald E. Rice is the Arthur N. Rupe Professor in the Social Effects of Mass Communication, Department of Communication, with interests in environmental communication, among other topics.

Susannah Scott is Professor of Chemical Engineering, Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Director of the Scott Laboratory, Mellichamp Cluster Chair in Sustainable Catalytic Processing, and Director of the Mellichamp Academic Initiative in Sustainability.

This event is a collaboration between, and funded by, The Arthur N. Rupe Biannual Conference and the Mellichamp Academic Initiative in Sustainability. We also gratefully acknowledge the support of the Associated Students Program Board and the UCSB Communication Association.



2017: Science, Communication and Uncertainty

The 2017 Rupe Conference had two parts: An evening public presentation open to the public, and an afternoon workshop for on-campus faculty and graduate students.

2017: Science, Communication and Uncertainty: Evening Presentation

Ira Flatow

Are You Sure? Science, Communication and Uncertainty

Campbell Hall, UC Santa Barbara Campus
Thursday, May 4th, 2017
7:30 – 9:00 pm


Ira Flator Presentation PosterMost people do not understand the process of science or what scientists do. They expect science to provide them with black and white solutions when in fact science many times comes up with appear to be ambiguous answers: uncertainty.  But this is well-informed uncertainty, often accurate within likely ranges. This disconnect leads to many false assumptions about what to expect from science and scientists. And it makes it difficult for the media to communicate that uncertainty to a public that expects science to "know everything." On top of that challenge, religious and political factors also influence the public's understanding of science. In his presentation, Ira Flatow will explore these challenges and efforts to explain the uncertainty that scientists welcome but the public finds bewildering.  The presentation will be followed by a Q&A session from the audience. Download .pdf poster here:

Award winning science correspondent and TV journalist Ira Flatow is the host of Science Friday®, heard weekly on PRI, Public Radio International, and online. He anchors the show eIra Flatowach Friday, bringing radio and Internet listeners worldwide a lively, informative discussion on science, technology, health, space and the environment.  Ira is also founder and president of  Science Friday Initiative, a 501 (c)(3) non-profit company dedicated to creating radio, TV and Internet projects that make science “user friendly.”   Flatow's interest in things scientific began in boyhood — he almost burned down his mother's bathroom trying to recreate a biology class experiment.  “I was the proverbial kid who spent hours in the basement experimenting with electronic gizmos, and then entering them in high school science fairs,” Flatow says.  

Mixing his passion for science with a tendency toward being a bit of a ham, Flatow describes his work as the challenge “to make science and technology a topic for discussion around the dinner table.”  He has shared that enthusiasm with public radio listeners for more than 35 years. As a reporter and then News Director at WBFO-FM/Buffalo, New York, Flatow began reporting at the station while studying for his engineering degree at State University of New York in Buffalo.  As NPR's science correspondent from 1971 to 1986, Flatow found himself reporting from the Kennedy Space Center, Three Mile Island, Antarctica and the South Pole. In one memorable NPR report, Flatow took former All Things Considered host Susan Stamberg into a closet to crunch Wint-O-Green Lifesavers, proving they spark in the dark.  His most recent book is entitled Present at the Future: From Evolution to Nanotechnology, Candid and Controversial Conversations on Science and Nature (HarperCollins).   

On television, Flatow has discussed the latest cutting edge science stories on a variety of programs.  He also hosted the four-part PBS series Big Ideas produced by WNET in New York.  His numerous TV credits include six years as host and writer for the Emmy-award-winning Newton's Apple on PBS, science reporter for CBS This Morning, and cable's CNBC. He wrote, produced and hosted Transistorized!, an hour-long documentary about the history of the transistor, which aired on PBS.  He has talked science on many TV talk shows including Merv Griffin, Today, Charlie Rose, and Oprah.   He has co-starred twice on the CBS hit series The Big Bang Theory.     

On the Internet, Flatow has hosted numerous science related Web Casts for Discovery Online, The Great Planet Debate and the American Museum of Natural History in New York. His Podcasts are among the most listened to on the Internet, frequently in the top-ten of all downloads on the iTunes web site.  His SciFri Twitter audience numbers more than 440,000, the biggest in all of Public Radio talk/shows.  In print, Ira has authored articles for various magazines ranging from Woman's Day to ESPN Magazine to American Lawyer.  His commentary has appeared in The Los Angeles Times, and Current newspapers.    

Public speaking and moderating discussions are a regular part of his schedule.  He has spoken at Rockefeller University, the World Economic Forum, Sun Microsystems, Hewlett Packard, Calvin Academy, Cal Tech, MIT, Harvard, University of Wisconsin, OSHU, National Inventor’s Hall of Fame and the Kentucky Author Forum.  In 2004, Ira was resident scholar at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute.  His recent honors include: the Isaac Asimov Award (2012), the Nierenberg Prize (2010), Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering membership (2008), National Science Teachers Association Faraday Science Communicator Award (2007), the National Science Board Public Service Award (2005), World Economic Forum Media Fellowship (2005), AAAS Journalism award (2000), Brady Washburn Award (2000), and the Carl Sagan Award (1999).  

Ira is member of the National Association of Science Writers, AFTRA and Screen Actors Guild. His hobbies include tennis, golf, gardening (especially orchids), and electronic gadgets. He loves the theater. A native of New York, Flatow now lives in Connecticut. 

2017: Science, Communication and Uncertainty: Afternoon Workshop

UCen State Street Room, UC Santa Barbara Campus
Thursday, May 4th, 2017
2:00 – 4:45 pm

A central issue in the practice and communication of science is what scientific uncertainty means, and how that term and the content shape both scientific and public discourse.  For example, often media coverage notes or mentions uncertainty without clarifying whether it's general uncertainty (due to deficient knowledge) or scientific uncertainty (which is based on considerable information; we can state the boundaries of the estimates, or have a lot of knowledge about the conditions under which things happen). Then it's easy for people prone to either discount or be confused by science to say, well the scientists don't really know, so it isn't really happening (climate change, sea level rise, vaccinations, etc.).  But, scientists also deal with, measure and estimate, and communicate about various forms and sources of uncertainty. One paradigm of science is that we can never truly know, we can only try to reject explanations; those concepts and relationships that hold up well to attempts at falsification continue on as consensus knowledge. Other paradigms approach uncertainty in different ways.

The workshop will be interdisciplinary, with invited participants from the physical sciences, social sciences, and humanities. Short presentations and longer discussions will identify implications of the concept of uncertainty for communicating science to the public, understanding the public’s attitudes toward science, teaching science, and influencing policy. Presentations may include the scientific and common meanings and implications of uncertainty; uncertainty reduction in interpersonal communication; the portrayal of science and uncertainty in news stories and visuals; how the public processes error and uncertainty about science; uncertainty in scientific research; and related topics. We encourage examples related to sustainability and the environment, but that is not required. Discussions will generate a small number of substantive foci and questions for future research and public policy, and for posing to Ira Flatow, the NPR science communicator, after his presentation on Science, Communication, and Uncertainty at Campbell Hall at 7:30 that evening. 

Any UC Santa Barbara faculty member or graduate student may attend, but please register here: Science, Communication and Uncertainty Workshop Registration 2017 (registration now closed).  If you also wish to be a presenter, please enter a 300-word abstract on the registration page. Full papers are not required, and there will be no proceedings, but participants will be expected to make a short presentation and engage in the discussions. The Workshop will provide presenters a buffet dinner from 5:00 to 6:45.  All participants are encouraged to also attend the evening presentation.

Click here for a .pdf of the following program:  Click here for a .pdf of the summary "takeaways" from the workshop discussions.

Session 1: 2:00 – 3:15pm

Presentations: 40 min

“Responding to Fake News” Doug Bradley, Continuing Lecturer, Writing Program

“Simplicity vs. Scientific Correctness: A Dilemma of Uncertainty” Sangwon Suh, Professor, Bren School of Environmental Science & Management

“Communication Gap: How Science Can Do A Better Job Communicating” Michael Hanrahan, Lecturer & Filmmaker, Department of Film & Media Studies, Carsey-Wolf Center, and the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management

“A Discussion of Lewis Carrol’s 58th Pillow Problem” Kenneth Millett, Emeritus Professor, Department of Mathematics

Breakout Sessions & Group Discussion: 35 min

Break: 3:15-3:30pm

Session 2: 3:30 – 4:45pm

Presentations: 30 min

“Confidence in Uncertainty: A Science Editor's Story” Susannah Scott, Mellichamp Professor of Sustainable Catalytic Processing, Department of Chemical Engineering, Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry

“The Exact Sciences Aren’t” Mattanjah de Vries, Professor, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

“Uncertainty and Opinion Divergence in Climate Change Journalism” Ronald E. Rice, Arthur N. Rupe Chair in the Social Effects of Mass Communication, Department of Communication & Abel Gustafson, Doctoral candidate, Department of Communication

Breakout Sessions & Group Discussion: 30 min

2017: Science, Communication and Uncertainty: Sponsors

The interdisciplinary, cross-campus event is part of a series on Sustainable Science Communication, by the Mellichamp Academic Initiative in Sustainability, and the Department of Communication’s biannual Rupe Conference series. It is co-sponsored by the Bren School for Environmental Science & Management's Strategic Communication & Environmental Media focus, and the Associated Students Program Board, and is assisted by Arts & Lectures.  See for the home webpage of this event.













2015: International Communication Association's Environmental Communication Division Post-conference on Climate and Sustainability Campaigns

Tuesday, May 26, 2015 Caribe Hilton, San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Sponsored by the Environmental Communication Division, Health Communication Division, Political Communication Division. Funded by the Rupe Chair in the Social Effects of Mass Communication, Department of Communication, University of California, Santa Barbara.

Anthropogenic climate change has now come of age as a widely recognized global risk and a profound peril to the health and wellbeing of human and nonhumans alike (Maibach, Roser-Renouf & Leiserowitz, 2008). It demands global responses and actions to reduce its threats (Beck, 2010). According to one recent analysis, climate legislation is unlikely without a large, well-orchestrated and sustained climate movement and climate action (Skocpol 2013). The aim of this post-conference is to help shift research on climate communication from its early focus on media coverage of climate change to mapping and understanding the global terrain of climate and sustainability campaigns waged by diverse actors across the world, and targeting various audiences.  This post-conference sought to improve our understanding of campaign types, scope, organizational nature and actors, topics, goals, strategies, tactics, capacities, effects, audience psychology, and similar relevant issues.

8:30 – 8:45 Greetings

8:45 – 9:15 Keynote

9:15 – 10:45 Session 1: Source and Channel Factors in Climate Communication Campaigns

11:00 – 12:30 Session 2: Campaign Considerations and Message Strategies: Framing, Social Norm Activation and Visual Content

1:30 – 2:45 Session 3: Individual--level Factors and Environmental Behaviors and Beliefs

3:00 – 4:45 Session 4: Time and Place: Case Studies of Specific Climate Campaigns

4:45 – 5:00 Closing Remarks

For a detailed program (in Word format), including extended (5 pages) abstracts of the papers, see:

2015: Sustainable Science Communication Conference

Wednesday, May 13, 7pm - 9 pm, Pollock Theater: film Merchants of Doubt, with audience Q&A

Thursday, May 14, 9am - 5pm, Corwin Pavilion: 9:30am – 10:45am CONTENT; 11:00am – 12:15pm AUDIENCE; 12:30pm – 2:00pm Sustainability and Science Communication POSTERS; LUNCH AT THE UCEN; 2:00pm – 3:15pm MEDIA; 3:30pm – 4:45pm IMPACT

What are effective ways of communicating about sustainability and environmental science? The conference and discussions will cover approaches from academic research, community organizations, and professional science communicators. For conference details see, or  For participant titles, abstracts and biographical statements, see

For edited videos of the 4 sessions, see,,, and

2013: Rupe/Figuring Sea Level Rise Conference: Risk and Uncertainty and the Communication of Sea Level Rise

Friday, April 12, 9:00am - 5:00pm, Corwin Pavilion

This conference is the culminating event of the Figuring Sea Level Rise/Critical Issues in America series.  Participants will discuss the human dimensions of risks and concerns of affected communities, and the challenges of using indigenous, mass media, and online media for communicating about Sea Level Rise. Click here for videos of sessions.

2011: Net Worth: Media Distribution in the Digital Era

Friday, February 18, 9:30am - 4:30pm, Pollock Theater

Jointly presented by the Carsey-Wolf Center’s Media Industries Project and the Arthur N. Rupe Chair in the Social Effects of Mass Communication, this free one-day conference brought together scholars, critics, and industry practitioners to stimulate fresh research on distribution. It explored diverse aspects of the digital distribution revolution including corporate practices, creative labor, intellectual property, and new technologies.

Media delivery options have expanded considerably during the digital era. College students now watch TV and movies on laptops, while many of their parents ditch the cable box for a home theater PC. Some people pay for their media as monthly utilities, while others graze across a vast landscape of electronic offerings, selecting their choices a la carte. With each passing year, more people watch what they want, when they want, and increasingly, where they want. All of this adds up to a revolution in media distribution, affecting every aspect of commercial popular culture, from industry practices to audience consumption and re-use. Yet, strikingly, media scholarship pays far less attention to distribution than any other aspect of popular media.

Click here for more details and complete program, and videos of all the sessions.


2009: Media and the Presidential Election: Humor, Race, and Coverage

During 2009, the Department of Communication at the University of California Santa Barbara celebrated its 25th anniversary through three major events.  One of the year’s events was the bi-annual Rupe Conference, co-sponsored and co-organized by the Carsey-Wolf Center, on Thursday, March 5, 2:00pm - 9:30pm, Corwin Pavilion.


2:00 - 3:15 First Debate (video):
The Media Played a New Role in Dealing with Race in the Presidential Campaign
Dana Mastro, U. Arizona & Christopher McAuley, UC Santa Barbara

3:30 - 4:45 Second Debate (video):
Media Humor was Good for the Presidential Campaign
Lance Bennett, U. Washington & Rod Hart, U. Texas

8:00 - 9:30 Keynote Address (video):
An Analysis of Media Coverage: Did it Make Any Difference?
Jeff Greenfield, CBS Senior Political Correspondent  


2007: Media and the Environment

Saturday, April 28, 12:00pm - 6:00pm, Corwin Pavilion

This multi-media event, co-sponsored and co-organized by the Carsey-Wolf Center, brought together media creators and producers, journalists, scientists, web masters, media researchers, international agency coordinators, and the audience. The sessions showed a wide variety of environmental media content, including web video, documentary films, and commercial advertisements. The presentations and discussions explored the technological, economic, political, and social challenges involved in creating environmental media content for traditional and new media outlets, and for improving public understanding and action concerning the environment.

Click here for more details and complete program, and videos for all the sessions.


2005: Rupe Conference on Media Ownership: Research and Regulation

Saturday, May 21, 9:00pm - 5:00pm, Victoria Hall Theatre, Santa Barbara

Media Ownership: Research and Regulation was a year-long series of events examining the changing patterns of media ownership, their implications on civic practice, and the regulatory structures that govern them. It was supported by a UCSB Critical Issues in America grant, and co-sponsored and co-organized by the Carsey-Wolf Center.

The series culminated in the 2005 Rupe Conference on Media Ownership, and over the 9 months engaged more than 50 faculty members from 20 different departments.

Click here for the table of contents of the 18-chapter 2008 edited book Media Onwership: Research and Regulation that includes full chapter versions of many of the presentations from the series and conference, as well as other chapters on aspects of Media Regulation and Ownership.