AAAS is pondering new ways to reach the public:
In “AAAS 2012 Annual Meeting News: Scientists Offer Passionate, Innovative Ways to Engage the Public on Climate Change” (February 19, 2012), Becky Ham tells us,
What’s the most effective way to communicate science?
The audience had a few favorite answers this time: Metaphor, humor, and going to the popular press. Hansen voted for social media, Rosling opted for humor, and Judson chose all of the above.
But whatever the method, some of the panelists concluded, effective science communication must change attitudes as well as correct misconceptions. “Ignorance is not really the problem,” Rosling said. “It’s the difficulty in handling the facts.”
Science, Judson suggested, is more of a stance toward the world than a mountain of data. “And what I would like to do try and change is not so much the way people understand the facts, but the way they look at the world and ask questions about it and engage their curiosity and their skepticism.”
The dominant topic was climate change, and the participants approached all questions from the perspective that they were right and the vast unbelieving public is wrong. Yet one speaker demonstrated that most participants didn’t realize that the birth rate has declined almost worldwide.
If the AAAS participants didn’t realize something as obvious as that the birth rate has declined almost worldwide, why are they so sure their answers are right about everything else?
“Ignorance is not really the problem,” Rosling said. “It’s the difficulty in handling the facts.”
could their problem with facts about the birth rate be this: They need a crisis that doesn’t exist? Why?
They should practice their communication ideas on themselves before reaching out to others.
Hat tip: Stephanie West Allan at Brains on Purpose