A brief interview with HRA Fellow Scott Slovic

HRA: How does HIBAR research fit into your work?

Slovic: I work in the interdisciplinary field known as the environmental humanities, and much of my work focuses on “data studies” (how information is collected, communicated, and processed cognitively) in the contexts of humanitarian and environmental crises. For instance, I’ve written recently about “the poetics of toxicity,” considering how information about the public health impacts of mining are conveyed by way of poetry and other kinds of language. This work is clearly interdisciplinary (involving such fields as literary studies and psychology), and the objective is to contribute to society by developing a deeper understanding of the language needed to communicate effectively about social and environmental concerns. But the involvement of societal partners tends to be neglected in this kind of environmental humanities research. I am hopeful that a new approach known as “empirical ecocriticism,” which often relies on adapting social science methodologies in order to determine the psychological impacts of language on audiences, will facilitate more active partnership between academic researchers like me and organizations (including environmental NGOs) that may be interested in investigating the most effective ways of communicating with the public and with corporate and governmental decision makers.


HRA: What is your vision for the future of the HIBAR Research Alliance?

Slovic: After several years of careful efforts on the part of many people involved with the HRA, we’ve laid a strong foundation for bringing many other institutions and colleagues into the organization. Much of my own work, over the years, has involved multidisciplinary efforts across the social and natural sciences, public policy, and the arts and humanities. I would like to see colleagues from a broader range of disciplines become involved with the HRA. I know that researchers across the entire range of disciplines are engaged in public impact research, broadly construed—and I’m excited to think about how people working in the arts and humanities, fields not always known to invite teamwork and community engagement, might embrace the HIBAR concept and find support and inspiration from the efforts of the HRA. I also do much of my work overseas, especially during non-pandemic times, and I would like to see the HRA expand its membership and activities in regions of the world beyond North America.