Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Communicating Science: "It's Peer Reviewed"

"Why Science Works" panel, SLC FanX, Sept 2018
Interesting Why Science Works panel at the SL Comicon, er, FanX... whatever, Nerdfest. Before I could ask a question the conversation veered organically into communicating science, denials, and politicization.

Moderator and Weber State University professor Eric Swedin steered the panel through some great topics, from the value (for others) in engaging and climate deniers to the wave-like nature of anti-science sentiments.

Directly, the topic of scientists communicating science to the public was broached in the context of fighting anti-science pols and a better educated electorate. One of the male panelists (I was looking for an outlet) sort of shrugged, almost as if the question was already answered.

"Credible science is peer reviewed, and the public has access to that," he said.

The panel ended and I was halfway into my next when the weight of that answer really set in. I mean, the panelist isn't wrong. But the question was about fighting back against misinformation and bad faith "debate me" trolls or pols. Is this how researchers and scientists think about this question?

If it is, do they have a responsibility to rethink it? Do they have a responsibility (or opportunity?) to be a bit more engaged than that in our current situation? I know universities put a lot of effort into press releasing or even spotlighting important research with campus or community events, but is that enough?

I keep thinking about Princeton historian Kevin M Kruse 's willingness to engage uber-troll and not-so-bright-person Dinesh D'Souza on twitter and that exchange making it's way into publications with a broad audience. Kruse fed the troll and anyone exposed to the exchange was better informed (also, it was hilarious). That seems valuable. Maybe more valuable than a press release to local media when researchers and scientists have something important, useful, and urgent to convey?

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