International research on risk communication is earlier than in China. International scholars pay more and more attention to risk communication, which has been growing over time. From the perspective of article number, international risk communication research has been increasing with time since 2000, reaching a peak in 2018, and will continue to grow. In the ten years from 2009 to 2019 in China, the overall trend in the number of researches fluctuated. This may be related to the number of major public events that occur each year. The number of articles in 2014 reached a small climax, which was closely related to the human infection with H7N9 and the vaccine incident that year. The peak number of articles reached in 2016, which may be related to the frequent occurrence of vaccine events in Shandong Province.
The research scholars and institutions of domestic and international need to strengthen cooperation each other. The results of this study show that some scholars and research institutions have already cooperated, but the degree of closeness is not enough. There is little cooperation between institutions and universities in China. Previous research believed that cooperation between different research institutions was very effective in promoting high-level and effective research, helped to develop more mature research areas. Therefore, it is very necessary to strengthen the close cooperation between different institutions. In addition, although China ranks seventh in the number of articles published, it lags many countries such. The number of articles published by each institution is small and scattered, which may lead to superficial research and lower recognition in China. After consulting these documents, it is found that domestic research focuses on reviewing the concept, development, purpose, and function of risk communication from abroad, the research results are scattered and fail to form an empirical research model or a convincing theoretical explanation.
Risk cognition is a research hotspot in both domestic and international research, and it is also the foundation to further research on risk communication. Through the keyword analysis, risk perception is cited at high frequency in domestic and international, and the centrality is relatively larger. Some studies have shown that Individuals’ perception of risk plays a leading role in the process of risk communication. The ultimate purpose of risk communication is to formulate policies through dialogue between decision-makers and the public. Therefore, how the public perceives risks and how to choose risks becomes an important part of risk communication. However, risk perception is affected by many factors. The randomness and subjectivity generated by personal factors and social factors make the perception of risk difficult to measure[36–37]. Some research has concluded that there were 15 main factors directly related to risk perception, such as the uncertainty and reversibility of risks, and the sources of risks[38–39]. But if it is specific to a certain field, such as a public health emergency or public safety incident, is these factors applied to? What variables will affect the public risk perception? What kind of attitudes and measures should the public adopt due to risk perception? These issues need to be studied further by relevant scholars.
“Trust” is a key factor affecting the effectiveness of risk communication. Through the keyword analysis, “trust” ranks among the best in risk communication, and its centrality is relatively high, especially among international researchers (0.74). Besides, “trust” has become an important direction of international researchers from 2003 to 2007 in citation bursts analysis. Domestic researchers in this field paid attention to the influencing factors of “trust” mainly in 2013–2015. In fact, “trust” has always been a core concept in the social science research on risk. The literature research found that the current research can be divided into three aspects: First, the research on the “lack of trust” between the public, experts, and policy makers[40–41]. The second is the study of factors affecting trust, which openness, authenticity, competence, and common values are all important factors . The third is the research on the asymmetry of trust construction. Research literature shows that risk communication is based on trust. But trust is often formed gradually in a long-term process, and individual trust judgments are easily affected by external factors. If the barriers to trust cannot be overcome, the desired goal of risk communication will be difficult to achieve.
In summary, the current Chinese and Western research institutes focus on the same topics, focusing on risk communication, risk perception, risk assessment, risk information. However, due to differences in specific national conditions and risk communication development, domestic and international scholars have different levels of attention to specific issues. Through this research, it is found that domestic research pays more attention to the understanding and improvement of public risk awareness based on health issues, focusing on the trust analysis of audiences and information disseminators. The previous research on risk communication is more systematic and comprehensive. In contrast, public safety events such as H1N1, influenza pandemic, nurse-patient communication, and NIMBY conflict events have a higher burst weight in domestic research, indicating that risk communication is mainly based on specific emergency occurrence, which may expose the lack of persistence in China.
The conclusions drawn in this study should be based only on the findings of two large literature databases above-mentioned, which is necessary to meet literature demand for the study. Since the current version of Citespace cannot achieve a better combination of synonymous keywords, it is necessary to merge keywords manually, which can easily affect the objectivity of the results. In addition, this article aims to analyze the development of risk communication research and find its characteristics and hotspots in the academic field. Therefore, we couldn’t deeply analyze some specific links of risk communication, such as risk communication mechanisms, risk monitoring, risk assessment, and other issues.