Elizabeth L. Petrun Sayers

Photo of Elizabeth Petrun Sayers
Behavioral and Social Scientist
Off Site Office


B.A. in integrated strategic communication; advertising and sociology; classical, University of Kentucky; Graduate Certificate in health communication, University of Kentucky; M.A. in communication; mass media, risk, crisis, University of Kentucky; Ph.D. in communication; science, strategic, organizational, University of Kentucky


Elizabeth "Liz" L. Petrun Sayers is a behavioral and social scientist at the RAND Corporation. She has experience researching risk-related topics and studies how traditional and new media shape risk perceptions, decisionmaking, and behaviors. Her current research focuses on understanding how individuals respond to health, security, and environmental risks. Petrun Sayers' research has been supported by grants and contracts from multiple federal agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Department of Defense (DOD), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the National Science Foundation (NSF), among others. Her work has been published in BMC Public Health, Journal of Emergency Management, Journal of Risk Research, and Journal of Applied Communication Research, among others. Petrun Sayers is an experienced instructor and has taught a variety of communication courses to undergraduate and graduate students. Petrun Sayers received her Ph.D. in communication from the University of Kentucky.

Concurrent Non-RAND Positions

Research Affiliate, National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START)

Recent Projects

  • CDC Emergency Risk Communication Process and Outcome Measures Pilot Testing Project
  • STEM-Based Applied Organizational Sustainability Curriculum Development: Integrating Business, Climate Science, and the Natural Environment
  • Assessment of Mental Health Campaigns: Evaluating the Impact of Efforts to Reduce Negative Perceptions About Mental Health Conditions and Treatment and Increase Awareness of Resources
  • Consortium for Resilient Gulf Communities
  • Evaluation of the From Coverage to Care Initiative

Selected Publications

Paul, C., & Petrun Sayers, E. L., "Assessing against and moving past the “funnel” model of counterterrorism communication," The Journal of Defence Strategic Communication, 2016

Liu, B. F., Roberts, H., Petrun Sayers, E. L., Ackerman, G., Smith, D., & Iles, I., "Preparing for the worst: Public perceptions of risk management innovations," Journal of Risk Research, 2016

Ivanov, B., Burns, W. J., Sellnow, T. L., Petrun Sayers, E. L., Veil, S. R., & Mayorga, M. W., "Using an inoculation message approach to promote public confidence in protective agencies," Journal of Applied Communication Research, 44(4), 2016

Petrun, E. L., Iles, I., Roberts, H., Liu, B. F., & Ackerman, G., "Diffusing controversial technology: Barriers, incentives, and lessons learned," Review of Communication, 15(2), 2015

Fowler, B., Iles, I., Fisher Liu, B., Roberts, H., Petrun, E. L., & Ackerman, G. "Diffusing portable radiation detectors among first responders: Device acceptance and implications for community resilience," in U. Kumar, Resilience: A Psychosocial Perspective, Routledge, 2016

Petrun, E. L. "The tension of controlling the narrative: Construing and mis-construing risk message," in R. Littlefield & T. L. Sellnow, Risk and crisis communication: Navigating the tensions between organizations and the public, Lexington Books, 2015

Petrun Sayers, E. L., Parker, A. M., Ramchand, R., Finucane, M. L., Parks, V. A., Seelam, R. , "Reaching vulnerable populations in the disaster prone U.S. Gulf Coast: Communicating across the crisis lifecycle," Journal of Emergency Management, 17(4), 2019

Honors & Awards

  • Applied Communication Research Division Top Paper Award, National Communication Association
  • Westley Award for Excellence in Mass Communication Theory and Research, University of Kentucky
  • College of Communication and Information Graduate Teaching Award, University of Kentucky


  • Volunteers in protective suits disinfect a railway station as China tries to contain an outbreak of coronavirus, Changsha, Hunan province, February 4, 2020, photo by Stringer/Reuters

    Coronavirus Outbreak Intensifies: Q&A with RAND Experts

    Cases of the coronavirus have now spread to several dozens of countries, infecting thousands and thousands of people across the globe. With concerns about the disease rising, we asked a group of RAND researchers to answer a wide range of questions about the crisis.

    Mar 5, 2020

  • Group of scientists working in laboratory

    After the March for Science: What Now?

    Politicized rhetoric may imply otherwise, but scientific expertise and civic participation are not at odds with each other. As the scientific community decides how to respond to shifting political attitudes about science, it's time to focus on a long-term strategy for science policy in the United States.

    Apr 26, 2017 United Press International