Last week we took a look at how climate scientists can communicate the science to policy-makers, so today in Part 3 we’ll look at how scientists can communicate directly with the public. Together these are a three-part series on how to communicate climate science to all three target audiences – other scientists, policy-makers, and the public.
Communicating with the public is actually the most important of the three target audiences, and the one that scientists are least likely to have spent much time doing in their careers. And that’s a shame because policymakers (notwithstanding the disproportionate influence of lobbyists and rich campaign donors) are most influenced by public opinion. It is the public who are the real drivers of change. It is they who give policymakers permission (or pressure) to take action. If enough of their constituents demand action, they will act.
But reaching out to the public is inherently more difficult for scientists. Scientists, like all professionals, have usually spent considerable time (and expense) getting specific education, training, and life experience in their area of expertise than the general public. In these days of specialization it seems we all have our expertise, whether it be in some climate related science, economics, brain surgery, law, plumbing, or bridge design. Each field builds up its own set of jargon, technical words that have specific meanings within their field but may have no meaning to anyone outside that field (or worse, mean something completely different outside the field).
So it’s critical to reach out to the public, but scientists have to do so in ways that can be understood and are meaningful. Here are a few examples, though this by no means should be considered an exhaustive list:
1) Speak at libraries, churches, schools, etc.: Talk about science in a church? Of course. I was recently in a church whose stained glass windows included one celebrating several of our greatest scientists – Albert Einstein, George Washington Carver, and others. Libraries, churches, and schools all have one thing in common – they are places where the community comes together to learn. Off to give a talk about your area of specialty.
The above is a partial cross-post of a full article on The Dake Page. Please click on the link above to read further. Thanks.
David J. Kent has been a scientist for over thirty years, is an avid science traveler, and an independent Abraham Lincoln historian. He is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity and the e-book Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time. He is currently writing a book on Thomas Edison.