Holly Longstaff joined the W. Maurice Young Centre for Applied Ethics as a doctoral fellow (04-08) in CIHR’s Ethics of Health Research and Policy Training Program. She received a Bachelor of Arts and Pre Master’s from the University of Manitoba and studied Chekhov and Shakespeare at Harvard University’s Loeb Drama Center during a Harvard Radcliffe Summer Theatre Internship before coming to UBC to complete a Master of Arts degree at the Institute for Resources, Environment, and Sustainability. Her mentors are Michael McDonald and Tim McDaniels.

I am interested in experimenting with and evaluating new methods of risk communication. The objective of my research is to help people make better health related decisions concerning complex technologies. The subjects I primarily focus on are aquaculture (genetically modified salmon, genetically modified salmon feeds) and pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD). How an individual processes information and their ultimate actions depend on many influences including knowledge of the issue, personal values, and the influence of norms. The communication materials I create attempt to reflect the complex nature of these relationships. Learning more about the factors that influence an individual’s decisions will help me to create a tool that reaches beyond the factual information model of communicating risk. The information gathered in my research should advance the study of risk communication generally while also informing standards and methods of risk communication with laypeople and experts on a range of health related issues for government departments like Health Canada.

I am particularly proud of my work on innovative projects that explore new methods of public engagement. Although I am interested in conventional approaches to risk communication, I also explore the potential of theatre, genomic art, and others novel methods. My genomic artwork will be shown in a touring group exhibition that will travel to various Canadian cities throughout 2007. In addition, I continue to conduct research in the area of decision analysis and risk management under my mentor Tim McDaniels.

I am currently a member of the Genome BC and Genome Canada’s “NERD” and “Face to face (F2F) & deliberative democracy (D2) in Biotechnology Research” teams, the NSF “Mitigation of Extreme Event Risks: The Case of Electric Power” project, and “GenPos”. I am also the student representative and ethics contact person at the University of British Columbia for the Canadian Bioethics Society.


  1. CIHR Ethics of Health Research and Policy Training Program Doctoral Fellowship
  2. CIHR Institute of Genetics Doctoral Research Award
  3. Received one of the twelve 2005/06 awards from the Stichting Porticus Multidisciplinary Human Gene Technology, Research, and Therapy Project Scholarship Programme
  4. Entrance Scholarship from Individual Interdisciplinary Studies Graduate Program at the University of British Columbia
  1. Marden, Emily, Longstaf, Holly and Levy, Ed. (forthcoming) The Policy Context and Public Consultation: A Consideration of Transgenic Salmon. Journal of Integrated Assessment.
  2. McDaniels, Timothy, Longstaff, Holly, and Dowlatabadi, Hadi. (Forthcoming). A Value-Based Framework for Risk Management Decisions Involving Multiple Scales: A Salmon Aquaculture Example. Journal of Environmental Science & Policy.
  3. Rana Ahmad, Zosia Bornik, Peter Danielson, Hadi Dowlatabadi, Edwin Levy, Holly Longstaf, and Jennifer Wilkin (forthcoming). A web-based instrument to model social norms: NERD design and results. Journal of Integrated Assessment.
  4. Marden, Emily, Longstaf, Holly, and Levy, Ed. (Forthcoming). Transgenic Salmon: Regulatory Oversight of an Anticipated Technology. Hindsight and Foresight on Emerging Technologies.
  5. Longstaff, Holly. (2005). Frankenfish, Monsatan, and Killer Canola: Making Good Decisions in the Midst of Environmental Controversy. Journal of Environmental Informatics V6, No1.