Ethics education, practice and theory research grants announced

April 16, 2024 • Jonathan McVerry

2024 Grants

The Page Center announced the recipients of its 2024 Page/Johnson Legacy Scholar Grants. The 17 research projects will answer questions and offer insights from three important research areas – ethics education, practice and theory.

The Page/Johnson Legacy Scholar Grant program is a primary function of the Page Center. Each year, senior research fellows and Center leaders identify important, timely topics and solicit research proposals that contribute to the scholarly, industry, and public understanding of those topics.

In August, the Page Center announced three calls for research proposals. The topics were:

- Ethics training in public relations, journalism, advertising and strategic communication
- Scholar/Practitioner collaborations
- Expanding theory for integrity in public communication

Out of many submissions, 17 projects featuring 39 scholars from 25 universities and six organizations were chosen to receive funding. The full list of funded projects is below.

The call on ethics training is being led by Marlene Neill, associate professor at Baylor University and Page Center senior research fellow. Through these six projects, she hopes to provide guidance on developing ethics education in the professional ranks.

Topics from this call include artificial intelligence strategies in advertising, DEI in public relations workspaces, ethics policy, and transparency in journalism.

Page Center research director and associate professor at Penn State Holly Overton is overseeing the scholar/practitioner collaboration call. She hopes the partnerships will empower professionals with research-driven insights.

Areas this call targets include diversity in public relations, influencer communications, listening competencies, and the use of artificial intelligence in crisis communication.

The call on expanding theory for integrity in public communication is being led by Colleen Connolly-Ahern, associate professor at Penn State and Page Center senior research fellow. These six projects will evaluate foundational theories in public communications to see if they meet the needs of today’s communicators.

Areas to be studied are equity and accessibility, disinformation campaigns, mental health in communication, and relationship management.

“It’s a testament to the vision of our senior research fellows and the innovation of our scholars that we can fund such an impressive collection of research,” said Denise Bortree, Page Center director. “It’s also evidence that the Page Center has become a go-to resource for scholars in these disciplines, and it continues to be a leader in researching ethics and responsibility in public communication.”

Over the next year, scholars will complete their projects. Completed manuscripts from the ethics training call will be considered for a possible special issue devoted to the topic in the Journal of Media Ethics. In a collaboration with the Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, all funded researchers from the theory call will contribute an essay to a JMCQ invited forum.

This summer, the Page Center blog will feature weekly posts previewing each of these projects The posts will introduce the scholars, overview the research topic and share ideas as the teams begin their Page Center-funded research. Some projects will be featured at the Page Center’s Research Roundtable, a virtual gathering with scholars, research fellows and Page Center advisory board members.

Since its founding in 2004, the Center has funded nearly 300 scholars and awarded more than $1 million in funding. While research themes vary from year to year, the Center consistently supports academic exploration into the understanding of principles practiced in public communication.

Visit the 2024 call for research proposals page for more information on each call.

Ethics Training in Public Relations, Journalism, Advertising and Strategic Communication

Transparency effects: Audience perceptions of journalists’ ethics training disclosure
Alyssa Appelman, University of Kansas, and Kirstie Hettinga, California Lutheran University

A caring compass: Developing ethical guidelines for navigating (mis/dis)information
Courtney Boman, Laura Lemon, and LaTonya Taylor, University of Alabama

Beyond compliance: Disability ethics training for an inclusive PR workplace
Edward Timke and Chuqing Dong, Michigan State University

Examining the role of PR in communicating ethics training and DEI within organization
Rosalynn Vasquez, Baylor University

Develop counterfactual thinking to enhance core ethics competencies: Effects of game-based solutions in organizational ethics training
Lewen Wei, University of New South Wales, and Nahyun Kim, Drexel University

Navigating ethical frontiers in AI-driven advertising: A comprehensive study on guidelines, policies and practical implementation strategies
Rachel Esther Lim, Sujin Kim, and Skye Cooley, Oklahoma State University

Scholar/Practitioner Collaborations

Disinformation in the influencer age establishing best practices for influencer relations
Staci Smith, Utah Valley University; Brian Smith, Brigham Young University; Karen Freberg, University of Louisville. Partners: Mario Nicolini, North Atlantic Treaty Organization Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence and Angela Dwyer, Fullintell

Ethical integration in AI for crisis communication: An international project in the U.S. and European countries
Yang Cheng, North Carolina State University; Yan Jin, University of Georgia; Jaekuk Lee, North Carolina State University; Wenqing Zhao and Nicole Cortes, University of Georgia. Partner: Philippe Borremans, International Association of Risk & Crisis Communication

Drivers and barriers of artificial intelligence technology adoption in public relations: Exploration of practitioners and client perceptions of ethical use of AI
Joon Kim and Ammina Kothari, University of Rhode Island. Partner: Bret Werner, MikeWorldWide

The roles of mindfulness and emotional intelligence in cultivating listening competencies and employee outcomes: Theoretical framework and practical guidelines
Fay Chen, University of San Francisco; Katie Place, Quinnipiac University. Partners: Ann Barlow, Peppercomm and John McCartney, Jmac Public Relations

Using the hidden histories to inspire, motivate, and attract more diverse students to the PR field
Shelley Spector, Museum of Public Relations

Expanding theory for integrity in public communication

Seizing the moment: Redirecting public relations theory to position equity and accessibility
as central to the public voice’s post-covid mandate

Dean Mundy and Sandra Boone, University of Oregon

Advancing relationship management theory: Incorporating dialogic stewardship and ethics of care in a polarizing political environment
Jordan Morehouse, University of Colorado; Virginia Harrison, Clemson University; Chuqing Dong, Michigan State University

Networked resilience to online misinformation
Shuning Lu, North Dakota State University, and Yan Qu, University of Maryland

A model for disaster mental health communication: Testing a three-pronged approach to support communicators and affected publics
J. Suzanne Horsley and Daphne S. Cain, University of Alabama

Applying uses and gratifications theory to the electronic access of court records:
Can communication theory guide the application of artificial intelligence tools to ensure the ethical release of government information?

Amy Kristin Sanders, University of Texas at Austin

Combatting disinformation campaigns by harnessing the power of memes
Hye Jin Yoon, University of Georgia, and Yan Huang, University of Houston