My research



Science and environmental issues are often perceived to be complex and to evolve slowly, with underlying political, social, and cultural characteristics that affect how people respond to them. I approach the field of science and environmental communication with social scientific perspectives, using various angles such as visual analysis, risk perception, media coverage, and public opinion. I am especially interested in studying how to communicate science and environmental issues to overcome a specific set of human biases to make the issues more relatable, tangible and understandable to a broad audience. My on-going projects study how to use (1) animation in environmental news stories, (2) media imagery of climate change and natural disasters, and (3) international comparative and interdisciplinary perspectives in environmental and science journalism.




Animation in environmental news stories



Nowadays, the hybridization of animation and journalism increasingly surfaces throughout mainstream media. While scholars have investigated animation in journalism in relation to crime stories and virtual reality, literature on animation in environmental news remains scarce. I have been working with Dr. Laura Crosswell and Kari Barber in conducting experiments and eye tracking research to explore how animated versus live-action video influences viewer responses to environmental news coverage.



Recent Publications:


Duan, R., Crosswell, L., & Barber, K. (2021). Animation in environmental journalism: Effects on news perception and information seeking. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 1-23.

Crosswell, L. H., Duan, R., & Barber, K. (2021). ‘Exploring animation as a compliance gaining strategy for environmental news reporting. In S. Schartel Dunn & G. Nisbett (Eds.) Innovations and Implications of Persuasive Narrative. New York, NY: Peter Lang Publishing




Media imagery of climate change



In today’s society, human attention is a scarce resource. People tend to prefer visual news information over reading text. Climate change is a topic that has been frequently reported and discussed in various media sources. The majority of people in the United States view climate change as an abstract and distant risk, even though images of climate change in the media are often thought to be consumable and concrete.  How to use visuals to effectively communicate climate change? I'm currently working on the following issues in visual climate change communication:


  • A quantitative method inspired from psychology to analyze climate change visuals
  • How could abstract and concrete visual representations of climate change differentially affect the public's perceived distance to climate change?

Example of Abstract Images. Retrieved from: (under Creative Commons CC0)




Example of Concrete Images. Photo credit to Matt Rath/Chesapeake Bay Program. Retrieved from:, under CC BY-NC 2.0.

Caption: As sea levels rise and weather events become more extreme, coastal flooding and erosion will increase across the Chesapeake Bay.



Recent Publications:


Duan, R., Zwickle, A. and Takahashi, B. (2017). A construal-level perspective of climate change images in US newspapers. Climatic Change, 142(3), 142-345. doi:10.1007/s10584-017-1945-9

Duan, R., Takahashi, B. and Zwickle, A. (2019) Abstract or concrete? The effect of climate change images on people’s estimation of egocentric psychological distance. Public Understanding of Science, 0963662519865982.



International comparative media research



My comparative media systems research addresses local and global environmental challenges from the perspective of media globalization, expanding the theoretical understandings of international news flows and the scientific understanding of the ideological & cultural influences on media content in different countries. I am currently working on the following issues:


  • The influence of international news flow on the American and Chinese news media's coverage of environmental problems
  • Climate change reporting in China and the U.S.



Recent Publications:


Duan, R. & Miller, S. (2019) Climate change in china: A study of news diversity in party-sponsored and market-oriented newspapers. Journalism.

Duan, R., & Takahashi, B. (2017). The two-way flow of news: A comparative study of American and Chinese newspaper coverage of Beijing’s air pollution. International Communication Gazette. 79(1), 83-107. doi: 10.1177/1748048516656303

Duan, R., Takahashi, B. (2015, November 18). Is China’s environmental reporting changing? The Online Journal of The China Policy Institute, The University of Nottingham. Retrieved from: