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Communicating science amidst controversy

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Often we believe “if they only understood the facts, they would agree with us.” However, this method only works with a small part of the population. Opinion formation is very complex and includes many other factors besides scientific facts, such as emotion, values, and trust.

Fear-based messaging has been frequently used as an attempt to provide a spark that will lead to further learning and behavioral changes. However, these messages must be coupled with both information and support in order to be effective. Without these two resources, people often suffer from feelings of helplessness, remoteness, and lack of control over the situation which all prevent behavior change from occurring. For more, visit: http://www.extension.org/69114

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Communicating science amidst controversy

  1. 1. Communicating Science During Controversy Strategies for Success
  2. 2. Outline • Communication pitfalls • Establish our goal • Strategy 1: Understanding your audience • Strategy 2: Get their attention • Strategy 3: Translate science into concrete experience • Strategy 4: Effectively communicate uncertainty • Strategy 5: Tap Into Social Identities and Affiliations • Strategy 6: Encourage Group Participation • Strategy 7: Minimize bias
  3. 3. If they only understood the facts, they would agree with us!
  4. 4. What is your Communication Goal? Environment of open-minded, unbiased consideration There are things science can answer and things that ethics can answer...Temple Grandin
  5. 5. Strategy #1: Understand your audience
  6. 6. Strategy #1: Understand your audience Understand where they are
  7. 7. Strategy #2 Get the their attention
  8. 8. Use frames • Organize central ideas • Communicate why an issue might be a problem, who or what might be responsible, and, in some cases, what options exist • Condense a message
  9. 9. It’s relevant now
  10. 10. They Don't Care How Much You Know Until They Know How Much You Care Connect to your audience’s values
  11. 11. Tell stories
  12. 12. Strategy #3: Translate science into concrete experience
  13. 13. Somerville & Hassol 2011
  14. 14. Vivid imagery
  15. 15. Sommerville & Hassol 2011
  16. 16. Rewards
  17. 17. Strategy #4 Effectively communicate uncertainty
  18. 18. Human beings don’t like uncertainty. But science doesn’t deal in certainties. Scientists: “how well something is known” Public: “not knowing”
  19. 19. Communicate Risk
  20. 20. Communicating Uncertainty - Strategies • Scientific consensus • Term: range of possibilities • Open communication style
  21. 21. Strategy #5 Tap Into Social Identities and Affiliations
  22. 22. Social Create connections & provide roles
  23. 23. Diverse advocates
  24. 24. Strategy #6 Encourage Group Participation
  25. 25. Social support
  26. 26. Strategy #7 Minimize bias
  27. 27. “Objective, science-based information”
  28. 28. Recognize our own bias and acknowledge the imperfection of scientific research (Massey 1994)
  29. 29. Strategies to Reduce bias • Provide transparency • Checks and balances on team • Think through the underlying problems, potential solutions, and consequences • Provide equal weight for differing viewpoints • Avoid emotional overtones • Pilot-test & allow public input • Continued learning
  30. 30. For a full list of references cited in this presentation, please visit: www.animalagclimatechange.org This project was supported by Agricultural and Food Research Initiative Competitive Grant No. 2011-67003-30206 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

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