3.2 A Newton story: overcoming barriers to communicating science to the public

Tuesday, 25 January 2011: 3:45 PM
604 (Washington State Convention Center)
Kimberly Del Bright, Penn State University, University Park, PA; and J. M. Nese and J. L. Evans
Manuscript (196.9 kB)

Communication barriers between scientists and the public hinder the public understanding of science. An educated public is empowered to make well-considered policy decisions, participate in informed public debate, and direct support toward promising scientific developments. For example, stifling polarization with respect to the debate on climate change may be a consequence of ineffective communication. We know scientists need to be able to communicate science to nonscientists without compromising the quality of the message. Part of each scientist's professional responsibility is to promote the public understanding of science, yet most undergraduate writing instruction is focused on writing for the specialist, and we need to prepare future scientists to communicate effectively outside of academia. In the fall of 2010, content course faculty and writing faculty at the Pennsylvania State University collaborated to develop curriculum in meteorology to teach their students to write for a variety of audiences. A general discussion of audience accommodation, and a specific example of audience accommodation—narration—is presented to provide practical, hands-on approaches and examples from the atmospheric sciences to help begin rethinking current assignments, instruction, and evaluation methods for the classroom to overcome barriers to communicating science to the public.
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