How Scientists View the Public, the Media, and the Political Process
Matthew C. Nisbet, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Communication Studies, Public Policy, and Urban Affairs at Northeastern University. Nisbet studies the role of communication and advocacy in policymaking and public affairs, focusing on debates over over climate change, energy, and sustainability. Among awards and recognition, Nisbet has been a Visiting Shorenstein Fellow on Press, Politics, and Public Policy at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, a Health Policy Investigator at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and a Google Science Communication Fellow. In 2011, the editors at the journal Nature recommended Nisbet's research as “essential reading for anyone with a passing interest in the climate change debate,” and the New Republic highlighted his work as a “fascinating dissection of the shortcomings of climate activism."
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.
Giving our solar system a "slap in the face"
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- It's traveling so quickly it's been described as a hurricane of dark matter
- Scientists are excited to set their particle detectors at the onslffaught
We know the dangers of too little sleep. Now for the other side of the story.
- Western University researchers found that sleeping over eight hours per night results in cognitive decline.
- Oversleepers suffer similar difficulties on certain cognitive tests as those who sleep under seven hours.
- Not all the news is bad: One night of oversleeping results in a cognitive boost.
Firefighters in California are still struggling to contain several wildfires nearly one week after they broke out.
- Hundreds of people are still missing after three wildfires spread across Northern and Southern California last week.
- 48 of the 50 deaths occurred after the Camp Fire blazed through the town of Paradise, north of Sacramento.
- On Tuesday night, a fourth wildfire broke out, though it's mostly contained.
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