Is “Cold But Competent” A Problem In Science Communication?

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 This post continues our series focused on science communication research. Instead of reporting on or recapping a single paper, we’re asking what the literature has to say about urgent or recurring questions in our field. This is inspired, in part, by John Timmer’s call for an applied science of science communication. 

A flash of insight can be profoundly pleasurable. For me it’s a little pop that’s the mental equivalent of clearing my ears while diving. Sharing that same electric sensation with hundreds of others in crowd? Then the pop feels more like a champagne bottle, with our individual ‘aha!’s spiraling outward as a fizzy wave of tweets. At the Sackler Colloquium on the Science of Science Communication, Susan Fiske of Princeton University uncorked one such shared moment in her presentation about beliefs and attitudes regarding science when she began speaking about warmth and competence. [Read more…]

On Advocacy And Trust In Science

As I noted at the end of Monday’s post, I did not directly tackle the question of whether scientists’ advocacy has been shown to damage public trust in them (or their science). [Read more…]

What The Science Tells Us About “Trust In Science”

This post continues our series focused on science communication research. Instead of reporting on or recapping a single paper, we’re asking what the literature has to say about urgent or recurring questions in our field. This is inspired, in part, by John Timmer’s call for an applied science of science communication, as well as the upcoming special issue of PNAS with papers from the 2012 Sackler Colloquium on the Science of Science Communication.

When climate scientist Tamsin Edwards published her editorial “Climate scientists must not advocate for particular policies” in The Guardian, it triggered a cascade of responses on engagement and advocacy. This is something COMPASS spends quite a lot of time thinking about and discussing in our trainings and writings, but the line that particularly caught my eye was: “I believe advocacy by climate scientists has damaged trust in the science. We risk our credibility, our reputation for objectivity, if we are not absolutely neutral.”

I admire the conviction in that statement and it’s nothing if not clear. But is it true? Is the behavior of individual scientists a primary driver of public opinion? It reminds me of a conversation regarding our assumptions about audiences, in which my friend Ben Lillie quipped: “Communicating science to the public? Neither noun exists and I’m not sure about the verb.” Given the current conversations, I am not so sure of our use of the phrase ‘trust in (the) science’ either, so I decided to do a little digging. [Read more…]

Scientists And The Changing Media Landscape, Part 2

Science journalism – like much of traditional journalism – is undergoing a culture shift. Understanding these changes can help scientists wanting to engage to do so most effectively. Photo from Thomas Hawk via Flickr.

In order to bridge dissimilar cultures and have effective dialogue, you have to know who you’re talking to. At COMPASS, we often talk about the similarities between scientists and journalists – for example, they share a love for discovery, healthy skepticism, analytical minds, and competitive natures – in order for them to meet on common ground before explaining where their cultures diverge.

Over the last two decades, the culture of traditional journalism has changed dramatically. While many of the needs traditional media historically served are now being taken up by a growing and massive online community, there is still a role (albeit a changing one) for traditional media in setting the public agenda. How can scientists best connect with traditional media amidst these changes?

Not surprisingly, the changes in journalism are not an isolated phenomenon. As Ivan Oransky, co-founder of Retraction Watch, said in a closing plenary at the World Conference of Science Journalists just two weeks ago, the culture of science is also experiencing changes.  These cultures both:

  • Feel increasing pressure to produce outcomes that serve the public good.
  • Experience constraints of stagnating budgets.
  • Face increasing internal competition.
  • Experience increasing pressure to publish, publish, publish.

But here is where they diverge. The changes in journalism have been driven by the needs of the public it serves, and how the public consumes and uses information has shifted dramatically. [Read more…]

6/7/13 Link Round-Up

In celebration of World Oceans Day (June 8), there were many events this week focused on educating and informing people about our oceans (such as Capitol Hill Ocean Week). In this link round-up we feature resources highlighting the importance of education through science communication and how social media can play a part: [Read more…]

5/31/13 Link Round-Up

We’re big proponents of social media on the COMPASS blog. In addition to touting the benefits and how-to’s of Twitter, one of the unique aspects of social media are the conversations and discussion that can be sparked and carried out on a large scale entirely online. This week there were several such examples, rounded up below, along with some other interesting finds: [Read more…]

Thinking Story Like A Journalist: My Santa Fe Experience

Fresh air gets the creative juices flowing. My fellow classmates climb the 140 ladder rungs to the Alcove House at Bandolier National Monument.
Photo courtesy of Brian Clark.

Like bats emerging from nearby Carlsbad Caverns, questions flew about the halls of the School for Advanced Research. It started with a backstage tour of that day’s Science Times story of an underwater menagerie, followed by an anthropologist’s quest to unlock the secret of genius. We wrapped up the afternoon with a chilling ethnography of a factory farm from “semen to cellophane.” We’d have plenty of topical fodder for our own writing assignments.

The Santa Fe Science Writing Workshop would give me, a scientist, exactly what I came for – a stronger handle on the world of journalism and ways to improve my writing skills. But, I was unprepared for just how rich the experience would be. [Read more…]

5/10/13 Link Round-Up

Photo courtesy of 'Ravages' via Flickr.

COMPASS is still enjoying new stories from scientists sparked by our PLOS paper out last week (check them out on Twitter at #reachingoutsci) – and keep ’em coming! We are also excited about the upcoming ScienceOnlineOceans (#ScioOceans) un-conference in October. Have you registered?

This week, we’ve seen a lot of interesting and quirky pieces as well as some unbelievable science stories, rounded up for you below: [Read more…]

5/3/13 Link Round-Up

Our week here at COMPASS began with the excitement of our commentary piece coming out in PLOS Biology, but is ending on an even higher note. Many scientists we’ve worked with are stepping up to share personal stories of engagement. There have been stories of how:

  • Reaching out via both traditional (Don Boesch) and social (Isabelle Côté) media can open up new opportunities for connecting science to policy
  • Future effective engagement of scientists outside academia relies on cultural change regarding time management (Jessica Hellman, Jim Cloern) and restructuring institutional incentives (Chris Buddle)
  • Becoming better at engaging sometimes means leaving the ivory tower for training in another field (Ryan Kelly) or pursuing science at a for-profit company (Dawn Wright)
  • Doing good science and reflecting on what works and what doesn’t is a critical part of the path to engagement (Simon Donner, Heather Leslie)
  • Above all, it is not science alone, but also hope that inspires people to act (Alan Townsend, Steve Palumbi)

You can watch the conversations unfolding on twitter at #reachingoutsci, or see the running list we’re keeping on our kick-off post.

This is part of a growing trend of scientists being willing to be present as characters in the story. Efforts like Looks Like Science or The Secret Life of Scientists & Engineers, highlight how valuable it can be to share personal stories of who we are, why we do what we do, and why it matters. All of us at COMPASS continue to be inspired by these stories and the scientists who share them. And we can’t wait to see what’s next…