Science communication

I came across a Guardian article called why scientists are losing the fight to communicate science to the public. The only polite way I can describe it is missing the point entirely. The article was motivated by Brian Cox’s appearance on Australian Question Time and concludes with

It’s not changing minds and it’s certainly not winning hearts and minds.

Science communication is not about changing minds, or winning hearts and minds; it’s very simply about communicating information. That is all. It’s not the responsibility of scientists to decide if society should be convinced of something; their only responsibility is communicating the information that they have.

It often seems that what some expect from scientists is highly inconsistent. They have to be objective and make all caveats and uncertainties clear. However, it’s also their fault if people aren’t convinced. Scientists are not salespeople and certainly are not trying to market their ideas to the general public. They’re simply people who try to understand things and, ideally, communicate their findings to others. Whether others choose to accept what they are told, or not, is up to them.

In my view, it’s all quite simple. A scientist/researcher who is speaking on behalf of their institution should behave professionally and should treat those with whom they’re communicating with respect. However, someone who has a public profile who also happens to be a scientist can – as far as I’m concerned – behave like anyone else with a public profile. If a scientist, like Brian Cox, encounters a politician promoting conspiracy theories on a TV panel show, I see no reason why they should think: “I’m a professional scientist, I should avoid making this person seem like an idiot”. They might in some circumstances, but there’s no obvious reason why they should restrain themselves when others do not.

The article also says:

How many science communicators do you know who will take the time to listen to their audience? Who are willing to step outside their cosy little bubble and make an effort to reach people where they are, where they are confused and hurting; where they need?

I actually think many do come out of their supposed cosy little bubbles, but I think there is also an irony to the above suggestion. This isn’t saying “come out of your bubble and participate as if you were just a member of the public”. It’s saying “come out of your bubble, but behave as if you’re still in it”. There seems to be an expectation that scientists who engage publicly (in whatever way) have to behave in some pre-defined manner; they have to be polite and respectful and should avoid getting frustrated and avoid saying anything that makes members of the public feel stupid.

Not only do I think this is fundamentally wrong (scientists are as much members of the public as anyone else) I think it’s also wrong from a science communication perspective. I think that it’s good for scientists/researchers to show that they’re human like everyone else; to show that they’re not just people who only come out of their ivory towers to explain things to the masses. In fact, the latter would seem far more condescending than a scientist – every now and again – mocking a politician on a TV panel show.

As far as I’m concerned, science communication itself is difficult and there isn’t one right way of doing it. It depends on the circumstances, the audience, and what’s being communicated. There are also no fixed rules; if we knew what worked, it wouldn’t be so controversial. Scientists are people too, and just because they might have specialist knowledge about some topic, doesn’t mean that they have special powers of persuasion or a super-human ability to avoid showing their frustration at what they encounter.

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83 Responses to Science communication

  1. Morbeau says:

    And his conclusion completely misses the mark. He basically cites a bunch of simplified examples just so he can say:

    That’s not communication. It’s not changing minds and it’s certainly not winning hearts and minds. It’s tribalism.

    At least the commenters are way ahead of Richard P Grant:

    Schnellmann: Funny how it is never the general public’s fault for being ignorant and lacking the ability nor desire to differentiate between real science and pseudoscience but rather a deficiency in communication by scientists.

    If people put as much effort into learning about the natural world as they do about sport or celebrity gossip then scientists wouldn’t need to try so hard with communicating facts and ideas.

  2. Magma says:

    What a wishy-washy article that was. I think it is too naive and earnest to fall into the class of concern trоllіng but it overlooks the clear fact that some forms of anti-scientific belief are actively dangerous to the public good (e.g., anti-vaccination activists) and others, also dangerous, are supported by agents with a strong vested interest in maintaining the status quo (formerly the tobacco industry and disease, now fossil fuel industry and climate).

    Particularly in the physical sciences there is an external world against which hypotheses and models are tested, sometimes to the most minute degree. This is a far more rigorous standard than most human endeavors ever face, and comments such as “It’s more about who we are and our relationships than about what is right or true,” will get short shrift from many scientists and NONE at all from the universe.

    I’m also pretty dаmn sure skeptics wouldn’t see 33 oncologists about a potentially cancerous growth, arguing with each while insulting their competence, motives and bedside manner until they finally found an unlicenced quack to tell them everything was fine.

    If I may quote from the top two (of 800) Guardian comments, without moderation, I hope…

    Schnellmann: Funny how it is never the general public’s fault for being ignorant and lacking the ability nor desire to differentiate between real science and pseudoscience but rather a deficiency in communication by scientists.

    Veryumble: Bоllоcks. Some people are just thick as shіt, which is fine if they keep their opinions to themselves. It’s when they start presenting their woo as facts that they need smacked down, purely so other people don’t fall for the dangerous garbage they peddle.

  3. Andy Skuce says:

    It seems to me that much of the communication advice delivered by communication experts is somewhat contradictory. E.g.:

    Don’t be such a scientist/Do be such a scientist
    Communicate all uncertainties and caveats/Keep your language clear and uncluttered
    Explain why your work is relevant to society/Don’t advocate
    Stick to the facts/Use metaphors, tell stories

    It seems to me that the best course of action is just to speak out as politely and clearly as you can, in your own way and be aware that no good deed goes unpunished. It’s perhaps true that science communication falls short of what we’d like it to achieve, but its effectiveness should be measured against the counterfactual of relinquishing the public conversation to people who don’t have a clue.

  4. Morbeau,
    Certainly came across as a bunch of random examples that he could then use to draw the conclusion he wanted to draw. However, even they weren’t very good. What does this have to do with science communication?

    back in the late 1990s when the government of the time told people – who honestly, really wanted to do the best for their children – to shut up, stop asking questions and take the damn triple vaccine.

  5. Willard says:

    > If people put as much effort into learning about the natural world as they do about sport or celebrity gossip then scientists wouldn’t need to try so hard with communicating facts and ideas.

    Holy tu quoque!

    This is not about people, but about scientists.

    If scientists put as much effort into learning how to communicate scientifically. Or hiring people who are specialized in public relations. Or just people with some experience in making efficient presentations. Et cetera.

    Grant’s point about tribalism is provocative crap, of course. His arguments do have merit, however. In particular, this one:

    How many science communicators do you know who will take the time to listen to their audience? Who are willing to step outside their cosy little bubble and make an effort to reach people where they are, where they are confused and hurting; where they need? […] [M]ost people simply want to know that someone is listening, that someone is taking their worries seriously; that someone cares for them.

    Being thankful for the contrarian concerns goes a long way.

  6. This is my impression too

    It seems to me that much of the communication advice delivered by communication experts is somewhat contradictory.

  7. I came across a Guardian article called why scientists are losing the fight to communicate science to the public. The only polite way I can describe it is missing the point entirely.

    Where it is also completely missing the point is that it only talks about communication by scientists.

    The USA (and some Muslim fundamentalists) are unique in their opposition to the theory of evolution. America (and partially the UK and Australia) are unique in their opposition to climate science.

    If the problem were science communication, this would be a weird pattern. Surely scientists in the rest of the world do not communicate science that much differently.

    I would personally search for a solution in getting Big Money out of US politics and getting Big Money out of the mass media. That is (Anglo-)American exceptionalism, that could explain the spatial pattern.

  8. Magma says:

    @ Victor: The U.S., UK, Canada and Australia are also notable in that a relative handful of media conglomerates dominate the AGW denial message. When a given newspaper consistently runs articles, columns and op-eds that are hostile to climate science, it is not a coincidence. It is a deliberate decision by upper management, from editor to publisher to owner.

  9. Willard says:

    > The USA (and some Muslim fundamentalists) are unique in their opposition to the theory of evolution. America (and partially the UK and Australia) are unique in their opposition to climate science.

    There’s contrarianism in France, in Germany, in Russia, in Eastern Europe, in Asia, in Africa, in South America. Perhaps looking at how the anglosphere’s MSM caters to the contrarian needs may help explain its exceptional treatment of AGW. This would in turn reinforce Grant’s point.

    Sometimes, social network analysis just doesn’t cut it.

  10. The only people who seem not to have liked Brian Cox’s performance on that Australian TV show are those who didn’t like what he was saying. As far as I could hear, the audience applauded him when he made fun of Roberts’ ridiculous arguments and they and the other members of the panel, including the host, seemed to be all on Cox’s side.

    On the general point, I would argue that a scientist explaining or commenting on his/her work, or on a subject for which they have relevant expertise, is not automatically a ‘science communicator’. I see a ‘science communicator’ specifically as someone who has the background to understand specific scientific subjects, combined with the innate ability and acquired skills to then interpret the work in an interesting way that a lay audience can understand. Of course occasionally there are some scientists who can do both, an example being Richard Alley. But such scientist/communicators are by no means two a penny.

    In conclusion it would appear at the moment that there is a type, personified by Michael Gove, who takes a delight in rubbishing scientists. It’s inevitable, I guess, as more and more scientific findings indicate the way civilisation is going is not always progressing us towards a future of milk and honey.

  11. There’s contrarianism in France, in Germany, in Russia, in Eastern Europe, in Asia, in Africa, in South America.

    Yes, such people exist. I even know a few, gave one a book on climate change for X-mas and another followed our introduction to meteorology. But it is not in any way at the scale of the problem in the USA, they are not taken seriously in the media and in politics. The German and French blogs are to a large part translations of their American counterparts.

  12. Magma says: “The U.S., UK, Canada and Australia are also notable in that a relative handful of media conglomerates dominate the AGW denial message.

    I know of one German journalist who is regularly flirting with mitigation scepticism. If I would read more conservative newspapers, I would likely get to a hand full. And there are randomly appearing mitigation sceptical articles, where this does not fit to the profile of the journalists, even in clearly leftwing newspapers such as TAZ. I know of one politician in a state legislature of a market idolizing party who is a mitigation sceptic.

    That is a stark contrast to the USA where nearly every Washington Republican politician in Washington rejects the science and the UK were, I have been told, only one editorial-writing journalist does NOT reject the science.

    A nice documentary by science communicators Bill Nye and Austrian psychiatrist Dr Arnold Schwarzenegger.

  13. > The German and French blogs are to a large part translations of their American counterparts.

    In case of the French ones, I’d rather go with the UK, but I haven’t really made any serious effort to document this impression. I’ve seen (via Junior) an effort to do some social-network analysis, but was underwhelmed (because, Junior). Perhaps one way to go would be topic models (h/t Moshpit).

    My main interest these days have been to expand the Contrarian Matrix. Once we Get All the Concerns, the source matters little. We could even create a contrarian line generator. Hell, we could generate whole contrarian websites with it!

    In the end, all contrarian blogs will be translations of my Matrix… 😉

    ***

    I forgot to add that my thankfulness for contrarian concerns also extend to Grant’s.

  14. Chris says:

    It’s a pretty confused sort of article by Richard P. Grant which doesn’t seem to know where it’s going – a sort of impressionistic effort. Two things:

    1. Presumably Mr Grant was under some pressure to write a piece for his latest deadline. His effort is poorly thought out (doesn’t he consider he himself has a role as a “communicator”?) but nevertheless it has been picked up here and so this provides grist for his journalism mill – stuff gets talked about – “sides” are formed and viewpoints supported or not – it’s not very easy for straightforward science communication in the midst of all this noise (and the Guardian is actually one of the better sources for dissemination of science communication – usually…).

    2. Question Time isn’t an arena for communication unfortunately. It’s an arena for argumentation and panellists are chosen to have contrary views which leads to what is presumably considered to be entertaining, but rarely resolved squabbling. Sadly in these sort of forums, someone who is comfortable telling antiscience porkies will usually “win” over someone who is trying to explain something as truthfully as s/he can under the circumstances…

    this is instructive ;

  15. You’re right, the Graun article is shit, but what do you expect?The Graun can’t take reality; the article is written to flatter the chatterati who can’t be bothered to study anything but want to think that their ill-informed opinions should carry weight.

  16. Windchaser says:

    [M]ost people simply want to know that someone is listening, that someone is taking their worries seriously; that someone cares for them.

    Aye, I get where they’re emotionally coming from, but if this is the case they need to see a counselor, not a scientist.

  17. Chris says:

    Might add that whereas Mr Grant doesn’t see to like Dame Sally Davis’ style of science communication, I thought that was pretty clear: alcohol-related cancer deaths are going up, and individuals might consider reducing their risk by drinking less (I personally make an effort to do so, exactly as a result of this well-communicated evidence).

    But individuals can take it or leave it with respect to evidence for alcohol-cancer link. The information has been communicated clearly but they’re free to treat the evidence however they wish. Policy makers might or might not decide the issue is important enough to address (e.g. by setting a minimum price per unit of alcohol or at least lowering the advisable weekly unit levels which has been done). If we weren’t clear about the dangers of excessive alcohol intake, we’re definitely clearer as a result of communication of the science. Of course the “anti-science” brigade opposing communication of dangers of excessive alcohol is rather smaller and less vociferous compared to the anti-science attempting to confuse the communication of climate science…

    ..but Richard P Grant should really be doing his part with respect to science communication. He is a journalist after all, and isn’t the job of a journalist to report stuff – i.e. to communicate information ???

  18. > I get where they’re emotionally coming from, but if this is the case they need to see a counselor, not a scientist.

    The scientist invites him or herself into that person’s living room. That person’s already primed by academic arrogance, which may be a survival trait for scientists. The least scientists could do is to address the points being made otherwise than “if you believe that you’re an idiot,” which loses its efficiency since contrarians hear it every day or so.

    Speaking of counseling, mirroring arguments can help people believe they are being heard. You simply reword the concern, and address it to the best you can. This can pay dividends: in return for their mirroring effort, scientists get to improve their own playbook. So even if that person won’t budge, at least you get something out of the exchange.

    More importantly, in a setting with an audience, you can get vicarious points, as argues Jim Jeffries regarding how America should fight terrorism:

    How to talk like Jim Jeffries while still abiding by Love & Light may be the ClimateBall ™ Holy Grail.

  19. Hossenfelder’s article, cited by Grant, provides a great read:

    My clients know so little about current research in physics, they aren’t even aware they’re in a foreign country. They have no clue how far they are from making themselves understood. Their ideas aren’t bad; they are raw versions of ideas that underlie established research programmes. But those who seek my advice lack the mathematical background to build anything interesting on their intuitions. I try to help them by making connections to existing research. During our conversations, I point them towards relevant literature and name the important keywords. I give recommendations on what to do next, what they need to learn, or what problem lies in the way. And I make clear that if they want to be taken seriously by physicists, there’s no way around mathematics, lots of mathematics. Images and videos will not do.

    https://aeon.co/ideas/what-i-learned-as-a-hired-consultant-for-autodidact-physicists

    She even addresses his tribalism crap.

  20. Chris says:

    Yes Sabine Hossenfelder’s article is good. In fact, although the style of public interaction she describes is rather formalised (paying clients seeking advice/feedback), scientists, especially in Uni’s do quite a lot of that sort of science communication at the personal level – most Uni faculties have Outreach and Public Engagement programmes with science pub nights, themed science festivals, school visits, science stalls in shopping centres and so on.

    Some scientists even run blogs!

    Unfortunately two of the major arenas for potential science communication (TV and Newspapers) don’t really do this very well at the level of giving voices to individual scientists. TV is bedevilled by (i) the tendency for scientific discussions to be adversarial and (ii) the seeming requirement for “equivalence” of scientific and less-than-scientific views (there are exceptions like – in the UK – Science documentaries of the Horizon or Equinox or Richard Attenborough or Iain Stewart type, and science-education like the Royal Society Christmas Lectures ( a bit nerdy). Unfortunately science journalism is often dismal (very few newspaper science writers are scientists and many seem to be chosen to reflect the political views of the paper – unsurprisingly, sadly…

    Radio is better for giving scientists the time to articulate their thoughts with clarity – unfortunately, this doesn’t often get that many listeners…

  21. Magma says:

    @ willard 10:13 pm

    That strategy might work with uncommitted members of the general public. And in fact I don’t know many good lecturers that take an aggressive approach with undergraduate student or lay audiences at public lectures, or who snap back at questions asked in good faith, however naive or ignorant.

    But at least as far as climate change, there seem to be very few contrarians at this point who are willing or able to change their views. (And the minute number that might possess the intellectual flexibility and toughness to actually do so are probably not going to be put off by some sharp elbows.)

    When faced with a debating opponent who combines the worst features of a stump and a parrot, maybe ridicule is a viable tool. After all, how many people have worked carefully through the basics of quantum mechanics, genetics or evolution? Probably well under 10% of the population in most Western countries. And yet, apart from fundamentalists rejecting evolution, most don’t quarrel with these concepts. They may not have strong attitudes or a deep understanding or care that much, but they have a reasonable trust that scientists have worked those out pretty well. And importantly, most people don’t want to sound like idiots or cranks.

  22. Eli Rabett says:

    If these clowns know, know how to communicate science, let them. Till then they are simply ignorant blatherers who know an editor here and there

  23. Don’t know why your comments get flagged, Magma; they just do. I think I understand where you’re coming from. I seldom need to test for good faith, and prefer some kind of conversational Tit for Tat (h/t Hank Roberts at Eli’s). While I can’t condemn mild mischievousness, it is important to understand that it only works by reciprocation and that it tends to make never ending audits even longer than they usually are.

    I agree with you, Chris.

  24. Magma says:

    wiilard, Conversational Chaff page is now bookmarked. The Internet is a big place with many nooks and corners, but I’m still surprised I didn’t come across it before.

  25. Russell says:

    Organizations investing in science communication programs tend to do so because they already have something they wish to communicate or reinforce.

    In the case of science, ever since the days of Haldane , Bernal and Bronofsky, and continuing on down to and including Martin Rees, this has meant politics to the left of the Guardian, not the right of the Times.

    Plus ca change …

  26. vivaran says:

    Thank you for the post. I agree with it wholeheartedly. Without science communication or the ability of a scientist to communicate their research to others, including the general public/specific audiences, we will only build more and more silos and a massive confusion about what researchers do in general.

    Having migrated from basic science to public health research, I understand the relevance of science communication even more since it directly relates to policy making with greater impact for the masses. I do not think researchers are here to convince people about their work, they like their research should aim for, disseminating their findings, a little idealistically, the truth.

    Not only general public but scientists fail to communicate their work in an effective manner within their own scientific community. If one is not able to make a research colleague, who may be from a different or allied field, understand their work, how will they build bridges for multidisciplinary lines of research and promote greater scientific diversity?

  27. Brigitte says:

    Just seen this – ‘science communication’ event – wish I could go. But what hearts and minds are they winning over? “Zimmer and Yong are just the popular science writers to wonk this down into insightful information for us to understand”
    http://www.brooklynbookfestival.org/2016-festival/microbes-viruses-and-destiny
    And what hearts and minds should Cox have won over apart from the ones he did? And how should he have done that in this situation at this time in response to this member of the public?
    Brigitte

  28. pete best says:

    Climate change is somewhat unique as its a threat to the current way things are on a global scale over a long time scale, its complicated and its political like no other science is. Lots of people are ideologically opposed to the idea of changing our energy sources or lifestyle as it will change the way things currently are in so many ways politically and economically and hence the deniers are still listened to.

    It’s not the science, its the system, mainly political that is the issue.

  29. Chris says:

    Who’s communicating…..and communicating about what?

    1. Science is done and it’s publicly communicated. Willard (via Grant), Brigitte and I gave examples of personalised, individualised scientific interaction/communication (Hossenfelder), “popular science” communication (Zimmer and Yong at the science festival), and the rather large network of generally University-based scientist-to-public science communication (e.g. Outreach and Public Engagement programs, public lectures and at a less individualised level, scientists blogs). One comes across very interesting discussions with scientists on local and national radio (may need to be particularly engaged to find this) and there is some good scientist-lead documentary on TV (Earth Story by Aubrey Manning is my all-time fave btw!).

    There is a whole load of this sort of stuff going on – popular science writing and presentation who’s aim is to enthuse, inform and entertain about science.

    2. Journalists and other science writers should provide a secondary level of science communication, effectively a means for channeling scientific findings and their potential implications more widely (newspapers especially, but also TV/Radio/blogs). Much of this is appalling (Richard P. Grant might consider directing his focus to this, especially since he (Grant) actually seems to be an insightful writer on science judging by some of his other Guardian “Occam’s corner” pieces). A whole load of potentially worthwhile public communication of science breaks down at this point due to “sexing-up isolated studies for compelling headlines”, “misrepresenting science to advance the socio-political slants of the journal”, “contriving adversarial contexts where these don’t really exist in reality” and all the other schmuck used to “sell” stuff (newspapers). This is where the public really loses out, science-communication wise.

    3. The third level of science communication is perhaps the most important but should ideally occur in a context where the ones above are working well. This is transmitting science with important societal implications to policymakers, ideally within an environment of an informed public. Here the “science communicators” are individual scientists (Richard Doll on smoking and lung cancer; Rowland-Molina on CFC’s and ozone depletion etc.), institutions (National Academy of Sciences; NICE; IPCC etc.), government science advisors (Dame Sally Davies on alcohol and cancer cited dismissively by Mr. Grant) etc. This level of communication is rather effective (IMHO) since it is usually (not always) based on a consideration of a solid evidence base. It’s unfortunate that this level of communication can be confused and distorted by efforts from vested interests to counter/trash the message. At this point the journalists (see 2. above) might be expected to help with properly communicating the science….but very often don’t…

    Apols for the slightly strident message, but it is worth considering what it is we’re talking about when we use terms like “science communication”…

  30. Anders,

    Science communication is not about changing minds, or winning hearts and minds; it’s very simply about communicating information. That is all. It’s not the responsibility of scientists to decide if society should be convinced of something; their only responsibility is communicating the information that they have.

    That Dr. Cox, a scientist, chose for himself to speak to the public using his credentials as weight makes him a fair target for critique as to whether his communication as a scientist was effective or not. So on that basis, I don’t think Mr Grant is, on principle, necessarily out of bounds for dissing Dr Cox’s appearance.

    In practise, I think Mr Grant is full of crap because … reasons. You and others have pretty much covered it. I might only add that I don’t think it’s the general public’s hearts and minds which win it at this point. I think it means convincing the major energy and industry interests, and their language is money, not science.

  31. So on that basis, I don’t think Mr Grant is, on principle, necessarily out of bounds for dissing Dr Cox’s appearance.

    I don’t think it’s out of bounds to discuss it, or even diss it. But if you choose to do so in public, you can then be dissed yourself.

  32. > Climate change is somewhat unique

    No! No, it is NOT. It is either unique or it isn’t. It is not possible to be “somewhat unique”.

    What do they teach the children nowadays?

  33. pete best says:

    William, I know lots of people who were schooled on climate change at school but now its worthless. They fly the most, eat the most ait miles etc. The world overtakes your principles in so many ways.

    As for what are they teaching school kids these days, the same as they did when you were at school, only its the system that is the issue, get on and do well regardless of your footprint on the earth.

    no its somewhat unique as its the only global issue for all of humanity. I know of other issues that are affecting us more or less but none that is affecting all of us to such an extent. Can you think of one ?

  34. Pete,
    I think WMC’s point was simply that it is either unique, or it is not unique; it can’t be “somewhat unique”. Somewhat unusual, possibly, but not “somewhat unique”.

  35. Chris says:

    “Somewhat unique” is fine for two reasons:

    1. If Pete is British he has downplaying-qualification built into his psyche from an early age. We find it seemly to limit the forcefulness of our assertions (“somewhat” and “rather” are key tools for this) 🙂

    2. It’s not a bad term in the context. There’s nothing unique about climate change as a natural world phenomenon subject to scientific study. Climate change in response to anthropogenic forcing will simply play out according to natural laws and their causal contexts, and we can study this scientifically like any other phenomenon.

    On the other hand climate change is unique for the reasons Pete says. In fact it’s an example of the change in the tenor of significant chunks of contemporary science towards a more reflective and even pessimistic outlook which might be said to have been brewing since Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring”. Policy-making in response to climate science is hard, unsatisfying and scary (although there might be some very significant silver-linings if we were able to adjust our visions – science journalists please help us out here..). The problem of antibiotic resistance is another example – what was a rather (!) gung-ho 20th century bounty of antibiotic development and disease control is becoming a scary and difficult shift in focus towards halting a slide back towards an antibiotic-deficient world…

  36. dikranmarsupial says:

    Morbea quoting Schnellmann wrote “If people put as much effort into learning about the natural world as they do about sport or celebrity gossip then scientists wouldn’t need to try so hard with communicating facts and ideas.”

    Bad idea, if everybody did that there would be so many scientists in the job market that wages would plummet! ;o)

  37. Richard P Grant in The Guardian: “On the whole, I don’t think people who object to vaccines or GMOs are at heart anti-science. Some are, for sure, and these are the dangerous ones. But most people simply want to know that someone is listening, that someone is taking their worries seriously; that someone cares for them.

    Should we also take Alex Jones wanting to save humanity seriously or is there a limit somewhere?

  38. Paul W says:

    Brian Cox should have explained that in the ice ages chart, the CO2 always follows behind the temperature changes by 1,000 years or so (and sometimes they are going in opposite directions) and that CO2 might be responsible for up to 1.5C or the 5.0C swings in temperature but not all of the changes.

    And then he should have noted that the recent temperature record is not the original raw temperature records but the records have been adjusted/changed so that the trend is 0.5C higher than the original raw records. It still shows warming before the adjustments but afterwards it is higher. Some think the adjustments make the record more fair and comparable but some do not.

    Now that would have been real science communication.

  39. Chris says:

    brandonrgates:

    That Dr. Cox, a scientist, chose for himself to speak to the public using his credentials as weight makes him a fair target for critique as to whether his communication as a scientist was effective or not.

    Fair enough, but don’t you think Richard P. Grant’s critique is puny? It isn’t a critique at all. He stated that he didn’t like Cox’s style (“And yet … it leaves me cold.“). Judging by the audience reaction, Brian Cox’s point hit home. And considered objectively, Cox was right and Roberts was wrong. It’s actually rather difficult to debate with someone who chooses not to do so in good faith. Does Mr. Grant give some guidance on how to conduct this sort of interaction? No.

    Incidentally, having heard Richard P. Grants take on this, isn’t it about time we heard what Richard E. Grant has to say?

  40. Chris says:

    Richard P. Grant:

    “We expect the government to try to do the best for most of the people most of the time, and weather forecasters to at least tell us what today was like even if they struggle with tomorrow.

    That’s astonishingly stupid. Where I live in the UK the BBC weather forecast is admirably reliable – we use it to plan short trips to the mountains, seaside or to decide whether to take the afternoon off to play golf the day after tomorrow. It really is very good.

    Mr Grant is just “saying stuff”, and the critical nature of his article is intensely hypocritical – Brian Cox and Dame Sally Davies don’t match up to Grant’s (undefined) ideal for science communication, and yet these two (Cox and Davies) are courageous enough to engage directly in the battle to disseminate scientific information faithfully – Grant seems not to consider that the standards that Cox and Davies try to maintain (convey the science faithfully) might apply to him – and yet he’s supposedly in the business of science communication…

    Richard P. Grant science writing for the Guardian is actually pretty good, and with any luck the next time he rereads this particular article he’ll recognize the laziness of his effort and feel somewhat shameful…

  41. John Hartz says:

    I have had a special interest in the “communicating science” ball of wax ever since I began to research climate change about two decades ago. Before becoming a member of the SkS all-volunteer author team, I would forward links to articles on this topic to John Cook for his edification and for sharing with his author team. I this so frequently, that he finally invited me to join the team.

    Since I began the production of the incarnations of the SkS Weekly News Roundup, I have included articles on this topic. As I have the time to do so, I will post excerpts of and links to key articles that I have flagged over the years. As you will see, this topic has been examined and analyzed from a wide-ranging variety of perspectives.

    PS – Does anyone happen to know off-hand if the NAS or the RAS has produced a synthesis of research and/or a major report on science communication?

  42. John Hartz says:

    ATTP: Given your background in academia within the UK, are you are of any in-house training of faculty scientists on how to effectively communication with the public and/or the media?

  43. Chris says:

    John Hartz, the US National Academy of Sciences has sponsored colloquia on Science Communication in 2013:

    http://www.pnas.org/content/110/Supplement_3#ColloquiumPapersfreeonline

    and 2014:

    http://www.pnas.org/content/111/Supplement_4

    the latter (and probly the former too) has been compiled in a book:

    http://www.nap.edu/catalog/18478/the-science-of-science-communication-ii-summary-of-a-colloquium

  44. dikranmarsupial says:

    Chris “We want the finest climate data available to humanity, we want them here and we want them now!”?

  45. John Hartz says:

    Chris & Brigitte: Thanks for the links..

  46. John Hartz says:

    Does anyone happen to know of any survey of climate scientists about their level of formal training in communicating science?

  47. John Hartz says:

    Four years ago, I flagged the article, Climate Conundrum: Invoking a Pause by Bill Chameides* for my SkS colleagues. The introductory paragraphs of this very interesting and thought-provoking article are:

    What can neuroscientists and artists bring to the table in a climate science discussion? A lot.

    Climate scientists are increasingly frustrated. We continue to make progress on the science front — for example, starting to unravel the relationship between climate change and extreme weather (see here and here); but the American public seems at best concerned but unwilling to do much about it, and at worst dismissive.

    Many Americans remain unconvinced that global warming is occurring and a larger percentage is unconvinced that humans are the cause of any warming. But if anything, the science just seems to get stronger, as evidenced by the recent independent study of a former outspoken skeptical scientist who arrived at the same conclusion reached by climate scientists and sundry scientific associations — the globe is warming and humans are almost certainly a major driving force.

    Also frustrating is the fact that anything we might do on the issue of climate science and any steps we should consider to mitigate or adapt to climate change have pretty much disappeared from the national dialogue.

    While many climate scientists fear that climate change is a, if not the, defining issue of our time, I’m willing to bet that a scant few Americans will go into the voting booth on November 6 with climate change high on their list of vote-determining issues.

    Left Brains and Right Brains

    So what in the world is going on? I’d say we have a brain-communication disconnect. Climate scientists are doing what they do best: providing folks with facts and figures and logical arguments, stuff that taps into the analytic parts of our brains. But it seems that for lots of people this analytical message is simply not sufficiently sustaining and visceral enough to lead to action on climate change, commitment to real change — change in the products we produce and purchase, change in the marketplace, meaningful behavioral changes.

    What to do? Maybe we need to change the messages on climate change. Maybe just giving folks the facts and figures is not enough. Maybe it’s time to experiment more with different modes of communication that affect both the non-analytical and analytical parts of our brains. But how?

    The Plan

    To help answer that question, a small group of Duke faculty, staff and students and a few non-Dukies met for a two-day retreat north of Asheville, North Carolina. (See end of post for meeting participants.) Our gathering was funded by a group called “Invoking the Pause,” a small nonprofit that provides small grants to “foster creativity and ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking … for innovative and potentially scalable ideas to,” among other things, advance public understanding of climate change.

    In planning the meeting we asked ourselves: If you want to experiment with different modes of communication that affect non-analytical as well as analytical parts of the brain, whom do you need to bring together? The analytical part is easy — climate scientists. But what about the non-analytical part? We chose two groups not traditionally associated with climate science: artists and cognitive/brain scientists. I suppose having artists at the meeting is not all that surprising. After all, artists are in the business of reaching people on emotional and visceral levels, and so can offer a unique perspective and skill set for eliciting such responses in the case of climate change.

    Climate Conundrum: Invoking a Pause by Bill Chameides*, The Huffington Post, Sep 24, 2012

    *then Dean of Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment.

    PS – I know from personal expericnce that Bill Chameides is an excellent science communicator in his own right.

  48. izen says:

    @-Paul
    “… the CO2 always follows behind the temperature changes by 1,000 years or so (and sometimes they are going in opposite directions) and that CO2 might be responsible for up to 1.5C or the 5.0C swings in temperature but not all of the changes.”

    A link for this claim would be nice. My understanding is that recent research shows the changes are almost co-incident, and the CO2 rise is responsible for most of the warming.

    @-“And then he should have noted that the recent temperature record is not the original raw temperature records but the records have been adjusted/changed so that the trend is 0.5C higher than the original raw records. ”

    He would have been wrong.
    The raw data has been adjusted to REDUCE the warming trend because of known errors in the sea surface temperature data. If you really want to use the raw data for 70% of the global surface then you have to grant a 1.4degC rise over the last century.

  49. “I suppose having artists at the meeting is not all that surprising. After all, artists are in the business of reaching people on emotional and visceral levels, and so can offer a unique perspective and skill set for eliciting such responses in the case of climate change.”

  50. WC is uniquely unique.

  51. Using Excel is pretty silly.

  52. Paul Williams says:

    izen says:
    August 26, 2016 at 8:11 pm

    If you take any of the ice core temperature records (Greenland or Antarctica), they all precede any of the changes in CO2 from the ice cores. Temperatures go up, CO2 goes up 1,000 years later. Because there is also some rapid up and down variation , there are times when temperatures are falling and CO2 is rising and visa versa.

    And CO2 can only be responsible for up to one-third of the temperature change in the ice ages.

    Ice age temperature change -5.0C

    CO2 temperature change at 3.0C per doubling = 0.81C * 5.35 * ln(185ppm/280ppm) = -1.79C , so yeah, just one-third at 3.0C per doubling.

    The adjustment in the temperature records come from two main sources:

    – the bucket adjustment of sea surface temperatures prior to 1944. The impact of wooden buckets or canvas buckets were very carefully measured by the UK Met Office amongst others and it was found that the buckets cooled off the water by 0.5C or even 1.0C as they were brought aboard ship from the ocean surface prior to the thermometre being placed in them. All the pre-1944 SSTs were adjusted up by 0.5C to account for this effect, a justified adjustment.

    – and a whole series of adjustments made by the NCDC/NCEI that continue to be changed every single month that have adjusted all the temperature records up by about 0.5C. The 0.5C is continually increasing every month and were just recently changed again when the NCEI decided to stop using bouy temperatures and Argo floats for the SST but adjusted them up for ship engine intake thermometres (which don’t even show this kind of upward trend). It was completely unjustified.

    Now if none of you know these facts, then it is because climate science does not communicate very well with people, it has become a marketing effort to sell the message instead.

  53. Paul,
    You should read this.

    CO2 temperature change at 3.0C per doubling = 0.81C * 5.35 * ln(185ppm/280ppm) = -1.79C , so yeah, just one-third at 3.0C per doubling.

    You do realise that one line of evidence for the 3 +-1 C per doubling comes from paleo estimates. See this, Figure 5 for example.

    And CO2 can only be responsible for up to one-third of the temperature change in the ice ages.

    Uncertainties?

    Now if none of you know these facts, then it is because climate science does not communicate very well with people, it has become a marketing effort to sell the message instead.

    A little less condescension would be appreciated. Maybe try reading what other people actually write. I believe, for example, that Izen is correct that without the bucket correction, the trend would be greater.

  54. BBD says:

    PaulW

    If you take any of the ice core temperature records (Greenland or Antarctica), they all precede any of the changes in CO2 from the ice cores.

    Shakun et al. (2012) provides insight into the train of feedbacks triggered by NH orbital forcing and Pedro et al. (2012) and Parrenin et al. (2013) tighten the Antarctic ice core chronology. Apparently, CO2 didn’t lag temperature in Antarctica after all. So the ‘CO2 lagged temperature during deglaciation’ argument appears to be on the back foot.

  55. Chris,

    Fair enough, but don’t you think Richard P. Grant’s critique is puny?

    I believe the word I used to describe it was “crap”. Yes, as in “full of crap”.

    Judging by the audience reaction, Brian Cox’s point hit home.

    I agree. And judging by public opinion polls, more people believe that AGW is real than don’t. That doesn’t necessarily mean that scientists are winning hearts and minds, but from that I think it’s difficult to argue that they’ve done more to fubar the message than support it.

    It’s actually rather difficult to debate with someone who chooses not to do so in good faith.

    I’d say impossible. At some point it will cease to be a debate and turn into a fight.

    Incidentally, having heard Richard P. Grants take on this, isn’t it about time we heard what Richard E. Grant has to say?

    The English actor? I don’t understand the reference.

  56. Anders,

    Using Excel is pretty silly.

    It has its charms, but automagically converting text to dates by non-configurable default isn’t one of them. Pre-formatted templates can be a good idea.

    I once had a (new) manager ding me in a performance eval for wanting to keep mission-critical data in a database with edit locking, user-accountable version control (with rollback) and referential integrity instead of in linked Excel workbooks scattered across network drives.

  57. Willard says:

    > At some point it will cease to be a debate and turn into a fight.

    Done:

  58. Paul Williams says: “the bucket adjustment of sea surface temperatures prior to 1944. The impact of wooden buckets or canvas buckets were very carefully measured by the UK Met Office amongst others and it was found that the buckets cooled off the water by 0.5C or even 1.0C as they were brought aboard ship from the ocean surface prior to the thermometre being placed in them. All the pre-1944 SSTs were adjusted up by 0.5C to account for this effect, a justified adjustment.

    The bucket adjustments are smaller. One example:

    http://variable-variability.blogspot.com/2015/02/homogenization-adjustments-reduce-global-warming.html

    Paul Williams says: “and a whole series of adjustments made by the NCDC/NCEI that continue to be changed every single month that have adjusted all the temperature records up by about 0.5C. The 0.5C is continually increasing every month and were just recently changed again when the NCEI decided to stop using bouy temperatures and Argo floats for the SST but adjusted them up for ship engine intake thermometres (which don’t even show this kind of upward trend). It was completely unjustified.

    The difference between the ships and the buoys is smaller. For the trend it is irrelevant whether your subtract the difference from the ships or add it to the buoys.

    If you want to look at the influence of CO2 on the ice ages you need to use the Earth System climate sensitivity (ESS), not the equilibrium climate sensitivity (ECS). For the ECS the ice sheets are kept fixed (they change on longer time scales). In the ESS the change in the albedo (whiteness of the land) due to the changes in the ice sheets is taken into account. The ESS is consequently clearly larger. Sorry that in focussing on the ECS my colleagues again understated the magnitude of the problem; scientists tend to be overly conservative in their claims.

  59. Steven Mosher says:

    Parrenin et al. (2013)

    thx

  60. Marco says:

    Paul Williams:
    http://www.clim-past.net/8/1213/2012/cp-8-1213-2012.pdf
    “…the increase in CO2 likely lagged the increase in regional Antarctic temperature by less than 400yr and that even a short lead of CO2 over temperature cannot be excluded. ”
    http://science.sciencemag.org/content/339/6123/1060 “Synchronous Change of Atmospheric CO2 and Antarctic Temperature During the Last Deglacial Warming”

    And I’d definitely love to see the papers that show Greenland temperatures supposedly precede CO2 increases by 1000 years.

    Why didn’t you know this, Paul Williams?

  61. izen says:

    The problems with scientist communication is often in the receiver. It has to be able to separate the signal from a lot of attendant noise, but in many cases the receivers are not able to tune in to the signal due to educational deficiencies during their manufacture and development.

  62. izen says:

    I would concede that the rise in CO2 at the glacial terminations ‘only’ causes a degree or two of the change. However there is no record of a glacial termination without a co-incident rapid rise in CO2. The ice cores show local warming preceding a termination in the glacial maximum, but all terminations seem to require the additional warming from CO2.

    As is evident in the Shakun et al. (2012) work our best guess is that local melting in the NH from the perihelion timing has little global effect, but slows down the AMOC which triggers a CO2 out-gassing. That rising CO2 triggers global warming which destabilises the NH ice sheets. These melting out alter the albedo which accounts for the rest of the warming. The main collapse of the NH ice sheets as indicated in the sea level record lags the rise in CO2 and temperature.

    Can an argument not be made that the Milankovitch cycle is too small to trigger a deglaciation until it also triggers a CO2 rise. The subsequent retreat of NH land ice is then a feedback from the global warming from that CO2 effect. No glacial termination event occurrs without a CO2 rise, and no return to glacial conditions, with the re-establishment of continental ice caps happens until CO2 falls back below around 240ppm.

    While CO2 may have a direct forcing of only 1.78degC during a termination, all the albedo changes that this triggers are an example of feedbacks to this and the non-linear tipping points inherent in the climate system.

  63. Chris says:

    dikran @ August 26, 2016 at 5:19 pm

    …finally after pretty much a day of pondering what your post means I’ve just got it.. Thanks! 😉

    brandonrgates @ August 27, 2016 at 12:09 am

    ..re Richard E. Grant – I was being silly..

  64. John Hartz says:

    Back in the dys when I was crrossing swords with climae denier drones on the comment threads of MSM articles, I would frequently post the following:

    As explained below, changes in CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere both preceded and followed high temperatures during the last eight glacial cycles. Reputable climate scientists understand and readily acknowledge this fact.

    “Over eight glacial cycles in 650,000 years, global temperature and the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere have gone hand in hand. When temperatures are high, so are CO2 amounts and vice versa. This obvious connection is part of a coupled system in which changes in climate affect CO2 levels, and CO2 levels also change climate. The pacing of these cycles is set by variations in the Earth’s orbit, but their magnitude is strongly affected by greenhouse gas changes and the waxing and waning of the ice sheets.”

    Source: “Climate Change: Picturing the Science”, Gavin Schmidt and Joshua Wolfe, W.W. Norton Company Ltd, 2009.

  65. John Hartz says:

    As we all know, communicating climate science to policy makers and the the general public is an extremely complex endeavor. On the receiver’s end, there are a myriad of psychological issues which come into play. The below article focuses on just one of those issues — desensitization.

    (As time permits, I will post comments about others.)

    I suppose the culprit here could be classism, or disaster fatigue, or even the peculiar provincialism of so-called coastal media elites. All have been cited as possible explanations for the difference between how the media have covered other natural disasters and how they’re covering Louisiana. But I worry that it’s none of these—and that the real explanation for this discrepancy, while less offensive on its face, says something deeply troubling about the way that we’re collectively processing the horrors of climate change.

    What if this sort of disaster just doesn’t feel like news anymore?

    Psychologists have a word for this: desensitization. Put simply, the more we’re exposed to a negative stimulus, the weaker our emotional response to that stimulus becomes over time. Desensitization is what allows a professional window washer to do his job on the 43rd floor of an office building without panicking, or a surgeon to deal with blood and internal organs all day without feeling queasy.

    We want and need certain individuals to achieve a level of desensitization for the work they do, and there’s plenty of evidence to show that desensitization therapy is highly effective in treating phobias and other anxiety-based disorders. But when an entire culture becomes inured to a negative stimulus, it’s usually cause for alarm. One measure of a society’s health is its capacity to be shocked by violence, injustice, or depictions of human misery.

    Why Aren’t We More Freaked Out About Louisiana? by Jeff Turrentine, Reuters/National Resource Defense Council (NRDC), Aug 24, 2016

  66. John Hartz says:

    More from Turrentine’s article cited above…

    Those of us who accept the science of climate change tend to think of the skeptics and climate deniers as our chief antagonists. But what if there exists a more formidable enemy out there—one made even more dangerous by the fact that it resides within us? What if our own melancholy resignation turns out to be an even bigger obstacle to climate action than the concerted efforts of an organized movement dedicated to denial?

    In a therapeutic setting, desensitization can help patients overcome hindering fears and get on with their lives. But in a societal setting, it’s cultural poison. It strips us of our agency and replaces our sense of shared responsibility with fatalistic dread. And with enough time, that dread diffuses and mellows into something like complacency.

    Why Aren’t We More Freaked Out About Louisiana?by Jeff Turrentine, Reuters/National Resource Defense Council (NRDC), Aug 24, 2016

  67. John Hartz says:

    The concluding paragraph of Turrentine’s article…

    We need to be seeing more photos of Louisiana and California right now, too—and we need to be talking about what’s happening in these places, and why. Not simply because it’s newsworthy, although it most certainly is. We need to be talking about it so that it never, ever is allowed to become the new normal. Because it’s not normal.

    Why Aren’t We More Freaked Out About Louisiana? by Jeff Turrentine, Reuters/National Resource Defense Council (NRDC), Aug 24, 2016

  68. Joshua says:

    I agree with this:

    –snip-
    Those of us who accept the science of climate change tend to think of the skeptics and climate deniers as our chief antagonists. But what if there exists a more formidable enemy out there—one made even more dangerous by the fact that it resides within us? What if our own melancholy resignation turns out to be an even bigger obstacle to climate action than the concerted efforts of an organized movement dedicated to denial?
    –snip-

    But then I”m confused by the following…

    –snip–
    We need to be seeing more photos of Louisiana and California right now, too—and we need to be talking about what’s happening in these places, and why. Not simply because it’s newsworthy, although it most certainly is. We need to be talking about it so that it never, ever is allowed to become the new normal. Because it’s not normal.
    –snip–

    The logic escapes me. If desensitization is the problem, then why would more photos of Louisiana help? In the very least, why would it change anything? Why would it alter the process of desensitization? To use the analogies, would showing the window washer photos of window washers working high up on buildings make them less likely to go on washing windows? Would showing a surgeon more blood and guts make them more likely to be queasy about performing surgery?

    At worst, might it not just increase the sense of fatalistic dread, resulting in people pushing dealing with the risk of BAU even further into the background because they have an increased sense of futility?

    There seems to be a fair amount of literature….such as with vaccination…that suggests that fear-based messaging has a counterproductive effect of pushing people to become even more desensitized.

    As the article says.

    –snip–
    Put simply, the more we’re exposed to a negative stimulus, the weaker our emotional response to that stimulus becomes over time.
    –snip–

  69. BBD says:

    @ Steven Mosher and Marco

    Apologies for the complete absence of links to Pedro, Parrenin etc. upthread. Posted in haste 😦

  70. Magma says:

    There seems to be a fair amount of literature….such as with vaccination…that suggests that fear-based messaging has a counterproductive effect of pushing people to become even more desensitized. — Joshua

    I’d be careful with some of those. A number of reports appeared in the media (mostly newspapers leaning to the political right) stating that Australia’s new plain-packaging tobacco laws were a failure and that sales of tobacco had increased. In fact, sales by dollar value have been decreasing by 10% per year since Australia brought in plain packaging and increased excise taxes. The so-called ‘fact’ was generated by a pair of researchers supported by a tobacco-funded right-wing think tank who examined data only for the first quarter after the tobacco packaging law came into effect. To add more gloss to their analysis they published it in an non-peer-reviewed internal journal of ANU, which was subsequently referenced as an ‘independent study’ by tobacco company Philip Morris.

    The tactics sound familiar, don’t they?

  71. John Hartz says:

    Joshua:

    Here’s the scoop (per EDF) on the author of the article…

    Jeff Turrentine is the Culture & Politics columnist at NRDC’s onEarth. A former editor at Architectural Digest, he is a frequent contributor to Slate, The Washington Post, The New York Times Book Review, and other publications.

    It does not appear that he has an extensive background in psychology so his interpretation of how desensitization applies to the general public’s reaction to the Louisiana/Mississippi flooding may not be right on the money. Nevertheless, desensitization is an important psychological factor for those communicating climate science to be cognizant of.

  72. Steven Mosher says:

    https://www.carbonbrief.org/in-depth-experts-assess-the-feasibility-of-negative-emissions

    interesting selection of “scientists” commenting on this problem

  73. Steven Mosher says:

    ‘Apologies for the complete absence of links to Pedro, Parrenin etc. upthread. Posted in haste😦

    No worries google and sci-hub are my friends

    so I read Parrenin

    Really interesting..and a great reference.

  74. Magma says:

    interesting selection of “scientists” commenting on this problem — Steven Mosher

    Why did you put “scientists” in quotation marks? Not to stress credentialism, but most of those quoted after that article have PhDs in the physical or biological sciences, and their opinions are thoughtful, cautious and well-argued.

  75. Joshua says:

    Magma –

    I meant stuff like this:

    http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2014/02/25/peds.2013-2365

    Just one study, but I think there’s a fair amount of other literature that suggests similar dynamics.

  76. Steven Mosher says:

    magma is joking

    “Before we even start to talk about “negative” emissions, strong actions on carbon pollution in all sectors and all countries are due immediately. And there shall be no tweaking of environmental, social integrity and equity that must be the leading preconditions of any debate on meeting the 1.5C objective — an unnegotiable survival target for the most vulnerable people and ecosystems.”

    “their opinions are thoughtful, cautious and well-argued.”

    there was one set of experts they failed to survey. (i will double check)
    the most important set.

    I will leave you to ponder that.

    Read through every article.. some are measured.. others are just advertisements.

  77. Greg Robie says:

    Being a decendent of a Governor of the State of Maine, I’m going to add some thought relative to the duel references. What Governor LaPage and Willard overlook in referencing duels is the role played by seconds in the practice. This is significant. Beyond the role of seconds play in diffusing the situation and facilitating a face-saving resolution, a no show by the perceived insulted or insultee meant the second filled in. One doesn’t need to be physicist to calculate that all of the social standing where duels were a matter of honor would tend to be proactive with their friends affect. When a friend might be behaving such that they might be setting you up to be called on to be a second, you put your arm around their shoulder and took them for a walk. Counterintuitively, from our vantage point of multiple generations removed from the practice, dual encourage both discussion and listening. Multiple perspectives were both expected and of value. Integrating differences was, systemically, encouraged (and for this to work as it did, it helped that only men could vote).

    Today, dissing another is a refined and valued art. In some cases a “news” outlet might give a particularly gifted practitioner a multi-million dollar contract to pontificate and not listen. In the case of politics, a governorship (twice), or represent a major party as its presidential candidate, can be the reward. But we need not go there for understanding of what has been lost socially with the outlawing of duals. To the degree a blog owner could be called on to be a second for what are posted as comments by frequent commenters, the nature of what appears as comments would change. Everyone would be doing their upmost to be sure all felt heard, respected, and a common search for truth would be integral to social discourse and affirmed. That might inititally feel boring for the blogosphere denizens, but it would also mean that protracted disagreements would be resolved … and at the cost of only a few physicists and science denying trolls. The Koch brothers might find the cost of funding disinformation a budget buster.

    And relative to the question that has been discussed here of whether an academic research scientist needs to walking their talk, that would not even be a question! Concerning the need to be effective communicators, well, wouldn’t everyone be all ears? 😉

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