Monday, April 25, 2011

Effective Science Communication

One of the most important aspects of environmental education is effective communication to the public. In the case of global warming and evolution, science has proven time and time again that these things are occurring and yet the public still does not believe it's true. What is the issue and where is the information being lost? In his book Don't be Such a Scientist, Randy Olson pin points the issue as being ineffective communication between scientists and the public. One of his biggest and most important points in the book in regards to environmental education and communicating science is how are scientists going to motivate people?

The first chapter of his book is titled "Don't be so Cerebral". In this chapter he challenges scientists and those who communicate science for a living to break out of their science training and become more public oriented. As scientists, we need to learn how to phase out confusing jargon and put complex topics into easier terms and concepts in order for our message to reach a greater audience. In order to do this he says that scientists need to get out of of the pattern of only using their heads and start using more of their heart, gut, and sex organs. By using their heart scientists can be sincere in their presentation of information, by using their gut scientists can relay information with humor an intuition, and finally through the use of sex appeal scientists will more effectively catch people's attention.

In the third chapter of his book, "Don't be Such a Poor Storyteller", Olson describes the importance of a storytelling. He describes an arousal and fulfill method where a storyteller should peak people's interest and then fulfill their desire to learn more exciting information. Without this effective story model, the message will not be effective. If people aren't aroused they will never get engaged with the message and if people aren't aroused they will walk away from a story unsatisfied. An effective story should also have a clear beginning, climax, and end. The three part story makes it easy for people to follow and since storytelling is how we communicate, it is important for scientists to also follow this model.

Likability is also important in portraying information. Olson directed a public service announcement for a non-profit called Shifting Baselines which supports awareness of disappearing diversity from our oceans. The PSA was a compilation of 20 comic celebrities in a bad ocean symphony with Jack Black as their director. Over 300 TV stations played the short clip for free and when asked why, they said it was because they liked it. This one example shows how important likability is for portraying science to the public.

Effective environmental education can be achieved through effective communication, good storytelling, and likability!

1 comment:

  1. Great post and resource. Effective public communication is unfortunately something that too many scientist are poor at. I haven't yet read the book, but will, as I agree that the message must be made appealing or interesting or people will tune it out. Focussing on positive things that are doable can go a long way.