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How Scientists View the Public, the Media, and the Political Process

Most scientists in the US and UK blame public ignorance of science for flawed policy preferences and political choices. They tend to be critical of media coverage, yet rate favorably their own experience with the media.  Scientists say policy-makers and journalists are the most important groups to engage and view the public as having secondary importance in political decision-making. Among scientists, perceptions of science-related policy debates are likely to be influenced by ideology and like-minded information sources such as blogs.

Those are among the key conclusions of a forthcoming peer-reviewed study published online this month at the journal Public Understanding of Science.  I co-authored the study with John Besley, an Associate Professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of South Carolina.

In the paper, we synthesize past studies on how scientists view the public, the goals of communication, the performance and impacts of the media, and the role of the public in policy decision-making. We add to these past findings by analyzing two recent large-scale surveys of scientists in the UK and US.

At the Climate Shift Project web site, I discuss our analysis, main findings and conclusions.  I also connect these findings to other recent papers and studies. A PDF version of the forthcoming study is also available at the Climate Shift Project web site. 

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