Thursday, August 23, 2018

Communicating Science

In October, I'll be speaking to USU Quinney College of Natural Resources and the College of Science graduate students and faculty on communicating science to "the media" as part of their Climate Adaptation Science project.

It's a topic I've developed a personal interest in previously, so I'm excited and have thoughts. Scientists sit out too many city and state level policy debates. Universities have too many "gatekeepers," even in USU's decentralized PR model. Three pages press releases. Why?

In prep I've been delving into recent science related public policy debates from Florida to Arizona, looking at the quality and quantity of coverage. Some obvious questions arise frequently. What's the real value in filling valuable newspaper real estate or evening news minutes with "man on the street" reactions or, worse, statements from elected partisans? Am I missing something? They aren't informative or even interesting, yet they make up a good 30% of the reporting on, for example, the 2017 debate in Florida over a bill dealing with science curriculum and school texts.

"Scientists say the textbook in question presents an accurate and comprehensive look at the relevant science, and educators defend the curriculum as an important engagement opportunity with students. But Bob, retired electrician and television owner says it's all bulls**t written by Latte Libruls and a left-wing conspiracy to make the President look stupid.  Congressman [X] says it's important we give both sides an opportunity to be heard in this important debate."
I'm barely exaggerating the average local story. Who is benefiting from this kind of coverage?

Anyway, here are some previous presentations from the same communicating science series. I don't see how I can leave politics out of my own, but we'll see.

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