science & communication

21Jan10

I recently wrote a post on the Wolfstar Blog about lack of communication in the science world and why. It discussed how imperative it is that scientist collectively adopt a communications strategy. With imminent dangers like climate change, the public need to know the truth and need to hear it often. Instead, we hear very little of the truth and a lot of untruth.

The good and bad thing about social media is that it’s democratic. Everyone has a voice and popularity doesn’t equal influence. That’s the great thing about it. Unfortunately, one of the downsides is that an accurate and truthful message isn’t necessarily the most heard or most popular message. Scientists need to understand it’s not what they know, but how they communicate it. If scientists want to use their knowledge to provide insight and better the world, they need make sure they have a voice—they should want to have a voice.

I found a great example of how scientists “crossed the line” and communicated their findings to impact public opinion and policymakers. These scientists spoke out against mountain top removal mining in the U.S. What started out as objective fact-finding quickly turned to a call for action.

“We’re at a point now where we really can’t afford not to speak up,” said Margaret Palmer (the article’s lead author).  “We’ve got too much at stake.”

All the scientists agreed that this practice just has to stop. So they all decided to get the facts AND their message out.  They booked the National Press Club and brought their 6 best media-savvy team members to present the case. They laid out very clearly, speaking loudly the Obama EPA, what policy changes they felt should happen and used their work as evidence. They even criticized the current administration for ignoring science. To even further their PR case, simultaneous with the release of their article, the EPA approved another mountaintop removal permit! Journalists now had a perfect angle to the story.

The collective effort to these scientists to use an effective communication strategy made a huge wave in the media and the ripples will bring about positive policy change.

(You can read the full story here.)

UPDATE: I just found this article about how the scientist’s message made it to The Colbert Report!

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One Response to “science & communication”


  1. 1 Wolfstar: public relations (PR), social media and word of mouth (WOM) marketing and communications : Wolfstar

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