Lectures: Scientists & Advocacy / Models of Science Communication

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Slides from class lectures and discussion in the American University course COM 589: "Communication, Culture and the Environment," Spring 2014.
http://climateshiftproject.org/com-589-communication-culture-and-the-environment-spring-2014/

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Lectures: Scientists & Advocacy / Models of Science Communication

  1. 1. Role of Experts in Public Life & Models of Science Communication COM 589: Communication, Culture & the Environment American University Prof. Matthew C. Nisbet @MCNisbet
  2. 2. Finding Solutions to a Wicked Problem @MCNisbet
  3. 3. “Soft Path” Technocratic Approach to Social Change Design to Win Foundations, 2007-2010 / $368M Distributed Across 1248 Grants Nisbet (2011); Nisbet (2013); Nisbet (under review). @MCNisbet
  4. 4. Introductions o As a scientist, social scientist or professional working on behalf of an expert institution, what is your preferred role relative to public outreach and policymaking? o How might this role change given the nature of an issue you may be working on or based on a career change? @MCNisbet
  5. 5. Four Idealized Roles for Scientists in Policymaking VIEW OF SCIENCE IN SOCIETY Linear Model (Madisonian) Interest group pluralism (Schnattsneider) Elite Conflict Pure Scientist Science Arbiter Stakeholder Model Issue Advocate Honest Broker of Policy Alternatives @MCNisbet
  6. 6. The Scientific Arbiter oResponds to request or need from policymakers or media for synthesis of expert opinion and research related to emerging science, trend or problem. oTypically stops short of offering policy advice or advocating on behalf of a policy option. @MCNisbet
  7. 7. (Stealth) Issue Advocate oRun into problems when scientific findings, studies or reports are framed as compelling specific policy action or choice. oStealth advocates limit policy options rather than expand them. @MCNisbet
  8. 8. Honest Broker Approach Means and options focused • Goal: Adaptation and resilience. • Expand menu of options currently discussed. • Provide differential information on effectiveness, risks, costs, social implications. Pluralistic and participatory • Diversity of experts and stakeholders. • Public consultation and co-learning. Goal is to enable and empower decisions, not to influence, persuade or limit. @MCNisbet
  9. 9. Discussion Question o Think about individual scientists or organizations working either at the state or national level. Drawing on the Pielke reading and discussion, which scientists and organizations reflect the role of o o o o science arbiter? issue advocate? stealth advocate? honest broker? o How effective have each of these individuals or organizations been? @MCNisbet
  10. 10. The Rightful Place of Science? Politicization and Technocracy @MCNisbet
  11. 11. Deficit Model Assumptions  If the public knew more about the technical side of science, then the public would view issues as scientists do, and there would be fewer controversies.  Need to return to a point in the past where science was respected and citizens were informed.  Emphasis is on improving science literacy through formal education and science media. @MCNisbet
  12. 12. The Popularization and Dissemination Model  Engages a core audience of science enthusiasts who can comment, share, and repurpose.  Can reach through incidental exposure nonattentive, broader publics.  Can shape the decisions and thinking of policymakers, journalists and funders.  For scientists, can build personal brand, increase citation impact, influence scientific peers, and develop skills and experience. @MCNisbet
  13. 13. Popularization & The Cycle of Hype  Emphasis by funding agencies on broader impacts puts pressure on scientists and institutions to “oversell” their findings.  Media coverage emphasizes near term societal benefits and market development with less emphasis on uncertainty and possible risks.  Risk credibility and trust in science and may undermine ability to do basic research.  Increasingly defines science and higher education in terms of economic development and job growth. @MCNisbet
  14. 14. More Scientific Knowledge = More Disagreement? @MCNisbet
  15. 15. More Carl Sagans? Social Identity and Communication @MCNisbet
  16. 16. Scientists’ Faulty Intuition: Shared Identity, Information Sources & Assumptions @MCNisbet
  17. 17. 2. Networks and Trust Matter Social relationships, networks, and identities Trust, credibility, alienation relative to science-related institutions The uptake and influence of “expert” sciencerelated knowledge Practical reason, localized knowledge Bryan Wynne @MCNisbet
  18. 18. Common Criteria Used to Judge Expert Advice 1) Does expert knowledge work? Do predictions fail? 2) Do expert claims pay attention to other available knowledge? 3) Are experts open to criticism? Admission of errors, or oversights? 4) What are the social / institutional affiliations of experts? Historical track record of trustworthiness, affiliation with industry? 5) What issues overlap or connect to lay experience? @MCNisbet
  19. 19. Q: What Issues/Examples from Your Work Are Consistent with Wynne’s Observations? 1) Does expert knowledge work? Do predictions fail? 2) Do expert claims pay attention to other available knowledge? 3) Are experts open to criticism? Admission of errors, or oversights? 4) What are the social / institutional affiliations of experts? Historical track record of trustworthiness, affiliation with industry? 5) What issues overlap or connect to lay experience? @MCNisbet
  20. 20. Models of Science Communication Brossard, D., & Lewenstein, B. V. (2009). A Critical Appraisal of Models of Public Understanding of Science: Using Practice to Inform Theory. In L. Kahlor & P. Stout (Eds.), Communicating Science: New Agendas in Communication(pp. 11-39). New York: Routledge. @MCNisbet
  21. 21. The Strategic Communication Model Messaging By Audience Segment and By Way of Opinion Leaders @MCNisbet
  22. 22. Audience Segmentation, Framing & Opinion Leaders: Climate Change and Biomedical Research @MCNisbet
  23. 23. COMPASS: Contextualist and Network Approach Brossard, D., & Lewenstein, B. V. (2009). A Critical Appraisal of Models of Public Understanding of Science: Using Practice to Inform Theory. In L. Kahlor & P. Stout (Eds.), Communicating Science: New Agendas in Communication(pp. 11-39). New York: Routledge. @MCNisbet
  24. 24. Strategic Communication Campaigns: Frictions and Trade-Offs  Resource intensive and even greater tendency towards cycle of hype. Increases questions about conflict of interest, marketing and manipulation. Difficulty coordinating communication and message strategy across groups and organizations.  Effective at mobilizing base of support and engaging publics predisposed to message but often serves to increase polarization and controversy. Increased targeting = increased echo chambers.  Does strategic communication lead to effective policy?  Under what conditions does broader public matter to policymaking?  Defines public as spectators, consumers or voters but not as active participants in decisions. @MCNisbet
  25. 25. Public Engagement and Dialogue Model: Deliberative Forums, Public Meetings, Digital News Forums Seeks to empower public to participate in collective decisions, “democratizing” the governance of science and technology.  Can enhance civic capacity of states and regions, build up problem solving infrastructure, create opportunity to learn, discuss, debate, decide, and collaborate. Dialogue can increase public trust, perception of fairness, increase public efficacy, motivate subsequent participation, enhance both scientific and policy-related knowledge, soften group differences and polarization. Dialogue can inform experts and formulation of policy options, identifying new expertise or adapting knowledge to localized contexts or specialized cases. Questions regarding representativeness and reach, backfire effects, loss of control of message, use as just another “public relations” strategy, resource intensive. @MCNisbet
  26. 26. Worldwide Views on Biodiversity @MCNisbet
  27. 27. Stakeholder Driven Science and Lay Expertise Model Research that effectively addresses the needs of society requires “co-production” with public. Emphasis on that is useable, problem solving and socially acceptable; aligning research efforts with national, state or local needs. Promotes enhanced trust, appreciation and support for research institution among public, stakeholders and policymakers. Can be time consuming, resource intensive, “messy,” does not fit easily with traditional collaboration, publication and credit model. @MCNisbet
  28. 28. Preparing and Planning Ahead for Climate Change Building a Civic Science Infrastructure and Network Nisbet, M.C., Hixon, M., Moore, K.D., & Nelson, M. (2010). The Four Cultures: New Synergies for Engaging Society on Climate Change. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 8, 329-331. @MCNisbet

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