Posted by: soniahs | September 29, 2010

Exam reading: Science comm for environmental issues

And here’s an applied example of the “deficit-dialogue” non-transition. Peter Groffman, Cathlyn Stylinski, Matthew C. Nisbet, Carlos M. Duarte, Rebecca Jordan, Amy Burgin, M. Andrea Previtali, and James Coloso: “Restarting the conversation: challenges at the interface between ecology and society,” from a Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment special issue.

Summary: Science communication and outreach efforts are not currently sufficient to engage the public in pressing environmental issues. The authors summarize current social research and make recommendations. Scientists are widely respected on social-policy issues, but need to rethink outreach efforts. Awareness of environmental issues varies widely (demographics, nationality) and other issues (esp. economy) currently are rated more important; communicators can increase salience of issues by connecting them to people’s lives. Most people learn about scientific issues individually, informally, and sporadically; in the U.S., mainly via TV, but the Internet is a prime source of science info for those who deliberately seek it out (selective perception and interpretation are important). The largest effect of media campaigns is awareness, rather than factual knowledge. Audiences are influenced by presentation, e.g., give both views represented equal weight. Scientists tend to focus on information deficit, rather than changing attention/salience; here’s where framing and mental models come in. There are also new tools and approaches to use: formal research communication, training for young scientists, participation in local social forums, online news communities (e.g., science blogs + news), public participation in research, and recruiting opinion leaders (social networks, etc.)

Comments: Article is introduction to a special issue of journal; other papers go into detail about some of the new approaches mentioned.

Links to: Trumbull et al., Bonney et al., Brossard et al. (public participation in research); Nisbet (framing)



  1. […] to: Groffman et al. (environmental communication); Yearley (scientific uncertainty often makes sci. a bad ally to […]


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