Sharon M. Friedman is Professor and Director of the Science and Environmental Writing Program in the Department of Journalism and Communication. She served as associate dean of the College of Arts and Science from 2006 to 2008, chairperson of the department from 1986 to 1995 and as an Iacocca Professor from 1992 to 2000. She directed Lehigh’s Environment and Society program from 1994 to 2004 and has been the curriculum director for the undergraduate Environmental Studies program for the Environmental Initiative since 2004. Her research focuses on how scientific, environmental, technological and health issues are communicated to the public. She has conducted research on risk communication and on mass media coverage of such risk issues as the Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima nuclear accidents, Alar, radon, dioxin, electromagnetic fields, and nanotechnology.
In 1979, Friedman, serving as a consultant to the President's Commission on the Accident at Three Mile Island, evaluated information the utility had made available to the public about its nuclear plant before the accident, and analyzed media coverage about TMI during the same period. From 1987 to 1989, she was a consultant to the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, co-authoring Reporting on the Environment: A Handbook for Journalists, which has been translated into 19 languages and is widely distributed throughout Asia, the Pacific, Russia and the Ukraine. As a consultant, she co-taught a number of environmental reporting workshops in various Asian countries including Thailand, Nepal, Malaysia, Bangladesh and Indonesia over 10 years. She also served as a Fulbright Distinguished Lecturer in Brazil and as a Bosch Foundation Lecturer in Germany.
Some of her consulting activities in the United States included work on risk communication for the Bethlehem Steel Corporation; on environmental health and risk communication issues for Industrial Economics, Inc.; as a subcontractor for the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; and for ICF Clement, Inc., as a subcontractor for the Electric Power Research Institute.
Friedman has served as an expert on risk communication in radiation issues for several committees of The National Academies (formerly the National Academy of Sciences). From 2005 to 2006 she was a member of the Committee to Review the Worker and Public Health Activities Program Administered by the Department of Energy and the Department of Health and Human Services. From 2003 to 2005, she served as a member of the Academies’ Committee on Improving Practices for Regulating and Managing Low-Activity Radioactive Waste. She also served for six years as a member of the Academies’ Committee on Assessment of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Radiation Studies. She chaired the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advisory Committee for its Low Dose Radiation Research Program from 1999 to 2003.
She is senior editor of two books — Communicating Uncertainty: Media Coverage of New and Controversial Science, and Scientists and Journalists: Reporting Science as News. She has written a number of book chapters including “The Never-Ending Story of Dioxin,” “Communicating with the Public about Exposure and Cancer Risk,” “Risk Communication on Toxic Air Pollutants,” “And the Beat Goes On: The Third Decade of Environmental Journalism,” “Risk Management: The Public Versus the Technical Experts,” and “TMI: The Media Story that Will Not Die,” as well as numerous journal and magazine articles including “Nanotechnology: Risks and the Media,” which appeared in IEEE Technology and Society. She has been a member of the governing councils of both the American Association for the Advancement of Science and of the Society of RIsk Analysis as well as held other offices in both organizations. She is a member of the Editorial Advisory Board for the journal Science Communication, and served five years as associate editor for risk communication of the journal Risk: Health, Safety & Environment. She was been vice-chairperson of the Board of Trustees of the International Food Information Council Foundation from 1995 to 2008.
Friedman is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, elected in 1989 for her contributions toward furthering the public understanding of science and technology. She was elected a Fellow of the Society of Risk Analysis in 2010 for her contributions to the field of risk analysis. In 2009, she was one of five people worldwide to be awarded the International Green Pen Award given by the Asia-Pacific Forum of Environmental Journalists for her contributions to developing environmental journalism in that region. In 2006, she was the co-recipient of Lehigh’s Hillman Faculty Award for outstanding teaching, research and service. In 1995, she was honored for her Asian environmental training activities by the International Center for Journalists of Washington, D.C. She also has been elected to membership in numerous scholarly and journalistic honorary societies.