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.
Communication and Education
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.
The science of attributing extreme weather and climate events has progressed in recent years to enable an analysis of the role of human causes while an event is still in the media. However, there is still widespread confusion about the linkages between human-induced climate change and extreme weather, not only among the public, but also among some meteorologists and others in the scientific community. This is an issue of communication as well as of science. Many people have received the erroneous message that individual extreme weather events cannot be linked to human-induced climate change, while others attribute some weather events to climate change where there is no clear evidence of linkages. In order to advise adaptation planning and mitigation options, there is a need to communicate more effectively what the most up-to-date science says about event attribution, and to include appropriate information on linkages when reporting extreme weather and climate events in the media. This article reviews these issues, advancements in event attribution science, and offers suggestions for improvement in communication.
Social media has created networked communication channels that facilitate interactions and allow information to proliferate within professional academic communities as well as in informal social circumstances. A significant contemporary discussion in the field of science communication is how scientists are using (or might use) social media to communicate their research. This includes the role of social media in facilitating the exchange of knowledge internally within and among scientific communities, as well as externally for outreach to engage the public. This study investigates how a surveyed sample of 587 scientists from a variety of academic disciplines, but predominantly the academic life sciences, use social media to communicate internally and externally. Our results demonstrate that while social media usage has yet to be widely adopted, scientists in a variety of disciplines use these platforms to exchange scientific knowledge, generally via either Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or blogs. Despite the low frequency of use, our work evidences that scientists perceive numerous potential advantages to using social media in the workplace. Our data provides a baseline from which to assess future trends in social media use within the science academy.
Shark conservation has become a focus of current international conservation efforts. However, the misunderstanding of sharks and their negative public portrayal may hinder their conservation. More importantly, the consumption of shark fin, which is very common in Chinese cultures, poses a significant threat to sharks. Hong Kong has long been the world’s largest shark fin trading center. Shark conservation would become more sustainable if public understanding of this predatory fish and an appreciation of its ecological significance could be promoted. It is possible that the demand for fins could be effectively managed through long-term educational efforts targeted at younger generations. To provide essential baseline data for planning of these educational efforts, this project investigated the perceptions of 11 to 12 year-old primary school students in Hong Kong about sharks, and their understanding of ecological concepts and shark-related knowledge. The findings indicate that these students lack sufficient knowledge and possess misconceptions about sharks and their ecological significance in the marine ecosystem. The students’ conceptual understanding level is strongly correlated with their perceptions. Correlational analyses further demonstrated a positive association between formal education and perceptions toward shark conservation. The students who favoured shark fin consumption did so because of its tastiness, whereas concerns about shark population decline and the cruelty of shark hunting were the main reasons for not favoring shark fin consumption. This pilot study provides preliminary but important insights into primary school education regarding the conservation of sharks.
People vary considerably in terms of their knowledge, beliefs, and concern about climate change. Thus, an important challenge for climate change communicators is how to most effectively engage different types of audiences. This study aimed to identify distinct audience segments that vary in terms of their values, beliefs, and responses to climate change and determine for each segment which specific message attributes increased motivation to engage in climate adaptation. A sample of 1031 Australian residents (aged 18–66 years) completed an online survey assessing their values, beliefs, and behaviors related to climate change, and recording their responses to a broad range of climate change adaptation messages. Latent profile analysis identified three distinct audience segments: alarmed (34.4%), uncommitted (45.2%), and dismissive (20.3%). Sixty climate change adaptation messages were coded in terms of the presence/absence of six attributes: explicit reference to climate change, providing specific adaptation advice, strong negative emotive content, emphasis on collective responsibility, highlighting local impacts, and underscoring financial impacts. Participants viewed a random sample of six messages and rated the extent to which each message motivated them to seek out more information and immediately respond to the climate change threat portrayed in the message. Multilevel modeling indicated messages that included strong negative emotive content or provided specific adaptation advice increased adaptation intentions in all three audience segments. Omitting any mention of climate change and emphasizing local impacts increased adaptation intentions in dismissive audiences. Implications for tailoring and targeting climate change adaptation messages are discussed.
With the continuous growth of internet usage, Google Trends has emerged as a source of information to investigate how social trends evolve over time. Knowing how the level of interest in conservation topics—approximated using Google search volume—varies over time can help support targeted conservation science communication. However, the evolution of search volume over time and the mechanisms that drive peaks in searches are poorly understood. We conducted time series analyses on Google search data from 2004 to 2013 to investigate: (i) whether interests in selected conservation topics have declined and (ii) the effect of news reporting and academic publishing on search volume. Although trends were sensitive to the term used as benchmark, we did not find that public interest towards conservation topics such as climate change, ecosystem services, deforestation, orangutan, invasive species and habitat loss was declining. We found, however, a robust downward trend for endangered species and an upward trend for ecosystem services. The quantity of news articles was related to patterns in Google search volume, whereas the number of research articles was not a good predictor but lagged behind Google search volume, indicating the role of news in the transfer of conservation science to the public.