Matthew C. Nisbet, assistant professor in the School of Communication writing in Nature Biotechnology, says there are changes that must be made to ensure quality science communication in the future.
Some of his recommendations, based on the results of a science communication workshop in Washington, D.C., are:
1. Scientists should pursue a trust- and dialogue-based relationship with the public. The goal is not to 'sell the public' but to democratize public input about scientific issues so that members of the public can meaningfully participate in science-related decision making, which is not framing
, but then ...
2. ... Scientists need to recognize the importance of framing
science-related issues. He says science communication efforts need to be based on careful audience research and that different frames of reference that better communicate the nature and relevance of scientific issues across a diversity of audiences should be identified and tested. This research on framing can be used to structure dialogue and to move public discussion beyond polarized arguments and entrenched positions.
3. Graduate students at science institutions should be taught the social and political contexts of science and how to communicate with the media and numerous publics. Programs should include specialized electives for doctoral students but also new interdisciplinary degree programs that combine scientific training with course work in communication, ethics, and policy.
4. Lessen hype by both scientists and the media. Researchers should resist the temptation to describe their studies using inflated metaphors and terminology, such as groundbreaking,
and remain true to the significance of a study. Research funding and methodological details need to be included in media coverage so that the public may better assess credibility.
5. Scientific organizations need to track science-related media coverage (news, entertainment, etc.) to be aware of the numerous cultural contexts through which the public interprets science. National newscasts, talk radio, blockbuster films, entertainment TV, and late night comedy provide broader audiences with alternative messages about science topics and can be important outlets for science communication.
6. Journalism schools and news organizations should develop a science policy 'beat' to bridge the gap between journalists covering science and those covering politics.
7. Develop new models of journalism. He says the for-profit journalism business model is failing and new media formats, such as user generated content, can offer another avenue for public participation.