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

Laurence Williams, Philip Macnaghten*, Richard Davies, Sarah Curtis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

102 Citations (Scopus)


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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)89-104
JournalPublic Understanding of Science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • fracking
  • framing risk
  • lay expertise
  • participation in science policy
  • public engagement
  • risk perception
  • shale gas


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