The increasing perception that public communication in science and technology is an important tool to create a knowledge society is encouraging numerous public engagement activities. However, too little is known about scientists’ opinions of and attitudes towards the public with whom they interact during these activities, especially in southern European countries such as Spain. If we want to establish an effective dialogue between science and society, we need to be aware of the opinions and perceptions that both parties have of each other. In this study, we address this issue by focusing on 1022 responses to a survey conducted among scientists in Spain to discover their views of the public, and we then compare these responses with data from other national surveys on the public’s understanding of science. The results show that approximately 75% of Spanish scientists think that the general public has a serious lack of knowledge and understanding of scientific reasoning, although scientists do recognize that science interests the public (73%). Scientists believe that the public values the scientific profession to a lesser extent than suggested by public surveys: on a scale of 1–5, survey respondents rate their valuation of the scientific profession at 4.22, whereas scientists rate the public's valuation of the profession at 3.12, on average. Significant differences were detected between scientists’ perceptions of how citizens are informed about science and what citizens report in surveys. The challenge for the future is to narrow this gap in order to help scientists gain a better understanding of the public and their interests and to make public engagement activities more effective.
Communication and Education
The scientific literature on marine and coastal climate change has proliferated in recent decades. Translating and communicating this evidence in a timely, and accessible manner, is critical to support adaptation, but little is being done to summarise the latest science for decision makers. For Small Island Developing States (SIDS), which are highly vulnerable to marine and coastal climate change impacts, there is an urgent need to make the latest science readily available to inform national policy, leverage climate funding and highlight their vulnerability for international reports and climate negotiations. Climate change report cards are a proven successful way of presenting climate change information in an easily accessible and informative manner. Here we compare the development of marine climate change report cards for Caribbean and Pacific Commonwealth SIDS as a means of translating the latest science for decision makers. Regional engagement, priority issues and lessons learnt in these regions are compared, and future opportunities identified.
Since 2011, when the first European ocean literacy (OL) project was launched in Portugal, the number of initiatives about this topic in Europe has increased notoriously and their scope has largely widened. These initiatives have drawn from the seven “OL Principles” that were developed by the College of Exploration OL Network in 2005. They represent a source of inspiration for the many endeavors that are aiming to achieve a society that fully understands the influence of themselves – as individuals and as a population – on the ocean and the influence of the ocean on them. OL initiatives throughout the past years, globally, have resulted in the production of countless didactic and communication resources that represent a valuable legacy for new activities. The OL research community recognizes the need to build up the scope of OL by reaching the wider Blue Economy actors such as the maritime industrial sector. It is hoped that building OL in this sector will contribute to the long-term sustainable development of maritime activities. The ERASMUS+ project “MATES” aims to address the maritime industries’ skills shortages and contribute to a more resilient labor market. MATES’ hypothesis is that through building OL in educational, professional and industrial environments, it is possible to build a labor force that matches the skills demand in these sectors and increases their capacity to uptake new knowledge. The MATES partnership will explicitly combine OL and knowledge transfer by applying the “COLUMBUS Knowledge Transfer Methodology” as developed by the H2020-funded COLUMBUS project.
With growing complex and systemic challenges facing the ocean, there is an urgent need to increase the scale and effectiveness of approaches to marine conservation, including protecting and recognizing the value of all of its services. Stronger multi-sector networks of organizations are needed, sharing knowledge and working in unison to create a common narrative for the ocean and the solutions to its protection. In an innovative experiment, the Marine CoLABoration (CoLAB) brings together nine non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to explore collaboratively how to communicate more effectively. The CoLAB hypothesizes that communicating the full value of the ocean in all its rich diversity connects with people’s deeply held, personal values and leads to more impactful ocean conservation. Through horizon scanning with the wider sector, the CoLAB determines experiment themes to test this hypothesis. These are based predominantly in the United Kingdom and include #OneLess, Agents of Change and We are Ocean. The CoLAB’s work demonstrates that by effectively building and promoting an understanding of the full value of the ocean, it is possible to trigger a wider range of human values to catalyze engagement with marine conservation issues. A joined up, interdisciplinary approach to communicating why the ocean matters, engaging a wide range of actors will be crucial in effecting long term, systemic change for the ocean. The need for greater United Kingdom ocean literacy has also been highlighted across the CoLAB and its experiments and presents an opportunity for further work.
The concept of ecosystem services (ES) emerges as strategic to explain the influences that the ocean, and in particular coastal ecosystems, have on us and how we influence them back. Despite being a term coined several decades ago and being already wide-spread in the scientific community and among policy-makers, the ES concept still lacks recognition among citizens and educators. There is therefore a need to mainstream this concept in formal education and through Ocean Literacy resources. Although important developments in OL were done in the United States, particularly through the National Marine Educators Association (NMEA), this concept was only recently introduced in Europe. In Portugal, several informal OL education programs were developed in the last years, yet formal education on OL and, in particular, on ES is still very deficient. To address this limitation, the “Environmental Education Network for Ecosystem Services” (REASE), founded in 2017 in the Algarve region by a consortium of educational, environmental and scientific institutions, aims to increase OL through the dissemination of the perspective of how ES provided by coastal vegetation may contribute to the human well-being. The projects and activities implemented by REASE focus mostly on formal-education of school children and include: (1) capacity building for K-12 teachers, (2) educational programs to support and develop ES projects in schools, including a citizen science project to evaluate blue carbon stocks in the Algarve, (3) the publication of a children’s book about the ES provided by the local Ria Formosa coastal lagoon, with a community-based participatory design (illustrations made by schoolchildren) and (4) a diverse array of informal education activities to raise awareness on the importance of coastal ecosystems on human well-being. REASE challenges are being successfully addressed by identifying threats to local coastal ecosystems that people worry about, and highlighting solutions to improve and maintain their health.
Strategic science communicators need to select tactics that can help them achieve both their short-term communication objectives and long-term behavioral goals. However, little previous research has sought to develop theory aimed at understanding what makes it more likely that a communicator will prioritize specific communication tactics. The current study aims to advance the development of a theory of strategic science communication as planned behavior based on the Integrated Behavioral Model. It does so in the context of exploring Canadian scientists’ self-reported willingness to prioritize six different tactics as a function of attitudinal, normative, and efficacy beliefs. The results suggest that scientists’ beliefs about ethicality, norms, response efficacy, and self-efficacy, are all meaningful predictors of willingness to prioritize specific tactics. Differences between scientists in terms of demographics and related variables provide only limited benefit in predicting such willingness.
The prevalence of social media platforms that share photos and videos could prove useful for wildlife research and conservation programs. When social media users post pictures and videos of animals, near real-time data like individual identification, sex, location, or other information are made accessible to scientists. These data can help inform researchers about animal occurrence, behavior, or threats to survival. The endangered Hawaiian monk seal (Neomonachus schauinslandi) population has only 1,400 seals remaining in the wild. A small but growing population of seals has recently reestablished itself in the human-populated main Hawaiian Islands. While this population growth raises concerns about human-seal interactions it also provides the opportunity to capitalize on human observations to enhance research and conservation activities. We measured the potential utility of non-traditional data sources, in this case Instagram, to supplement current population monitoring of monk seals in the main Hawaiian Islands. We tracked all Instagram posts with the identifier #monkseal for a one-year period and assessed the photos for biological and geographical information, behavioral concerns, human disturbance and public perceptions. Social media posts were less likely to provide images suitable for individual seal identification (16.5%) than traditional sighting reports (79.9%). However, social media enhanced the ability to detect human-seal interactions or animal disturbances: 22.1%, of the 2,392 Instagram posts examined showed people within 3 meters of a seal, and 17.8% indicated a disturbance to the animal, meanwhile only 0.64% of traditional reports noted a disturbance to the animal. This project demonstrated that data obtained through social media posts have value to monk seal research and management strategies beyond traditional data collection, and further development of social media platforms as data resources is warranted. Many conservation programs may benefit from similar work using social media to supplement the research and conservation activities they are undertaking.
World leaders signed the Paris Agreement in 2015 to keep global temperatures well below 2 °C. This Paris Agreement will facilitate achieving Sustainable Development Goal-13 (Climate Action) by 2030. However, without collective action, it is quite impossible to achieve the terms of this agreement. In this regard, the mass media can contribute to making people aware of the subsequent effect of climate change at all levels. The mass media, as a source of information, might play a significant role in raising public awareness and understanding of climate sciences. This paper examines the influence of the mass media on awareness, attitudes and knowledge of climate change, which may lead to environmentally friendly behaviour. This paper employs structural equation modelling to examine the relationship among the studied variables. The results reveal that the mass media influences awareness, attitudes and knowledge of climate change. This study also finds mediating effects of awareness, attitudes and knowledge of climate change between the mass media and environmentally friendly behaviour. The results imply that the mass media contributes to creating awareness, enhancing understating and shaping favourable attitudes towards climate change. The findings could guide policymakers to take appropriate steps to promote a greater awareness of climate change using the mass media.
A good understanding of the role and function of the ocean seems to be of paramount importance in recent years, constituting the basic tool for the promotion of healthy and sustainable marine environment, and a target area of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In this study, the content knowledge of elementary school students (grades 3–6) in regards to ocean sciences issues was examined. A structured questionnaire was administered to 1004 students participating in a cross-cultural study from three Mediterranean countries (Italy, Croatia, and Greece). The results of the study indicated a rather moderate level of knowledge in the total sample, while slight differences were recorded among the three countries revealing common knowledge gains and misconceptions. Rasch analysis was applied to further evaluate the validity of the results, while the influence of certain demographics on students’ knowledge level was also investigated. This study concludes with a discussion of the implications on national curriculum development in elementary education level, in order to promote ocean literacy and to ensure protection and conservation of the Mediterranean Sea.
Developing the ocean literacy of individuals of all ages from all countries, cultures, and economic backgrounds is essential to inform choices for sustainable living in the future, but how we reach and represent diverse voices is a challenge. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) offer a possible tool to achieve this goal, as they can potentially reach large numbers of people including those from lower and middle income regions. The number of MOOCs themed around ocean science and/or literacy is growing rapidly, and here we share experience of developing and delivering a MOOC entitled “Exploring Our Oceans,” which has run ten times in the past 4 years with around 40,000 participants worldwide. The “Exploring Our Oceans” MOOC incorporates a blend of online teaching techniques grounded in both instructivist and constructivist theories, thereby emphasizing contributions from a global community of learners and encouraging individual, independent action in relation to ocean citizenship. The impacts of this MOOC include evidence of changed awareness and attitudes to ocean issues; increased applications and participation in undergraduate and postgraduate programs; development of communication and outreach skills in the postgraduate community and partnership building with Nelson Mandela University, South Africa. These impacts, and vignettes of learner experiences in the course, are discussed in the context of the effectiveness of MOOCs in developing global ocean literacy.