Framing ‘fracking’: exploring public perceptions of hydraulic fracturing in the United Kingdom

Williams, Laurence, Macnaghten, Phil, Davies, Richard and Curtis, Sarah (2015) Framing ‘fracking’: exploring public perceptions of hydraulic fracturing in the United Kingdom. Public Understanding of Science. pp. 1-17. ISSN 0963-6625

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The prospect of fracking in the United Kingdom has been accompanied by significant public unease. We outline how the policy debate is being framed by UK institutional actors, finding evidence of a dominant discourse in which the policy approach is defined through a deficit model of public understanding of science and in which a technical approach to feasibility and safety is deemed as sufficient grounds for good policymaking. Deploying a deliberative focus group methodology with lay publics across different sites in the north of England, we find that these institutional framings are poorly aligned with participants’ responses. We find that unease regularly overflows the focus on safety and feasibility and cannot be satisfactorily explained by a lack of understanding on the part of participants. We find that scholarship from science
and technology studies productively elucidates our participants’ largely sceptical positions, and orientates
strategies for responding to them more effectively.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Acknowledgement: The final version of this paper has been published in Public Understanding of Science, Sage Choice doi: 10.1177/0963662515595159, July/2015 by SAGE Publications Ltd, All rights reserved. © Williams et al., year of publication. It is available at: This research was carried out as part of the ReFINE(Researching Fracking in Europe) consortium which is led by Durham and Newcastle Universities and which was funded at the time by the Natural Environment Research Council (UK), Shell and Chevron. It also received funding from the Durham Energy Institute’s Small Grant Scheme. We are grateful to the Durham University Faculty of Science Ethics Committee and the UK Research Integrity Office for their time in providing advice on research ethics. We thank the ReFINE Independent Science Board ( for spending time prioritising the research projects undertaken by ReFINE.
Keywords: fracking, framing risk, lay expertise, participation in science policy, public engagement, risk perception, shale gas
Schools and Departments: School of Business, Management and Economics > SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit
Subjects: H Social Sciences
T Technology
Depositing User: Laurence John Williams
Date Deposited: 07 Sep 2015 14:27
Last Modified: 06 Mar 2017 15:08

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