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The Science of Science Communication—How to Communicate Science to the Public?

The Science of Science Communication—How to Communicate Science to the Public?This September, National Academy of Sciences is going to hold the second Sackler Colloquia discussing science communication. A few days ago, Baruch Fischhoff, a Professor in Social and Decision Sciences and Engineering and Public Policy from Carnegie Mellon University, reviewed the contents of the first Sackler colloquia (May, 2012) on Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

The current situation of science communication is not optimistic. “The behavior base of communication is solid and is built on the research findings of cognitive psychology of the last century and recent decades ‘communication practice of science, risk, health and other topics. Unfortunately, although these research findings are beneficial, they are only put into use in small portion of communication practice.” Fischhoff said, “Concerning what information to communicate or how to communicate, scientists rely too much on their instinct so as to feel unnecessary to learn how to communicate and evaluate whether their effort in communication is successful or not.”
The science of science communication emerges as it is highly required by the better communication of science information. The article points out that to achieve good effect of communication, science communication needs to consistently execute four corresponding tasks, namely distinguishing and decision making of related science categories, confirmation of public-known information, designing of communication planning and evaluation of the applicability of communication plans.
“No one can completely understand knowledge of all subjects or at all levels, even a scientist can’t do that. In fact, nobody needs to know that much knowledge.” Fischhoff claimed in his paper that the first key point of communication is to pick up the small amount of knowledge that people need to know from countless scientific findings. Then, communicators should study the audience’s opinions and design appropriate approach to communicate science. Last but not the least, communicators need to assess if the process of communication includes the information required by the audience, whether the audience can access the information through feasible approach, as well as whether the form of information can be understand.
As an important medium of science communication, science website plays a unique role in the process of communication. Science websites create a bridge between scientists and the public. Fischhoff commented, “The main challenge of science websites is to ensure the reliability of certain research findings and in the same time, communicate the uncertainty of the results. Only through outstanding narration can science be communicated correctly. Remarkable communicators are able to make scientific research charming, even when the research results in more controversies than the solution it offers, they can still reveal the significance of the research and break a path for the followers.”
Talking about the future of science communication, Fischhoff said, “I believe there will be more and more scientists communicating their work with the public, and there will be more people out of the science fields to read science. Better science communication can provide the society with greater value, and in turn makes the society values more on science.”


ReferenceBaruch Fischhoff. (2013) The sciences of science communication. PNAS

Read more: The Science of Science Communication , National Academy of Sciences.