Tag: science communications

Of Crows and Cuckoos, Pigeons, Pachyderms, and Komodos

Also in our best of the web: A bioblitz near you, the Colorado delta gets a big gulp, never-till farming, and what Hollywood gets wrong about bugs and birders

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The Mahi-Mahi & The Map: Digital Storytelling for Science

How can a scientist convey a complex and even contentious topic like marine spatial planning to non-specialist audiences? Shawn Margles looks to digital storytelling to convey the emotion behind the science.

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Sanjayan: The Art of Communication is Conservation’s Best Hope

Peter Karevia and David Banks pay tribute to former Conservancy lead scientist Sanjayan, who has just joined Conservation International, as a master communicator and advocate for innovative, people-relevant conservation.

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The Myth of Suicidal Lemmings

It’s one of the most enduring wildlife images: thousands of lemmings following each other over a cliff. One problem: it’s not true. The real story of lemming migrations and “mass suicides.”

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Scientists: Is It So Hard to Know Your Audiences?

It’s easy to dump information on people; harder to know what would really speak to them. The good news: We already know more than we think we do.

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‘Competent But Cold’: New Research on Why Scientists Don’t Connect with People

Why doesn’t the public trust scientists? New research says they’re in the “envy” group of professions — respected but cold, and resented by the rest of us. Is there a way out?

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The Cooler: Don’t Be Such a Science Communicator

Science communication is full of bumper-sticker advice — Don’t Be Such a Scientist, Tell Stories, Not Data, Use the 6×6 Rule. A new essay in PNAS says we should try more science instead.

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The Cooler: 5 Lessons for Live Animal Cams

What makes for a great animal live cam feature? Of course you need some compelling animals — but that’s just one key ingredient in the recipe. You need science, community and a willingness to let people project their imaginations onto the critters, too.

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The Cooler: Celebrity Species and the Science Deficit Model

Do conservation NGOs use tigers, lions and pandas to market and fundraise at the expense of other threatened species? David Salt and Hugh Possingham say yes. Here’s why their solution isn’t the answer.

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Why Climate Change Denial May Not Be as Common as You Think

Scientists are such bad communicators, which is why the majority of the public doesn’t believe in climate change despite scientific consensus.

Does this drum beat sound familiar? I can almost hear science communicators Randy Olson and Nancy Baron whispering it in my ear.

Well, Zoe Leviston and colleagues from CSIRO in Australia offer at least some relief. In work published this week in Nature Climate Change, Leviston and coauthors report evidence of a strong “false consensus effect” around climate change belief in Australia.

Essentially, people who believed that climate change was “not happening” grossly overestimated how prevalent that same opinion was in society, whereas those who did believe in climate change (the vast majority) underestimated how common their views were.

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Why Everything You Know About Science Communications is Wrong, and More Science is the Answer

Recovery begins by admitting you have a problem. But the real problem with communicating science — particularly around climate change and other issues involving risk — is that we’re often focused on the wrong problem. And, as a must-read new paper by Harvard risk communications scholar Dan Kahan argues, only getting truly serious about the science of science communications can keep us from digging the hole even deeper.

Think back to the last conversation you had about climate change with someone who wants global action on the issue. Chances are, the conversation quickly devolved into a cycle of finger pointing that went something like this:

* Blame scientists, because they don’t communicate the risks of climate change clearly and simply enough. Or emotionally enough. Or starkly enough. (Or maybe they shouldn’t be communicating at all, because they’re just no good at it.)

* Blame the media, because they’re not covering climate change enough (or prominently enough, or in a way that connects with people, or with the right mix of local and global relevance, or because they airwaves have been flooded with anti-climate-change rhetoric fueled by big money interests).

* And blame the public, because it’s not scientifically literate enough to understand the risks of climate change, or it’s too distracted by media-fueled triviality to care.

The assumption underlying all this blame? The public isn’t getting the gravity of the problem — because if they did, how could they fail to act? (This is what Kahan and other social scientists call the “public irrationality thesis.”) Ergo: If we could just transfer our scientific knowledge to enough people (and make enough people receptive enough to understand it), those people would of course change their minds to agree with us, change their voting patterns and behavior in the ways we desire…and the world would be saved.

Communications scholars call this chain of reasoning the “injection” or “empty bucket” or “science deficit” model of communications. The real problem: About two decades of science on the science deficit model have shown that it’s not true.

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