Communicating Science

I thought that you might like to know that at 4:00 p.m. on May 10, Chris
Mooney and Matthew Nisbet will be speaking on “Framing Science: The Road
to 2008 and Beyond” in the auditorium at the Stowers Institute for Medical
Research, 1000 E. 50th St. in Kansas City, Missouri.

Mooney is a science writer for Seed and American Prospect magazines, and
the author of The Republican War on Science (Basic Books, 2005); Nisbet is
a professor of communications at American University. Both have written
extensively on communication strategies for science policy.

For further details, visit:

Speaking Science 2.0

“We do not see the world as it is. We see the world as we are.”
— Talmud scripture

“It’s not what you say, it’s what people hear.”
–Republican strategist Frank Luntz

Over the past several years, the seemingly never-ending fights over evolution, embryonic stem cell research, global climate change, and many other topics have led to a troubling revelation. Scientific knowledge, alone, does not always suffice when it comes to winning political arguments, changing government policies, or influencing public opinion. Put simply, the media, policymakers, and the public consume scientific information in a vastly different way than do the scientists who generate it. As a result, scientists and their organizations repeatedly face difficult challenges in explaining their knowledge to diverse groups of citizens.

As issues at the intersection of science and politics gain more and more attention, something beyond pure science–beyond “getting the facts out there”–will be necessary to break through to the public. But what are the new directions? It’s time to question some central assumptions and focus on fresh ideas.

A conversation about new directions in science communication.

In this joint presentation, journalist Chris Mooney and communication professor Matthew Nisbet explain how scientists and their allies can “reframe” old debates in new ways, while taking advantage of a fragmented media environment to connect with a broader American public. Drawing on case studies from the battles over stem cell research, evolution, global warming, hurricanes, and other subjects, a key point of emphasis will be that scientists must adopt a language that emphasizes shared values and has broad appeal, avoiding the pitfall of seeming to belittle fellow citizens or attacking their religious beliefs.

Innovative strategies for public engagement could not be more urgent: Science will figure, as never before, in the 2008 presidential campaign and beyond. Scientific “facts” will increasingly be pulled into fraught political contexts, and bent and twisted in myriad ways. This political environment can seem perplexing to scientists, or worse. But it’s one to which they must adapt if they want their hard-won knowledge to play its necessary role in shaping the future of our nation.



Author: Steve Case

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