First impressions based on facial appearance predict many important social outcomes. We investigated whether such impressions also influence the communication of scientific findings to lay audiences, a process that shapes public beliefs, opinion, and policy. First, we investigated the traits that engender interest in a scientist’s work, and those that create the impression of a “good scientist” who does high-quality research. Apparent competence and morality were positively related to both interest and quality judgments, whereas attractiveness boosted interest but decreased perceived quality. Next, we had members of the public choose real science news stories to read or watch and found that people were more likely to choose items that were paired with “interesting-looking” scientists, especially when selecting video-based communications. Finally, we had people read real science news items and found that the research was judged to be of higher quality when paired with researchers who look like “good scientists.” Our findings offer insights into the social psychology of science, and indicate a source of bias in the dissemination of scientific findings to broader society.
Communication and Education
Identifying the right stakeholders to engage with is fundamental to ensuring conservation information and initiatives diffuse through target populations. Yet this process can be challenging, particularly as practitioners and policy makers grapple with different conservation objectives and a diverse landscape of relevant stakeholders. Here we draw on social network theory and methods to develop guidelines for selecting ‘key players’ better positioned to successfully implement four distinct conservation objectives: (1) rapid diffusion of conservation information, (2) diffusion between disconnected groups, (3) rapid diffusion of complex knowledge or initiatives, or (4) widespread diffusion of conservation information or complex initiatives over a longer time period. Using complete network data among coastal fishers from six villages in Kenya, we apply this approach to select key players for each type of conservation objective. We then draw on key informant interviews from seven resource management and conservation organizations working along the Kenyan coast to investigate whether the socioeconomic attributes of the key players we identified match the ones typically selected to facilitate conservation diffusion (i.e., ‘current players’). Our findings show clear discrepancies between current players and key players, highlighting missed opportunities for progressing more effective conservation diffusion. We conclude with specific criteria for selecting key stakeholders to facilitate each distinct conservation objective, thereby helping to mitigate the problem of stakeholder identification in ways that avoid blueprint approaches. These guidelines can also be applied in other research and intervention areas, such as community development studies, participatory research, and community intervention.
As human impacts cause ecosystem-wide changes in the oceans, the need to protect and restore marine resources has led to increasing calls for and establishment of marine reserves. Scientific information about marine reserves has multiplied over the last decade, providing useful knowledge about this tool for resource users, managers, policy makers, and the general public. This information must be conveyed to nonscientists in a nontechnical, credible, and neutral format, but most scientists are not trained to communicate in this style or to develop effective strategies for sharing their scientific knowledge. Here, we present a case study from California, in which communicating scientific information during the process to establish marine reserves in the Channel Islands and along the California mainland coast expanded into an international communication effort. We discuss how to develop a strategy for communicating marine reserve science to diverse audiences and highlight the influence that effective science communication can have in discussions about marine management.
Clarity and accuracy of reporting are fundamental to the scientific process. The understandability of written language can be estimated using readability formulae. Here, in a corpus consisting of 707 452 scientific abstracts published between 1881 and 2015 from 122 influential biomedical journals, we show that the readability of science is steadily decreasing. Further, we demonstrate that this trend is indicative of a growing usage of general scientific jargon. These results are concerning for scientists and for the wider public, as they impact both the reproducibility and accessibility of research findings.
The aim of this study is to assess the impact of two forms of short-term knowledge communication—lectures and group deliberations—on public managers’ policy beliefs regarding genetic biodiversity in the Baltic Sea. Genetic biodiversity is a key component of biological variation, but despite scientific knowledge and far-reaching political goals, genetic biodiversity remains neglected in marine management. Previous research highlights lack of knowledge among managers as one explanation to the implementation deficit. This multidisciplinary study builds on the identified need for an improved knowledge transfer between science and ongoing management. A basic knowledge package on genetic biodiversity in the Baltic Sea was presented as either a lecture or a deliberative group discussion to two separate samples of public managers who are involved in Baltic Sea and other biodiversity management at the regional level in Sweden. The empirical findings show that the communicated information has an impact on the public managers’ beliefs on genetic biodiversity of the Baltic Sea. Lectures seem more efficient to transfer knowledge on this theme. Those who received information through a lecture strengthen their confidence in area protection as a management tool to conserve genetic diversity. They were also more convinced of the obligation of authorities at national and regional level to take on larger responsibility for genetic conservation than those managers who participated in a deliberative discussion.
Australia’s developed coasts are a heavily competed space, subject to urban, industrial and agricultural development. A diversity of habitats, such as mangroves, saltmarshes and seagrasses, comprise Australia’s coastal seascape and provide numerous benefits including fish productivity, carbon sequestration, nutrient cycling, coastal protection and recreation. Decision makers need to be able to weigh up the relative costs and benefits of coastal development, protection or repair and to do this they need robust, accessible and defensible data on the ecological function and economic value of Australia’s coastal seascapes. We reviewed the published literature, with a focus on saltmarsh as a vulnerable ecological community, to determine the availability of information on key ecological functions that could inform ecosystem service valuation. None of the publications we reviewed quantified nutrient cycling, coastal protection or recreation functions. Only 13 publications presented quantitative information on carbon sequestration and fish productivity. These were limited geographically, with the majority of studies on sub-tropical and temperate saltmarsh communities between south-east Queensland and Victoria. This demonstrates a lack of quantitative information needed to substantiate and communicate the value of Australia’s saltmarshes in different locations, scales and contexts. Research should focus on addressing these knowledge gaps and communicating evidence in a relevant form and context for decision-making. We discuss four principles for research funding organisations and researchers to consider when prioritising and undertaking research on key ecological functions of Australia’s saltmarshes, and coastal seascapes more broadly, to support sustainable coastal development, protection and repair for long-term economic and community benefit.
It is often assumed that issue advocacy will compromise the credibility of scientists. We conducted a randomized controlled experiment to test public reactions to six different advocacy statements made by a scientist—ranging from a purely informational statement to an endorsement of specific policies. We found that perceived credibility of the communicating scientist was uniformly high in five of the six message conditions, suffering only when he advocated for a specific policy—building more nuclear power plants (although credibility did not suffer when advocating for a different specific policy—carbon dioxide limits at power plants). We also found no significant differences in trust in the broader climate science community between the six message conditions. Our results suggest that climate scientists who wish to engage in certain forms of advocacy have considerable latitude to do so without risking harm to their credibility, or the credibility of the scientific community.
The Paranaguá Estuarine Complex (PEC), Paraná State, southern Brazil, has rich biodiversity and attracts the attention of researchers in several areas. In this region, there is a mosaic of protected areas that aim to maintain the natural heritage through regulation of the use of the area and natural resources and are also home to traditional extractive communities, such as fisherfolk. These coastal communities are dependent on local resources and are continually in contact with researchers working mainly on studies related to coastal environmental issues. However, the results generated in these studies realized in marine environment are rarely shared or discussed with these traditional communities before being taken to decision makers, which can result in conflicts between those involved, the acceptance of reduced management measures and the loss of research credibility. The objective of this article is to describe the perception of marine traditional fishermen from the village of Ilha das Peças (VIP) and the village of Ilha do Superagui (VIS), both located in the vicinity of the protected areas, regarding the scientific research conducted in the PEC. In 2012, ethnographic interviews were conducted through semi-structured questionnaires given to fisherfolk in the VIP (n = 40) and the VIS (n = 50). The level of education among the fishermen in the two villages is low, which can influence the perception of the research conducted in the region. All respondents in the VIP and VIS described not receiving reports from researchers regarding the results. Therefore, there is a feeling of dissatisfaction regarding the lines of research in general, which is extended to the funding agencies and the presence of researchers in the area, representing conflicts with the management of marine resources. According to the respondents, the research does not seek solutions to social and environmental problems but only evaluates and seeks to preserve the fauna and flora, excluding the human component of the broader ecological processes. Dialogue between scientific and traditional knowledge is essential in the joint search for effective solutions to social and environmental problems, especially in areas designated as priorities for biological conservation in the coastal environment.
The media can reflect social opinion and influence debate and policy. Wild vertebrate welfare issues are regularly reported in the media, but there has been no study of the type and frequency of their coverage. We compiled a list of potential wild vertebrate welfare issues in the United Kingdom, recording how often each issue was mentioned in the media during 2014. Lethal wildlife management issues were most frequently reported, whereas issues that received little coverage included marine debris, commercial fishing, and pollution. Overall, the media tended more frequently to report welfare issues that involved intent to harm an animal, were illegal, or occurred in the terrestrial environment. Insofar as media reporting may lead to improvements in the welfare of wild animals, greater effort may be required to provoke media interest in welfare issues that do not involve intent to harm, are legal, or occur in marine environments.
An early step toward successful coordination with other West Coast ocean interests involves preparing and implementing a Communications and Engagement (C&E) Plan. The purpose of this C&E Plan is to identify key goals for communicating and engaging with diverse ocean stakeholders on the West Coast (i.e., what needs to be done), and then to articulate a clear strategy toward successfully achieving these goals (i.e., how best to do it).
While this C&E Plan lays out a thoughtful approach for achieving its communications and engagement goals, it is important to recognize that implementation of the plan is ultimately dependent on the availability of funding and staffing resources. Additional resources will have to be secured by the WCRPB to implement some of the activities outlined below. As such, the Plan provide guidance but does not, by itself, guarantee implementation. This C&E plan is intended to be a “living document” that will be updated at regular intervals by WCRPB staff and members.