Scientists do a lousy job of communicating to non-scientists. That's one reason science and scientists are being effectively beaten up and demonized in a variety of public debates on issues like evolution and climate change.
I refer you to a new website on communicating science - "Speaking Science 2.0" - www.scienceblogs.com/speakingscience/ put together by Matt Nisbet and Chris Mooney.
Chris is Wash. DC correspondent for Seed magazine, author of "The Republican War on Science" and the about-to-be-released book "Storm World: Hurricanes, Politics, and the Battle over Global Warming." He blogs at www.scienceblogs.com/intersection. Matt is professor of communications at American University in Wash. DC and is widely recognized for his work on framing science messages (also the name of his blog - http://scienceblogs.com/framing-science/).
They recently published op-ed pieces in Science and the Washington Post that attracted widespread national attention. They are starting a nationwide lecture tour today on this topic.
A synopsis of their talk follows below:
Speaking Science 2.0
"We do not see the world as it is. We see the world as we are."
-- Talmud scripture
"It's not what you say, it's what people hear."
--Republican strategist Frank Luntz
Over the past several years, the seemingly never-ending fights over
evolution, embryonic stem cell research, global climate change, and
many other topics have led to a troubling revelation. Scientific
knowledge, alone, does not always suffice when it comes to winning
political arguments, changing government policies, or influencing
public opinion. Put simply, the media, policymakers, and the public
consume scientific information in a vastly different way than do the
scientists who generate it. As a result, scientists and their
organizations repeatedly face difficult challenges in explaining their
knowledge to diverse groups of citizens.
As issues at the intersection of science and politics gain more and
more attention, something beyond pure science--beyond "getting the
facts out there"--will be necessary to break through to the public.
But what are the new directions? It's time to question some central
assumptions and focus on fresh ideas.
**A conversation about new directions in science communication.**
In this joint presentation, journalist Chris Mooney and communication
professor Matthew Nisbet explain how scientists and their allies can
"reframe" old debates in new ways, while taking advantage of a
fragmented media environment to connect with a broader American
public. Drawing on case studies from the battles over stem cell
research, evolution, global warming, hurricanes, and other subjects, a
key point of emphasis will be that scientists must adopt a language
that emphasizes shared values and has broad appeal, avoiding the
pitfall of seeming to belittle fellow citizens or attacking their
Innovative strategies for public engagement could not be more urgent:
Science will figure, as never before, in the 2008 presidential
campaign and beyond. Scientific "facts" will increasingly be pulled
into fraught political contexts, and bent and twisted in myriad ways.
This political environment can seem perplexing to scientists, or
worse. But it's one to which they must adapt if they want their
hard-won knowledge to play its necessary role in shaping the future of