The Intersection

Over the past year, I’ve done well over two dozen talks, with Matthew Nisbet, about science communication. And now we’re taking it to the next level.

Next week at CalTech, we’re unveiling a two-part affair: Our lecture (entitled “Speaking Science 2.0″) followed by an all day “Speaking Science” boot camp, which we’re describing as follows:

…the full-day workshop will provide a hands-on media primer, focusing on two critical issues: 1) how audiences find, understand, and use scientific information; 2) the knowledge and tools that scientists need to deal with the press. In other words, when journalists call you’ll know what to do and what to say (and what not to say, too).

Nisbet will be teaching part 1; I’m charged with teaching part 2. We’ve assigned a lot of advance reading; you can find the syllabus online here, and I’ll list the readings, along with links to virtually all of them, after the jump.

Even if you can’t come to CalTech or a future version of this event (we’re hoping to schedule many more), reading this material will get you several steps ahead in terms of understanding the relationship between science, the media, and the public:


History, Concepts, and Principles

Burns, T.W. O’Connor, D.J., Stocklmayer, S.M. (2003). Science communication: A contemporary definition. Public Understanding of Science, 12, (2), 183-202.

National Science Board (2008). Chapter 7: Public Attitudes and Understanding. National Science Indicators. Washington, DC: National Science Board.

Kitzinger, J. (2006). The role of media in public engagement. In S. Miller (Ed.), Engaging science: Thoughts, deeds, analysis and action. UK: Wellcome Trust.

Yankelovich D. (2003, summer). Winning greater influence for science. Issues in Science and Technology.

Nisbet, M.C. & Scheufele, D.A. (2007, October). The future of public engagement. The Scientist.

CBC Radio (2008). Interview with Brian Wynne. How to Think about Science series. *[Audio Podcast]*

Recent Controversies and Case Studies

Moser, S. & Dilling, L (2004). Making climate hot: Communicating the urgency and challenge of global climate change. Environment 46 (10): 32-46.

Nisbet, M.C. (2008). Moving beyond Gore’s message: A look back and ahead at climate change communications. Skeptical Inquirer Online.

Labov, J. and Pope, B.K. (2008). Understanding our audiences: The design and evolution of Science, Evolution, and Creationism. CBE Life Sciences Education, 7(1): 20-24.

Nisbet, M.C. (in press). Expelled? Conflict and consensus in communicating about evolution. Kean Review. [Set the PDF to 100%]

Friedman, S.M.; Egolf, B.P. (2005). Nanotechnology: risks and the media. Technology and Society Magazine, IEEE, 24, (4), 5 – 11. (Log in via library gateway.)

Scheufele, D. A., Corley, E. A., Dunwoody, S., Shih, T., Hillback, E., & Guston, D. (2007). Scientists worry about some risks more than the public. Nature Nanotechnology, 2 (12), 732 – 734. [Log in via library gateway.]

Editorial (2008). A little knowledge. Nature Nanotechnology, 2, (12). [Log in via library gateway.]

*Recommended additional reading:

Logan, R. (2001). Science mass communication: A conceptual history. Science Communication, 23, (2), 135-163.

Weigold, M. (2001). Communicating science: A review of the literature. Science Communication, 23 (2), 164-193.

Bauer, M., Allum, N., & Miller, S. (2007). What can we learn from 25 years of PUS survey research? Liberating and expanding the agenda. Public Understanding of Science, 16, (1) 79-95 .

House of Lords. 2000. Science and Society. London: UK House of Lords. See also government response.

Miller, S. (2001). Public understanding of science at a cross-roads. Public Understanding of Science, 10 (1), 115-120.

Einsiedel, E. and Eastlick, D.L. (2001). Consensus conferences as deliberative democracy: A communications perspective. Science Communication 21 (4):323-343.


Willems, J. 2003. Bringing down the barriers – public communication should be part of common scientific practice. Nature 422, 470.

Russell, C. (2006). Covering Controversial Science: Improving Reporting
on Science and Public Policy
. Working Paper, Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics, and Public Policy, Harvard University.

Mooney, C. & Nisbet, M.C. (2005, Sept./Oct.). When coverage of evolution shifts to the political and opinion pages, the scientific context falls away, unraveling Darwin. Columbia Journalism Review, 31-39.

Revkin, A. (2007). Climate Change as News: Challenges in Communicating Environmental Science. In J.C. DiMento & P.M. Doughman (Eds.), Climate Change: What It Means for Us, Our Children, and Our Grandchildren. Boston, MA: MIT Press, pp. 139-160..

Nisbet, M.C. & Mooney, C. (2006). The next big storm? Skeptical Inquirer Online.

* Recommended additional reading.

Hayes, R. & Grossman, D. (2006). A Scientist’s guide to talking with the media. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.

Metcalfe Institute for Marine and Environmental Reporting (2007). Workshop Reports: Science Communications and the News Media.


  1. #1 Eric
    June 20, 2008

    Very useful syllabus — thanks for posting it. ER

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