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Saturday, January 28, 2017

Scientists Increasingly Speak Out | Scientific American

Debra Kahn, E&E News summarizes, "And they are seeking training at record numbers on how to better communicate with the public."

Photo: Reenya Getty Images

Scientists across the country are increasingly interested in communicating directly with the public, media and elected officials in the wake of President Trump's inauguration.

Crackdowns on external communications at a number of federal agencies, including U.S. EPA and the Interior and Agriculture departments, have alarmed outside observers, who are in turn putting pressure on scientists to speak up.

“We're all concerned we may be watching a federal lobotomy,” California Energy Commission Chairman Bob Weisenmiller told several hundred scientists and policymakers gathered in Sacramento yesterday for the state's Climate Change Symposium. “We need a multitude of Carl Sagans in the climate area. It's not going to be sufficient to be publishing your papers in a great journal that's written in a way most people are not going to understand.”

Scientists are also increasingly recognizing that their findings are falling on deaf or hostile ears, and are taking steps to adapt their messages accordingly. Organizations that help scientists learn to communicate better are getting an influx of inquiries.

“I think we're entering into an era where scientists are concerned it's not enough to speak the truth about what's happening, for example, with climate change or immunization or the natural world as a whole,” said Laura Lindenfeld, director of the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University. “I think people are drawn to us because we can help teach them different ways to convey that same information that is grounded in scientific truth.”

About 250 academics are meeting this week in Portland, Ore., to hone their communication skills by talking to journalists, weaning themselves off PowerPoint and trying out improvisational theater.

Source: Scientific American