13 September 2023

Study finds speaking to the public helps to address radiation risk perceptions. 

The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) evaluated its community engagement programs and penned a paper published in the Sax Institute’s journal Public Health Research and Practice September 2023 issue. 

It found that its health complaints register, established in 2003, was poorly utilised and did not assist in addressing community concerns when compared to its Talk to a Scientist service. 

The Talk to a Scientist program provides a unique opportunity for members of the public to speak to a scientist either over the phone or via email to address any questions or concerns they have relating to radiation.

The health complaints register received an average of 20 complaints each year and a total of 180 complaints during its operation from July 2003 – April 2022.

In comparison, the Talk to a Scientist service received around 50 times that number of enquiries per year, with a total of 6546 enquiries in the period from 2016 to 4 August 2022. 

ARPANSA’s Health Impact Assessment Assistant Director A/Prof Ken Karipidis says that the results are unsurprising. 

‘The complaints register was not an effective tool in addressing people’s concerns,’ A/Prof Karipidis said. 

‘The Talk to a Scientist service provides people with an opportunity to access information and have a conversation rather than just registering a concern or complaint. People can talk to us about anything radiation related and have their questions answered in real time.

‘We will continue to operate our Talk to a Scientist service because it’s been effective in reducing community concern and educating the public on their real radiation risks, such as exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun.' 

The main author of the study, Dr Chris Brzozek, says that Talk to a Scientist’s engagement was particularly evident in 2020 when 5G concerns peaked. 

‘In 2020, our scientists responded to 441 enquiries while the health complaints register only received 3 enquiries about 5G for its entire operation. 

‘Our experience has found that having a two-way dialogue, where people can have their concerns heard and resolved by a radiation protection scientist, is more engaging and productive than lodging complaints online.

As the Australian Government’s primary authority on radiation protection, ARPANSA has an obligation to provide clear and accurate information to the public about their radiation risk.

Talk to a Scientist is available to the community via phone on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11:00 am to 12:30 pm AEST, excluding public holidays, and via email at any time.

You can read the study here: 


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