The Process and Pitfalls of Using Online Survey Tools for Engaging the General Public with Radiation Protection Topics

Working with others – The Process and Pitfalls of Using Online Survey Tools for Engaging the General Public with Radiation Protection Topics

J. Revill and P. Cole
Department of Physics, University of Liverpool, L69 3BX, UK

A well-developed and inclusive radiation protection culture implies the proactive engagement of the general public. Moreover, the radiation protection profession must surely be ethically obliged to engage the public on a range of issues. At the time of writing, radiation protection culture and ethics are both topical subjects within the international radiation protection community.

The web-based tool SurveyMonkey(R) was identified as potentially providing an easy and inexpensive way for effectively and efficiently engaging with the general public on a variety of radiation protection topics. In order to facilitate a better understanding of the process and the pitfalls of using such online tools, a simple pilot survey was devised to focus on a topic perceived by the authors to be within the public interest: the public’s opinion of nuclear power. The results of this pilot study are used to illustrate the pitfalls that can be encountered in carrying out an online survey and highlight the problems of interpreting the resultant data. Nevertheless, it is suggested that the RP community could, and arguably must, embrace online technologies as one of the current channels of engaging with the public.
It was envisaged that data garnered from such surveys could be fed back to the public in appealing formats via the Society for Radiological Protection (SRP) website and indeed other International Radiation Protection Association (IRPA) Associated Society websites thereby completing the engagement cycle. This could act as a useful research methodology by promoting knowledge and opinion exchange not only between the radiation protection profession and the public but also between professional societies.

It is acknowledged that opinion surveys or polls are only one component of public engagement. Nevertheless, this work aspires to highlight the importance of public engagement to other professional radiation protection societies around the world and encourage them to consider using on-line tools to involve the general public on radiation protection subjects.

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