Ashley Rose Mehlenbacher

Associate Professor | Canada Research Chair
Photo of Ashley Rose Mehlenbacher.

PhD, North Carolina State University
MA (Co-op), University of Waterloo
BA (Hons), University of Waterloo

Extension: 49135


Ashley Rose Mehlenbacher is a leading expert in rhetorical theory and science communication. Her research investigates how rhetorical choices shape the internal processes of science, science bridging internal and public conversations, and public communication of science. For example, she has examined how research journal articles are evolving in response to the replication crisis, theorized intermediate scientific genres such as science crowdfunding proposals, and studied public engagement through utility commission hearings as well as digital engagements through social media platforms.

Professor Mehlenbacher is an Associate Professor in English Language and Literature and Canada Research Chair in Science, Health, and Technology Communication at the University of Waterloo. Professor Mehlenbacher is the inaugural Co-Director, with Donna Strickland, for the Trust in Research Undertaken in Science and Technology (TRuST) network. The TRuST network is a transdisciplinary project investigating a range of questions around the concept of trust in science and technology both within scientific and technical research spheres as well as in public communication, sharing, and engagement with science and technology. Professor Mehlenbacher is also a member of the Waterloo Climate Institute, Water Institute, and the Artificial Intelligence Institute.

Outside of the University of Waterloo, Professor Mehlenbacher is the Co-Editor, with Carolyn R. Miller, of Genre Across Borders, an international and interdisciplinary network of researchers in genre studies. She has previously served as the President for the Association for the Rhetoric of Science, Technology, and Medicine (ARSTM) and later as a Member of the Board of Directors for the association.

Professor Mehlenbacher’s research investigates how genres of scientific and science communications emerge and evolve, how aspects of expertise and ethos interact and relate to trust in scientific and technical domains, and the ethical aspects of specialist/non-specialist relationality in the communication of complex information. Broadly, her research investigates how communication shapes the processes of science and technology and how diverse audiences engage in science and technology through various communication modalities. She is the PI of the CFI-funded Demos Lab, which currently focuses on climate communication. Professor Mehlenbacher has expertise related to effective communication strategies in multidisciplinary collaborations, communication about risk, misinformation, and public communication about science and technology.

Professor Mehlenbacher has worked with a range of collaborators. Recently, she worked with Nancy Collins with the University of Waterloo Library to develop a guide to getting started in Science Communication. She also led a team in collaboration with the Royal Canadian Institute for Science (RCIScience) to create an NSERC-supported Science Communication Certificate.

Please feel welcome to contact Professor Mehlenbacher about prospective collaborations.

Selected Publications

*Please find a full and up-to-date list on Google Scholar.

On Expertise: Cultivating Character, Goodwill, and Practical Wisdom. University Park, PA: Penn State University Press, 2022.

  • Reviewed by Metag, J. (2023). Public Understanding of Science, 32(2): 257-258  
  • Reviewed by Taylor Jr., L. H. (January 2023). CHOICE: A publication of the Association of College and Research Libraries, 60(5).
  • The Top 75 Community College Titles: January 2023 Edition, Social & Behavioral Sciences. CHOICE: A publication of the Association of College and Research Libraries.

Science Communication Online: Engaging Experts and Publics on the Internet. Columbus, OH: The Ohio State University Press, 2019.

  • Reviewed by Mitchell, S. S. D. (2020). Canadian Journal of Communication, 45(2): 361-363.
  • Reviewed by Roundtree, J. (2020). Southern Journal of Communication, 85(3): 207-208.
  • Reviewed by Buntrock, R. E. (December 2019). CHOICE: A publication of the Association of College and Research Libraries, 57(4).

Emerging Genres in New Media Environments. Co-edited with Carolyn R. Miller. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017.

  • Reviewed by Smith, T. S. (2020). Canadian Journal for Studies in Discourse and Writing/Rédactologie, 30, 323–327.
  • Reviewed by Hinson, K. (2018). Technical Communication Quarterly, 27(4), 380–385.

Selected Fellowships & Awards

2021-2026 Canada Research Chair Tier 2 SSHRC

2021-2023 Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI)

2020-2021 Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada Science Communication Skills Grant

2020-2023 Robert Harding & Lois Claxton Humanities and Social Sciences grant

2020 Fellows’ Early Career Award from the Rhetoric Society of America

2020, 2017 Outstanding Performance Award from the University of Waterloo

2018-2023 Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Insight Grant

2017-2023 Early Researcher Award (ERA) from the Ministry of Research, Innovation and Science

Current Research

As the 13th UN Sustainable Development Goal, Climate Action requires social change. Indeed, we have the scientific and technical tools to enact significant climate action. Currently, Professor Mehlenbacher’s research program examines the critical questions of how we talk about climate change and action in Canada and who we talk to (or, in other words, who we trust to talk to). In this area, she has completed work examining how IPCC reports are described in media coverage and is also examining rhetorical features of the reports as well. Professor Mehlenbacher is also completing the analysis of quantitative and qualitative data collected through a national survey of people in Canada. This work builds on her previous research in rhetorical studies of science, science communication, and environmental communication to investigate how climate change and climate action are discussed and deliberated upon.

Areas of Graduate Supervision

  • History and theory of rhetoric (especially related to style, memory, or rhetoric and virtue ethics)
  • Rhetoric of science, technology, and medicine (especially related to trust, expertise, disaster, risk society, dis/misinformation, climate change, climate crisis, climate action, climate communication, environmental communication).
  • Rhetorical genre studies (especially as related to science communication, technical communication, engineering communication, emerging genres in new media environments)