(short summaries follow)
Big idea: teaming with Hollywood to inspire kids (and adults) to learn science through entertainment.
Exchange already exists; it’s provided 400+ science consultations to TV and movie producers, in shows including
They also hold salons and other events in Hollywood homes to spur ideas – programs are based around big scientific ideas (evolution, string theory, origins of life – and the “night of total desctruction” about plausible ways for the world to end.)
February 2011 Summit on Science Entertainment and Education, to figure out how to use Hollywood to dramatically improve science education.
Science of Fiction – using scenes in films to illuminate science learning materials. “an interactive participatory director’s cut of science learning.”
Taking shape: Have Hollywood create videos of basic science concepts and then when kids are in school, they get to interact.
Trying to get a handle on what kind of information about climate people need and how are they communicating. It became clear people were doing it, but didn’t really know how.
His surveys have shown:
By 2010, so-called “naysayer” responses had shot up, despite efforts to communicate more about climate change.
Climate scientists don’t understand their target audiences – who they are, what they know, where they get their information, what their values are and how all that predisposes them to think and act. Denialists, on the other hand are organized, focussed, stick to their messages – and are effective communicators for their message.
Leiserowitz proposes a national partnership for climate communication to inform and engage Americans in climate science and solutions. He suggests they focus on 4-5 key issues
Not about advocacy. National, nonpartisan, diverse, academics, NGOs. Should be a learning organization with rigorous research and teaching woven in. A shared investment in a common knowledge base by climate, decision and communications scientists. The pieces are already coming into place. Social scientists are already building a shared knowledge base; networks are beginning to form, but mostly focused on specific sectors. We need to pull them into a coherent whole.
Discussion of the notion of “gist” as the key to understanding, with is the key to science communication.
People have poor intuitions about science and math. They have dificulty understanding and applying scientific information, especially risk and uncertainty, and the rate of innumeracy is epidemic.
Science communication requires a model of the human mind:
Beyond knowledge, we need good, insightful intuitions. Science is mediated by the brain, which interprets the “gist” of the message. She wants to see science use the gist of their messages to harness people’s valid intuitions.
(Sorry, I missed part of Kahan’s presentation; it will be up in video within 24 hours at http://events.tvworldwide.com/Events/NAS120521.aspx )
In his research over the past 30 years, he’s talked to researchers around the world, including humanities, social sciences, hard sciences and engineering.
The relationship of science and the public/media is often described as a gap, and there is a lot of truth to it, especially for the hard sciences, his focus today.
There’s lots of research on the nature of the gap:
He sees the gap between the two arenas is functional; the question is whether there is a bridge between the arenas, who uses it and who controls access to it?
Something like 30 percent of biomedical researchers surveyed said they had talked at least once to a journalist in the past three years. It’s not just the province of a selected few scientists. Another study shows the frequency of contacts differ grossly between different fields – the “harder” the science, the fewer the contacts. That says nothing about the representation of the subjects in the media .
Scientists’ goals and expectations in interacting with media:
Scientists and media alike embrace the first two; the third is sometimes seen as problematic by researchers because they think it connects their work to inaccuracies, false controversies, etc. In fact, the conflicts between science and journalism often stems from the journalistic transformation of scientific information.
There’s also controversy over who should control the communication to the public: The scientist as originator, or the media as interpreter? So some scientists are circumventing the media via direct contact using new media.
What motivates scientists to talk to journalists?
How free are scientists to talk with the media? Most say they need to consult within their organization first – either their superiors (Germany) or the public relations office (US).
What about the scientific community? A high proportion of US scientists say media contact would help their scientific reputations; the proportion is much lower in Germany. But there is some ambiguity, possibly based on conditions that have to be met before speaking to the media:
Scientists are mostly positive or mixed about their media interactions. Only a few are mostly dissatisfied about them.
Albert Einstein “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” If we can do that we will succeed.”
1. The less we say, the more we are heard, but we need to say it often:
“Simple, clear messages, repeated often, by a variety of trusted sources.”
2. The decision about what to say should be informed by audience research (not what we are most eager to say, but what is most useful for them to hear). We can learn:
3. Our most important asset is effective communication, not our knowledge and expertise. We should learn to use it. Effective communication can only happen in the presence of trust.
4. It takes a team:
5. Evaluation is tricky, but that’s no excuse for not doing it
Questions about social sciences not conducting science at a high enough level. The best reply to this is to improve our methods. A valuable study is one that can usefully inform the policy community whether intervention is worth doing – without overstating the benefits.
1. Organizations need to put a lot more attention into the process of communicating and coordinating efforts internally, externally (to bring other trusted sources into the conversation with us).
2. Systematically invest in collecting audience data and conducting audience research.
3. Organizations should systematically help scientists become more familiar, liked and trusted by the people with whom they’re trying to share their knowledge.
4. Build interdisciplinary teams to improve information design and delivery.
5. Make evaluation of science communication a priority – and fund it!
What is systematic evaluation?
It’s different from research, which tries to generalize results to a larger population or problem. Evaluation is meant to find out whether something works. It’s not intended to prove “success” – it’s more complicated than that. It’s “what are we doing, for whom, how well?”
(More to follow)
(Or: How is the rapidly changing news environment changing how we interact with science and each other?)
The mass media have important influences on the public, experts, policy makers and journalists:
Through calling attention to some issues over others: As an issue rises on the media agenda it tends to rise on the public agenda, and then becomes perceived as a national priority.
Nisbet summarized research on the factors that drive media attention (the “agenda building and frame building process), including:
Research by Max Boykoff of the Center for Science & Technology Policy Research (http://sciencepolicy.colorado.edu/about_us/meet_us/max_boykoff/) charts the up-and-down cycle of public attention, often around key political moments and decisions. We asume media attention should follow an issue’s objective importance, but the media doesn’t work that way.
An issue such as climate change or stem cell research goes for years without much attention, until an event catapults it into the public debate. until an event suddenly bounces it from non attention into the public debate. The drmatic potential of the issue is magnified, stakeholder groups begin to lobby the media and the discourse changes from technical/scientific issues to “more dramatic discourse,” including exaggerated claims about risks, benefits, values, ethics, etc.
False balance (treating opposing viewpoints as equal, even when they aren’t) rises and falls with interest. See Boykoff’s 2007 study, “Flogging a Dead Norm: Newspaper coverage of anthropogenic Climate Change in the United States and United Kingdom from 2003-2006” – http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1475-4762.2007.00769.x/abstract – which showed that by 2007, false balance had virtually disappeared and 97% of media coverage featured the consensus view of climate science. The divergence was almost entirely on the Wall Street Journal opinion pages. (Nisbet: “NewsCorp media organizations tend to challenge the consensus view.” While 70% of CNN/NBC coverage reflected consensus view, 60% of Fox News coverage challenged it).
Audience effects: Americans increasingly rely on our previous positions, values and political identities as information shortcuts to make up our minds on complex issues. Over the last 10 years as the country has become more polarized we see a growing number of “contrasting elites” and a gap in perception and understanding of climate science among partisan consumers. This is especially true among the highly educated. “Fox News appears to reinforce or shape the views of heavier-viewing Republicans … toward dismissiveness of climate change.”
Selective attention and selective information seeking: Seen even among AAAS members People read media, blogs, etc. according to their particular and ideology. We see this on people’s perception of scientific issues, too. What’s happen is that discussion of the ideological views of scientists has come to dominate discussion and debate on subjects such as climate change. The danger is that we start to think about the public in exclusively binary terms: liberal/conservative, deniers/acceptors.
“In fact if you look deeper, our binary box is challenged. The ideological poles represent only about 20% of public; about two thirds of Americans are on a contiuum from concerned to doubtful, convinced to skeptical. From a communication standpoint we need to figure out how to address this middle.”
Studies show that news and information framing climate in terms of remote landscapes, the fate of penguins, etc., is less effective than focusing on people and communities – the effects of climate change on epidemiology, etc. When you ask people to frame climate change in terms of public health risks and benefits, mitigation, etc., their reactions to the information goes up in a positive way. (Yet) only about 10 percent of stories on climate mention public health. still faces an agenda-building problem. Only 10 percent of stories on climate change mentoin public health.
See Nisbet’s report, “Human Implications of Climate Change”
Variables impacting the knowledge of climate change. (“Knowledge” = verifiable information)
Media usage trends documented by the PewCenter :
Segmenting is prominent but not perfect.
“We can broadly say that the nature of scientific info is going to vary by medium of delivery as well as the specific source within that medium. Representation of scientific consensus, for instance, varies by different media. Nonetheless we see science reflected in many ways across traditional media.”
Not measured, but should be: The nature of science coverage in entertainment programs, from documentaries to Hollywood blockbusters, TV science programs such as Mythbusters, or even shows like CSI, which may form most people’s notions of what forensic science means.
Different models and theories of mass communications address small parts of the issue:
The mix of media sources can also amplify or inhibit knowledge. What are the implications of listening to Rush Limbaugh? What if you listen to the other side as well? There are potential synergies. There are things we learn really well from print but not audiovisual media, and vice versa. It depends on what you’re trying to teach. Certain mixes can amplify things, other mixes may be redundant.
Speaking of entertainment – In entertainment, people are less likely to believe they are being overtly persuaded, so their guard is down. Their involvement in the character and story may create a setting in which certain messages become much more influential in persuading people to change their preexisting beliefs. There is certainly evidence that entertainment may be very influential as a form of science communication.
Cultivation process: The overall message you get from television can lead people to believe the real world is like the television world. For instance: “cool people in forensics labs getting results overnight” – leads people to think that’s the way science happens and it would be a really great career.
In summary: We have a process of selectivity. People’s preexisting values and attitudes, their socioeconomic status, age, education etc. their innate motivations drive their choices of media exposure (which, how many, how much). The mass media do have an effect on people’s knowledge and beliefs. And people’s background characteristics affect their likelihood to discuss, counter, and change the extent to which media exposure influences them. This happens over time. The factual knowledge you gain, the beliefs you develop from media exposure will feed back into your views, your exposure – and the process continues.
Where do people find information about science, what do they do with it, who do they trust? Online media are redefining the traditional view of science communication.
Direct communication from scientist to particular audiences is increasingly popular among younger scientists who think their new findings should be communicated directly to the public. That’s changing the way we think of science communication.
The processes other speakers describe are still valid – ie, selective exposure (looking for things that interest us), but we also look at things online because people suggest it to us (viral behavior). The good news is that science can go viral. The likelihood of that happening increases when the story is awe-inspiring – and science has a lot of that “wow factor. A challenge is evaluating online science information for credibility.
Four out of five Americans use the Internet. Here’s how:
Traditional media are being replaced by online media – and responding by entering social media themselves. Note that recent Pulitzers went to the Huffington Post and Politico, to online-only mass media.
Social networks contribute to diffusion of news – people access news because they saw a link on a page, or because someone recommended the story.
In sum, new communication environments provide essentially unlimited information on a large number of issues which can be obtained almost anywhere with relatively little effort.
What does this mean for science information consumers?
People use their value and perceptual filters to decide what to look for online and how to make sense of it.
Her 2010 data shows a cohort shift among audiences for science news. Where do we pay attention for science news? Only 6 percent cited traditional media (online OR print). And among 18-34-year-olds there’s a shift to online-only – and not even online versions of newspapers or TV. They go to social network and sharing sites and follow links that interest them.
The shift is not across the board. Online users skew more male than female; and more-educated male audiences go to specific sites that don’t fall within traditional media.
Almost 60 percent of respondents say they rely on online sources for specific scientific issues, although many still use traditional media for general news. although many still go to traditional media for general news.
In the speaker’s studies, she found:
Related issue: Peer review in online media: Standard journals versus direct online posting? Increasingly, scientists want to release policy-relevant reports in real time, and that doesn’t allow for peer review. Even peer review doesn’t always guarantee accuracy. Perhaps the notion of peer review itself is being changed – online debate among scientists may actually enhance peer review and help the scientific process.