The Science of Science Communication: National Academies Event Examines Our Inconvenient Minds and Social Identities
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."
Over the past decade, there has been an explosion of research from the social and behavioral sciences offering insight on how individuals, social groups and political systems come to understand and make decisions related to science, the environment, technology, and medicine.
Research in this area stretches across disciplinary boundaries, university departments, funding agencies and field-specific journals, is the subject of inquiry at journals like Science and Nature, debated in the media and at blogs, and the focus of top-selling books.
Indeed, as New Scientist magazine proclaimed in a recent cover story: "It may be high time US scientists put aside their own scepticism about the 'soft' social sciences, and embrace what these studies have to say" about the communication processes shaping debates ranging from climate change to stem cell research.
Enter the National Academies.
Marshaling the very best of its convening and agenda-setting function, on May 20-21 in Washington, DC, the Academies will be hosting a prestigious 2-day Sackler Colloquia surveying the state-of-the-art of social science research on communication, connecting this research to its implications for science-related governance, policy and public engagement.
In one of the sessions, I will be joined by colleagues William Eveland and Dominique Brossard, reviewing research on how the media cover and portray science; the relationship to policy and societal decisions; how audiences find and use information, and the impact on attitudes, behavior and knowledge.
Other presentations by collaborators familiar to readers of this blog include Edward Maibach reviewing the role of research in science communication across the private, government and non-profit sectors; Anthony Leiserowitz proposing innovations related to climate change communication; and Dietram Scheufele integrating research across fields on the societal dynamics of science communication
I have posted the 2 day agenda below. You will want to register early by May 7. The event will be held in the historic National Academy of Sciences building, located at 2101 Constitution Avenue, NW, in Washington, DC, adjacent to the National Mall, U.S. State Department and Lincoln Memorial.
The event was organized by National Academies president Ralph Cicerone and Vice President Barbara Schaal, AAAS CEO Alan Leshner, Carnegie Mellon University's Baruch Fischhoff, and the University of Wisconsin's Dietram Scheufele. Video will be available and summary papers by participants will be submitted for review and possible publication at the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences.
Program and Agenda
Monday, May 21, 2012
The Science of Science Communication: Overviews
10:00 a.m.Science in our Daily Life: Emerging Technologies and Their Likely Impacts on Lay Publics
12:00 p.m.Lunch Speaker
1:00 p.m.The Science of Science Communication I: What do people likely need to know about science?
3:00 p.m.The Science of Science Communication II: How can scientists provide the information that individuals need? How can that information be conveyed effectively? How can trustworthy communication channels be created?
5:00 p.m.Annual Sackler Lecture
5:00 p.m. – Reception6:00 p.m. – Annual Sackler Lecture, Daniel Kahneman, Princeton University
Tuesday, May 22, 2012
8:45 a.m.The Science of Science Communication III: Communication Dynamics in Socio-Political Contexts – How Science is Presented and Understood in Modern Mass Cultures
10:45 a.m.Science and Politics: Forum of Presidential Science Advisors
Moderator: Ralph Cicerone
1:15 p.m.The Science of Science Communication IV: Structures and Strategies—Developing Organizational Infrastructures for Evidence-Based Communication about Science
3:15 p.m.Bold Proposals: Harnessing Communication Science
Speakers: Barbara Kline Pope, National Academy of Sciences
Anthony Leiserowitz, Yale University
Valerie Reyna, Cornell University
Respondents:Alan Leshner, American Association for the Advancement of Science
Michael Crow, Arizona State
Paula S. Apsell, PBS/NOVA
4:30 p.m.General Discussion
In a breakthrough for nuclear fusion research, scientists at China's Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) reactor have produced temperatures necessary for nuclear fusion on Earth.
- The EAST reactor was able to heat hydrogen to temperatures exceeding 100 million degrees Celsius.
- Nuclear fusion could someday provide the planet with a virtually limitless supply of clean energy.
- Still, scientists have many other obstacles to pass before fusion technology becomes a viable energy source.
Military recruits are supposed to be assessed to see whether they're fit for service. What happens when they're not?
- During the Vietnam War, Robert McNamara began a program called Project 100,000.
- The program brought over 300,000 men to Vietnam who failed to meet minimum criteria for military service, both physically and mentally.
- Project 100,000 recruits were killed in disproportionate numbers and fared worse after their military service than their civilian peers, making the program one of the biggest—and possibly cruelest—mistakes of the Vietnam War.
The 116th Congress is set to break records in term of diversity among its lawmakers, though those changes are coming almost entirely from Democrats.
- Women and nonwhite candidates made record gains in the 2018 midterms.
- In total, almost half of the newly elected Congressional representatives are not white men.
- Those changes come almost entirely from Democrats; Republican members-elect are all white men except for one woman.
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