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The Deficit Model approach was exposed back in 2003

This paper, amongst others, appeared over a decade ago, yet the deficit model approach to communicating science policy persists, largely driven by failures to appreciate the intricacies of public risk perception

Many of the approaches that are currently used to communicate in controversial, high concern or crisis situations are based on public agency models of public relations. These often less than truthful, sender-orientated methods take their core direction from PR strategies developed in the 50s and 60s largely at the behest of ‘Big Tobacco.’ These fail to acknowledge the “risk society” that we now live in, the higher standards of accountability and transparency that must be met and certainly do not recognize the social amplification of risk that is so prevalent today via both traditional and new media. PR tactics often make matters worse by generating outrage and eroding the vital component of all communication in such challenging circumstances, trust.

The apparent disconnect between science-based business and empirically verified communication strategies is perfectly illustrated by the most common mistake of all, the so-called ‘Deficit Model’ approach. In the belief that the public’s attitudes towards technology is due to them being ill-informed, organizations try to fill a ‘knowledge gap’ that will, so the belief goes, bridge the gap towards acceptance. This is a fallacy and has no support in peer-reviewed literature and yet hundreds of millions of dollars are ploughed into ‘atheoretical’ deficit campaigns each year.

The 3rd Party Technique & Authority Figures

The ubiquitous use of 3rd party groups and expert ‘authority’ figures in science & technology advocacy are techniques that are increasingly failing to have the desired effect. Ineffective stakeholder mapping and audience selection, and overly technical, factual communications are also symptoms of communication programs that fail to understand the boarder complexities of audience risk perception and how specific approaches to communication are necessary when risk, uncertainty, complexity, vulnerability and issues of trust are to the fore.

The problems facing innovation-centered life science businesses and organisations in this area are surmountable but the challenges are increasing. It is clear that what worked before the information revolution and for marketing and sales of consumer goods, for example, are of no use when public engagement in complex and often uncertain and controversial science is necessary.

Asia BioBusiness provides its clients science-based solutions to manage risks, reduce concern,  engage with stakeholders, and build trust. We take a unique approach that provides clients with empirically tested ways to communicate risk, influence stakeholders and to guide them towards the best possible decisions for the long-term benefit of our clients.

“This workshop will change the way we communicate about risk.”
Senior Manager in NZ Crown Research Organization Post ABB Risk Comm Workshop for NZBIO, May 2013

May 5 Workshop, QUT, Brisbane

In this 1-day workshop, we will introduce you to the latest approaches to risk communication, decision science under risk situations, theories of cultural cognition, and alternatives to standard PR strategies. We will provide challenging insights into the communication of risks in the field, and enable you with tangible methods to return to your organization and more effectively direct your campaigns and enhance returns on communication investments.

Please download the flyer for this event here…


Life Sciences Queensland Limited

P +617 3331 3944 | F +617 3870 9101

Email: [email protected]


Author abbadmin

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