Ordinarily, this would be done by the media - independents like Science 2.0 or mainstream media like Discover or Washington Post or whoever - but, at least in the eyes of the public, many mainstream journalists stopped being 'trusted guides' in the eyes of the public when it comes to atmospheric science years ago and are now instead seen by people as either cheerleaders or incompetent, and science journalism jobs have plummeted because few people read them, despite the actual science audience ballooning to 65 million just in the US.
The catalyst for Samenow was Penn State researcher Michael Mann stating about a recent study that sea levels are rising faster now than in the past (see Sea Levels Are Rising - And Temperature Is To Blame), writing in an email to Joe Romm at ThinkProgress that "projected sea level rise lying at or near the upper range of current projections, more than a meter by the end of this century under business-as-usual carbon emissions."
Where was that in the study? Well, it wasn't of course. And Mann wasn't making it up, but how would people know?
More importantly, says Samenow, is that it would have had a much greater impact had that been stated.
First, would it have made an impact? The problem in the past was that journalists printed similar 'media talking points' as fact, without pointing to any studies. The IPCC knew they would, they created them for that reason, and exploited the media a little. They thought they were doing framing but, when some of the talking points turned out not tot have a basis in studies, to some on the public it felt like spin and the credibility problem snowballed from there.
Another part of the problem is that, at least in climate science, researchers are only writing in safe places. RealClimate was created to provide a one-way lecturers position about climate science for people who already accepted one thing - it is very Science 1.0 and I like reading it, but nothing there is ever a surprise. Writes Samenow:
Some scientists might resist the onus of having to write a lay-person friendly version of their articles. However, I agree with Betts, it’s well past time they do so - even if the write-ups are short for more esoteric topics.Science 2.0 already does - and it bridges gaps between scientists as well, but its primary benefit is public outreach. Should climate science do more of it? Yes, but as their work has gotten more public attention they have gotten more insular. They aren't going to respond to emails much less write columns for anyone except the faithful, and that is sort of pointless. The climate change faithful are not going to stop believing no matter what and the climate change atheists are never going to believe no matter what. The vast majority of the public are in the middle but they are not going to read RealClimate for climate issues any more than they will go and read Pepsi scientists about soda - they know what they will get and they don't want to be derided and scolded for asking questions deniers have planted in their minds.
What do you think? Should this be an element of Science 2.0 to help bridge the gap between science and the public?
Science 2.0 is the most politically and culturally agnostic science site around - if Mann put his commentary here, sure, he would get critics, the man is a prominent researcher so he is a lightning rod for deniers, but that goes with the territory. The fact remains that without the bulk of the public accepting science no policies will get done. Former Vice President Al Gore criticized Pres. Obama for not doing enough on climate change but the president is responding to the public - they don't care. That doesn't mean the issue has gone away but the president has to pick his fights.
If we want people to care enough about climate change to take action, researchers can't let studies do the talking and hope journalists provide proper context, and they can't sit in echo chambers, they have to reach the public - the real public - and show the data and then lay out the arguments. It works. It's the whole point of Science 2.0.