Straight From The Scientist: Francis Chan

Dr. Francis Chan of Oregon State University

At COMPASS, we sometimes work with an individual scientist in a variety of contexts and over several years.  As they engage with journalists, policymakers, and others outside their research community, we often hear how their thoughts around sharing their science continue to evolve. We recently caught up with one such scientist – Francis Chan of Oregon State University – after he got back from a trip to our DC office earlier this month to meet with policymakers about ocean acidification. Here are some of the things he has picked up over the course of his communication and engagement experiences that we’re excited to share with you! [Read more…]

Burning Down Communication Barriers Among Fire Scientists

Tough questions from journalists often spark new insights for scientists. Here’s our panel of journalists (left to right, Ivan Semeniuk, Douglas Fischer, Natasha Loder, and David Malakoff) poised to grill a trio of scientists during a mock press conference at the workshop. 
Photo by Heather Reiff.

Fire may be one of the clearest manifestations we have of climate change – it’s visible, palpable, and stirs our emotions. Headlines from last week’s release of the Third National Climate Assessment predict a growing rash of wildfires. Fire seasons are lengthening. Fires are occurring in places or at scales they haven’t in the past. The US Forest Service intends to spend almost $2 billion to manage and minimize the impacts of fires across the country this year. When it comes to communicating with the public, the “why should I care” obstacle faced by scientists in most research arenas is almost non-existent for those studying fire. But, other communication challenges – complexity, uncertainty, risk, reframing – remain. [Read more…]

Communicating Risk Vs. Communicating Science

Residents received orders to evacuate before Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc in coastal New Jersey. Shown here is the ravaged amusement park in Seaside Heights. Photo from the National Guard.

“Don’t be stupid, get out.”

Governor Chris Christie minced no words when he issued the mandatory evacuation warning to the residents of New Jersey’s barrier islands as Hurricane Sandy made her approach. To anyone thinking about staying behind, he cautioned, “If I turn out to be right, and you turn out to be dead, that’s not a great equation.”

This is a clear example of a public official communicating risk and asking the public to act based on that statement. To arrive at the decision to evacuate, Governor Christie weighed scientific projections of the storms impact, along with information on the integrity of infrastructure, traffic flow, social behavior, and other factors. But Christie’s blunt statement left little room to question that he held ultimate responsibility for making the public call-to-action. [Read more…]