Thursday, July 9, 2015

Communicating Climate Science - The Series

A few months ago I published a series of posts on communicating climate science, and science in general, to three target audiences. Because of its popularity I've decided to create this compilation article to bring all of the articles in the series to one place.

The first post began by summarizing the four steps most scientists go through to produce the science to be communicated: Do research, Analyze the data, Attend scientific conferences, and Publish in a peer-reviewed journal. [You can read more about the peer-review process in last week's article.] But communicating the science takes more than getting the word out to other scientists in your own field, so this first post also introduced the idea of there being three distinct target audiences with whom scientists need to communicate. They were 1) Scientists in other fields, 2) Policy-makers, and 3) the Public. Communicating to each must be done in different ways.

In the second post I examined how climate scientists can reach out to scientists in other fields. While training in other sciences makes it more likely these people can understand a more technically-based discussion, they may still not be familiar with the very specific technical jargon that springs up in every profession. Thus, this article offers some suggestions as to how to reach out to other scientists.

The third post of the series looked at how climate scientists can communicate the science to policy-makers. We all know that science doesn't always drive policy, even though it should. Politicians and regulators have to work within an environment that is both political and beset with broader stakeholders. Which is why it is so critical for scientists to make sure policy-makers have a correct understanding of the science, and why the should be held accountable for using the correct science for making policy. [Hint: Tossing snowballs to deny climate change is not using the correct science for making policy.] Among other communication tips is reaching out directly to constituents.

The final post - and perhaps the most important of the series - looks at how scientists can communicate the science to the public. While the most critical, it is also the one that most scientists probably have spent the least time trying to do. Frankly, it's hard not to fall back on jargon no one can understand, or provide so many details that the eyes of everyone in the room start to glass over. This article gives some useful tips on how to reach out to the public, including speaking at libraries, clubs, schools, and churches; making yourself available to the media; teaching a MOOC; and even becoming the star of a TV show (or more likely, your own YouTube channel).

Each of these posts provides additional tips and links to more information. While we scientists tend to get lost in our "ivory towers" (or more accurately, basement laboratories and mud-filled field sites), it's critical that we take an active role in making sure the three audiences - other scientists, policy-makers, and the public - understand the science so they can make informed decisions.