Scientists, Stop Thinking Explaining Science Will Fix Things

| May 8, 2017 | Leave a Comment

Item Link: Read Article

Media Type: News / Op - Ed

Date of Publication: April 19, 2017

Year of Publication: 2017

Publication City: New York, NY

Publisher: The Slate Group, a Graham Holdings Company

Author(s): Tim Requarth

Newspaper: Slate

Categories: , ,

How can scientists effectively communicate science? If the goal is to change opinions, Tim Requarth suggests moving away from the ‘deficit model’ that assumes “people’s opinions differ from scientific consensus because they lack scientific knowledge.” Requarth shares research (and notes the irony in doing so) demonstrating that,

Increasing science literacy alone won’t change minds. In fact, well-meaning attempts by scientists to inform the public might even backfire. Presenting facts that conflict with an individual’s worldview, it turns out, can cause people to dig in further.

Requarth clarifies:

That’s not to say scientists should return to the bench and keep their mouths shut. They should just realize that closing the “information gap” isn’t the goal.

Rather than fill the information deficit by building an arsenal of facts, scientists should instead consider how they deploy their knowledge.

Again tapping into science communication research, Requarth suggests scientists,

…figure out how to talk about science with people they already know, through, say, local and community interactions… And they might consider writing op-eds for their local papers, focusing on why science matters to their particular communities.

These approaches allow scientists to connect with people who are more likely to trust them on a personal level. Ultimately:

…the obstacles faced by science communicators are not epistemological but cultural. The skills required are not those of a university lecturer but a rhetorician.


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