Recalibrating the Science-Media Conversation

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Thu., Jan. 2, 2014, 2:15pm

Recalibrating the Science-Media Conversation Op-Ed
Jacob Berkowitz, Writer in Residence, ISSP
Full article here:
Whether it's at the annual AAAS conference or a small scientific symposium, there's a long tradition of including a (sometimes token) panel discussion or presentation about science and the media. For many attendees, this is a good time to get a coffee and
check e-mails.
This reach for the caffeine isn't because attendees aren't interested in the topic, but often because they've heard it all before. The mantra goes: Scientists' are poor communicators; journalists' sensationalize and get facts wrong. The solutions: We need to train scientists to better communicate, and increase journalists' science literacy.
There's validity to these points. The problem is they're the surface of an understanding that might move the science-media conversation into new and more engaging territory.
The science-media conversation is stuck. To get it moving again requires shifting from a
mechanistic discussion to one grounded in cross-cultural analysis and understanding.
At the recent ISSP Science and Society 2013: Emerging Agendas for Citizens and the Sciences symposium broadcaster and Science and the Media panelist Jay Ingram emphasized that while traditional media training is important (ex. how answer interview questions...) it's not enough. More importantly, it's not the core of the issue.
He noted that the challenge in public science communication isn't about conveying more scientific facts or increasing science literacy. The challenge lies in addressing cultural and psychological differences among those who have a science message and the diverse audiences that message is reaching.
In many ways this is heresy to scientists who are more comfortable hammering away at facts, for example the tons of carbon dioxide in your carbon footprint.
Read the full text here.