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.
Communication and Education
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.
Effectively addressing climate change requires significant changes in individual and collective human behavior and decision-making. Yet, in light of the increasing politicization of (climate) science, and the attempts of vested-interest groups to undermine the scientific consensus on climate change through organized “disinformation campaigns,” identifying ways to effectively engage with the public about the issue across the political spectrum has proven difficult. A growing body of research suggests that one promising way to counteract the politicization of science is to convey the high level of normative agreement (“consensus”) among experts about the reality of human-caused climate change. Yet, much prior research examining public opinion dynamics in the context of climate change has done so under conditions with limited external validity. Moreover, no research to date has examined how to protect the public from the spread of influential misinformation about climate change. The current research bridges this divide by exploring how people evaluate and process consensus cues in a polarized information environment. Furthermore, evidence is provided that it is possible to pre-emptively protect (“inoculate”) public attitudes about climate change against real-world misinformation.
Environmental change has focused the attention of scientists, policy makers and the wider public on the uncertainty inherent in interactions between people and the environment. Governance in fisheries is required to involve stakeholder participation and to be more inclusive in its remit, which is no longer limited to ensuring a maximum sustainable yield from a single stock but considers species and habitat interactions, as well as social and economic issues. The increase in scope, complexity and awareness of uncertainty in fisheries management has brought methodological and institutional changes throughout the world. Progress towards comprehensive, explicit and participatory risk management in fisheries depends on effective communication. Graphic design and data visualisation have been underused in fisheries for communicating science to a wider range of stakeholders. In this paper, some of the general aspects of designing visualisations of modelling results are discussed and illustrated with examples from the EU funded MYFISH project. These infographics were tested in stakeholder workshops, and improved through feedback from that process. It is desirable to convey not just modelling results but a sense of how reliable various models are. A survey was developed to judge reliability of different components of fisheries modelling: the quality of data, the quality of knowledge, model validation efforts, and robustness to key uncertainties. The results of these surveys were visualized for ten different models, and presented alongside the main case study.
Peer-reviewed publications focusing on climate change are growing exponentially with the consequence that the uptake and influence of individual papers varies greatly. Here, we derive metrics of narrativity from psychology and literary theory, and use these metrics to test the hypothesis that more narrative climate change writing is more likely to be influential, using citation frequency as a proxy for influence. From a sample of 732 scientific abstracts drawn from the climate change literature, we find that articles with more narrative abstracts are cited more often. This effect is closely associated with journal identity: higher-impact journals tend to feature more narrative articles, and these articles tend to be cited more often. These results suggest that writing in a more narrative style increases the uptake and influence of articles in climate literature, and perhaps in scientific literature more broadly.
Science and technology are embedded in virtually every aspect of modern life. As a result, people face an increasing need to integrate information from science with their personal values and other considerations as they make important life decisions about medical care, the safety of foods, what to do about climate change, and many other issues. Communicating science effectively, however, is a complex task and an acquired skill. Moreover, the approaches to communicating science that will be most effective for specific audiences and circumstances are not obvious. Fortunately, there is an expanding science base from diverse disciplines that can support science communicators in making these determinations.
Communicating Science Effectively offers a research agenda for science communicators and researchers seeking to apply this research and fill gaps in knowledge about how to communicate effectively about science, focusing in particular on issues that are contentious in the public sphere. To inform this research agenda, this publication identifies important influences – psychological, economic, political, social, cultural, and media-related – on how science related to such issues is understood, perceived, and used.
While numerous strategies have been used to educate and notify the public about potential hazards from exposure to Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs), at present there are no national guidelines or suggested outreach approaches. To raise public awareness and determine effective HAB outreach methods, two Washington State agencies and three counties in the Puget Sound region implemented several education and notification strategies. These approaches were rated for effectiveness by state and county public health and water quality professionals. At the state level, the most effective action was a three-tiered advisory posting protocol for notifying external users that was introduced to local health jurisdictions at workshops around the state. Supplemental permanent signage is recommended for lakes with blooms to overcome the time lag between HAB onset and testing/posting. The state also implements effective notification of toxicity test results through a web-based HAB database and listserv. Lake residents were best notified through electronic alerts including email and social media while mailers to lake residents were useful during initial HAB events and to gain subscribers to electronic alerts. Press releases were most valuable when used sparingly for severe blooms or for blooms in large lakes. Initial analyses of lake recreational use indicates these strategies encourage behavior change in lake users. Based on these findings, a general framework for HAB outreach and a specific notification strategy is proposed to assist other regions or agencies that are developing HAB education and notification programs.
Quantifying the monetary value of ecosystem services (ES) provided by coastal and marine resources can help policy makers assess the trade-offs and synergies inherent in ecosystem-based management of marine and coastal environments, thus increasing the social efficiency of decision-making processes. As shown by the valuation literature, the number of coastal and marine management settings where valuation researchers have attempted to make a contribution is rising fast. However, this rise in research activity has not been matched by the increase in the use of economic valuation (EV) in the actual management of coastal and marine resources. This raises an interesting question: is EV responding to the needs of policy makers? This paper provides a comprehensive overview of the knowledge base regarding the economic values for coastal and marine ecosystems. It then discusses how to improve the uptake of ES valuation research by focussing on two core issues which are thought to be essential for more effective communication with the policy community.