Strategies for Effective Science Communication: A Roundtable Discussion
On Thursday April 21, 2016 Rutgers Climate Institute sponsored "Strategies for Effective Science Communication: A Roundtable Discussion" featuring Dr. Emmanuel Vincent, Center for Climate Communication, University of California - Merced and Rutgers professors Lauren Feldman (Journalism and Media Studies) and Rachael Shwom (Human Ecology) for a discussion moderated by Professor Benjamin Lintner (Environmental Sciences). Communicating about scientific issues like climate change can be difficult even for experts as scientists or students of science face the challenge of conveying complex ideas or topics while avoiding unfamiliar language and terminology. This roundtable event was designed so that students and faculty could gain insights into science communication from these experts. Dr. Vincent described his work with the Climate Feedback initiative in which he organizes scientists to review influential climate media articles for accuracy by annotating them in a web-browser so they can be peer-reviewed on-line in a timely manner (within a news cycle).
Dr. Vincent noted, Climate Feedback's approach "brings scientists into the conversation in a way they are comfortable with." It helps readers, especially non-scientists, understand what scientists think and to identify the sources of information they can trust, while providing authors and editors with detailed feedback to encourage more accurate reporting. Among the topics discussed, was that a goal of science is to be objective, without bias; i.e., that it is a systematic evidence-based way to learn about the natural world through the pursuit of facts. Students felt it was important for the public to understand how scientists generate data through systematic evaluation and thus they are not presenting random facts; science is incremental and uses a peer review process. Audience participants felt it was important for scientists to talk more about the scientific process and peer review so that the public understands the work of scientists is subject to the scrutiny of experts in their field and progresses through a deliberative process. Co-sponsors of this event included the Rutgers Department of Environmental Sciences, Institute of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences, Cook Campus Dean, and the Environmental Sciences Graduate Student Association.
In addition, RCI co-sponsored Dr. Vincent 's talk "Can Scientists Peer Review Climate Change Media Coverage" on April 22, 2016 in the Department of Environmental Sciences weekly seminar.