National Academies Launches Hollywood Science Project
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."
Film education? Consulting scientists on Jurassic Park helped morph the image of dinosaurs in the public's mind from reptilian to avian, popularized the idea of "Chaos Theory," and made plausible the notion of animal cloning, preparing the public for later real world announcements such as Dolly the cloned sheep.
The National Academies has launched a bold new initiative to pair scientists with Hollywood film and television producers, with the goal of shaping the portrayal of science and scientists in the entertainment media. Dubbed the "Science & Entertainment Exchange," the project is designed to provide "entertainment industry professionals with access to top scientists and engineers to help bring the reality of cutting-edge science to creative and engaging storylines."
As University of Manchester scholar David Kirby has chronicled, there is a long history of scientists working with filmmakers to promote realism and scientific perspectives in movies such as Jurassic Park. Moreover, public health experts have worked with Hollywood in "entertainment education" initiatives designed to promote personal behavior change or public awareness of health risks.
Now with the leadership and resources of the National Academies, lessons from these past efforts can be brought to bear in new collaborations between science and Hollywood. This new public engagement initiative will be one to watch. Expect updates and analysis at this blog in coming months.
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