20 December 2010

A constant drumbeat to effectively communicate science to the public

Posted by mohi

One of the constant drumbeats I heard during this year’s AGU Fall Meeting is that scientists need to do a better job communicating to the public.

The message came from multiple sources:  the AGU Council meeting last Sunday, Monday’s Union lecture presented by Obama’s science advisor John Holdren (members can read a summary in this week’s Eos issue), Michael Oppenheimer’s Stephen Schneider lecture, the many of the natural hazards presentations including Julia Slingo’s Union lecture, book authors, public speakers, senate staffers.

The advice was near-universal: Scientists have an obligation to communicate science clearly and effectively to the public.

No, it’s not easy.  Yes, there are potential pitfalls.  But the public needs to have a better understanding of science.

This echoes one of the major thrusts of the new AGU strategic plan–continued outreach. You can help shape AGU’s outreach goals by filling out a survey on how AGU should communicate science to the public.

And you can ask yourself: How would I explain my science to my neighbors or my grandparents or my kid’s classmates so that their eyes don’t glass over, so that they become excited about future possibilities? Any tips? Success stories?

–Barbara T. Richman, Editor in Chief, Eos