All science is either physics or stamp collecting…
–Physicist Ernst Rutherford
This week we’re featuring a talk given by Chris Mooney at the YearlyKos Science Panel 2007. He’s been studying lessons learned from hurricane Katrina and the talk has some interesting points about communication strategies between scientists, politicians and the public. During Katrina, meteorologists found themselves to be the center of media attention that they’d never experienced before, and the debates they were having over the causes of heightened hurricane activity were amplified by the media. Rather than let the media direct the story, they came together despite their differences and presented a unified message: no matter what the causes, coastlines are vulnerable, fifty percent of the US population lives within fifty miles of the coast, potential damage needs to be assessed before it happens.
He goes on to say that this is one of many issues where scientists will need to report more than the facts, and instead influence policy by reframing the story for the media and public. Problems will occur where there’s a high level of scientific uncertainty, many complex policy options and poor communications between scientists, politicians and the public. He says that: “In these science-policy debates, we don’t know everything, we never will know everything, but we nevertheless have an obligation to take what we do know and figure out how to translate it and use the science as best we can.”
You can see his talk, broken up into three parts here: