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Some Key Questions I Will Be Examining as Part of the Google Science Communication Fellows Program

Yesterday, Google announced their 2011 class of Science Communication Fellows.  This year’s program focuses on climate change and I am excited to say that I was one of the selected participants. 

Here’s a summary of some of the questions I will be pursuing as part of the fellowship experience. Please leave your comments on additional ideas or feedback on these themes.

  • I am particularly interested in learning about Google’s variety of computational tools and data sources that can be used to better understand how people are seeking out, finding, using, discussing, and contributing to news and information about climate change and energy insecurity. 
  • I am also interested in how these patterns of online behavior relate to traditional media use, face-to-face interactions, and political and social identity. 
  • In addition, there is important analysis to be done on how online behavior is shaped by contextual factors such as changes in the economy, the environment, or in politics, especially in relationship to an individual’s local community.
  • These questions not only apply to the general public, but also to experts and their organizations.  In particular, I am interested in how environmental organizations, think tanks, scientists, and advocates have created a self-referencing network of online content that often reflects a commonly shared set of assumptions about policy approaches to climate change and who or what is to blame for inaction.
  • I want to apply this knowledge to the creation and promotion of new online media platforms, applications, and initiatives that interactively engage users not just on the science of climate change but also on the political and social dimensions. These applications include:

    • Non-profit models of creating and disseminating local and regional news in partnership with public media and universities.
    • Other areas of community investment that are needed as part of the effort to adapt to climate change and energy insecurity and to transform the economy.  These include examining the processes and institutions available for direct public input to policymakers and key decision-makers such as environmental organizations. 
    • How we teach students about the scientific, social, and political dimensions of climate and energy and how we effectively educate students — as well as older adults — to navigate and use the world of online information and media.
    • The production and use of documentary film techniques in the form of online video that effectively communicate complex ideas and that inspire as a result wider participation and a greater diversity of voices and perspectives.
    • The use of digital tools to forge stronger cross-disciplinary partnerships that merge the expertise, wisdom, and skills of scientists, social scientists, ethicists, journalists, creative professionals, and individuals outside of the academy.
    • The use of digital media to convene dialogue, discussion, and constructive debate among the coalition of groups and thought leaders working on policy approaches to climate change and energy, breaking up the tendency towards convergence on silver bullet approaches such as cap and trade and instead elevating focus on a wider scope of policies that because of their smaller scale are not only likely to be more effective but also much more politically viable.
    • There will be a fellows workshop and meeting in June and other related initiatives that I am looking forward to writing about here at Age of Engagement and Big Think.

      Below is from the Google blog.

      In an effort to foster a more open, transparent and accessible scientific dialogue, we’ve started a new effort aimed at inspiring pioneering use of technology, new media and computational thinking in the communication of science to diverse audiences. Initially, we’ll focus on communicating the science on climate change. We’re kicking off this effort by naming 21 Google Science Communication Fellows. These fellows were elected from a pool of applicants of early to mid-career Ph.D. scientists nominated by leaders in climate change research and science-based institutions across the U.S. It was hard to choose just 21 fellows from such an impressive pool of scientists; ultimately, we chose scientists who had the strongest potential to become excellent communicators. That meant previous training in science communication; research in topics related to understanding or managing climate change; and experience experimenting with innovative approaches or technology tools for science communication. This year’s fellows are an impressive bunch:

      • Brendan Bohannan, Associate Professor of Environmental Studies and Biology, University of Oregon
      • Edward Brook, Professor, Department of Geosciences, Oregon State University
      • Julia Cole, Professor, Department of Geosciences, University of Arizona
      • Eugene Cordero, Associate Professor, Meteorology and Climate Science, San Jose University
      • Frank Davis, Professor, Landscape Ecology & Conservation Planning, University of California-Santa Barbara
      • Andrew Dessler, Professor, Atmospheric Sciences, Texas A&M University
      • Noah Diffenbaugh, Assistant Professor, Environmental Earth System Science, Stanford University
      • Simon Donner, Assistant Professor, University of British Columbia
      • Nicole Heller, Research Scientist, Climate Central
      • Brian Helmuth, Professor, Biological Sciences, University South Carolina
      • Paul Higgins, Associate Director, Policy Program, American Meteorological Society
      • Jonathan Koomey, Consulting Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Stanford University
      • David Lea, Professor, Earth Science, University of California-Santa Barbara
      • Kelly Levin, Senior Research Associate, World Resources Institute
      • David Lobel, Assistant Professor, Environmental Earth System Science, Stanford University
      • Edwin Maurer, Associate Professor, Civil Engineering, Santa Clara University
      • Susanne Moser, Research Associate, Institute of Marine Sciences, University of California-Santa Cruz
      • Matthew Nisbet, Associate Professor, School of Communication, American University
      • Rebecca Shaw, Director of Conservation, The Nature Conservancy, CA Chapter
      • Whendee Silver, Professor, Ecosystem Ecology and Biogeochemistry, University of California-Berkeley
      • Alan Townsend, Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Colorado
      • At our Mountain View, Calif. headquarters in June, the fellows will participate in a workshop, which will integrate hands-on training and facilitated brainstorming on topics of technology and science communication. Following the workshop, fellows will be given the opportunity to apply for grants to put their ideas into practice. Those with the most impactful projects will be given the opportunity to join a Lindblad Expeditions & National Geographic trip to the Arctic, the Galapagos or Antarctica as a science communicator.Congratulations to all of the fellows! And we’ll keep you posted on more ideas and tools emerging for science communication.


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