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Today I move to my new home at Big Think http://bigthink.com/blogs/age-of-engagement [Follow the blog via its RSS feed, on Twitter, and on Facebook.] Over the past four years at Scienceblogs, I have had the wonderful opportunity to be part of a blogging network that includes dozens of talented writers and thinkers. Current and former Sciblings such as Deb Blum, Ed Brayton, Benjamin Cohen, Bora, Sheril Kirshenbaum, Jonah Lehrer, Chris Mooney, David Ng, Randy Olson, Chad Orzel, Jessica Palmer, Christina Pikas, Janet Stemwedel, and Carl Zimmer have inspired my writing and introduced me to…
One paper in the special issue proposes strategies for catalyzing greater collaboration on climate change communication among the "four cultures." The August issue of the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment features open-access articles that review research, define challenges, and propose new initiatives in the area of science communication with a focus on environmental controversies. Over the past several years, there has been increasing attention to communication and public engagement at flagship science journals. The special issue of Frontiers represents the most…
A few stories from over the weekend that raise decades-old questions about the connection between media and violence as well as the role that media play in the construction of social identity. --WPost leads its Sunday edition with a feature alleging a spike in visits to Colonial Williamsburg from Tea Party sympathizers. One enthusiast asks the role-playing George Washington: "General, when is it appropriate to resort to arms to fight for our liberty?" --The Post's Dan Milbank, relying heavily on releases from Media Matters for America, draws a correlation between several recent arrests for…
Big Think, the YouTube for intellectuals, is devoting the next 30 days to highlighting the most dangerous among ideas. Here's how the editors describe the theme: Throughout the month of August, Big Think will introduce a different "dangerous idea" each day. Brace yourself: these ideas may at first seem shocking or counter-intuitive--but they are worth our attention, even if we end up rejecting them. Every idea in the series will be supported by contributions from leading experts, from the world's top theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, to prolific legal scholar Judge Richard Posner, to…
In the wake of last week's defeat of cap and trade, the predictable narrative offered by bloggers and commentators has been to blame the failure on industry, skeptics, and Republicans. It's also the explanation likely echoing in the minds of many scientists and environmental advocates. But it's important to take a step back from the easy emotional reaction and take a look at the complexity of factors that shape societal gridlock on this issue. As I remarked to Andrew Revkin at Dot Earth earlier this month: If we were able to statistically model societal inaction on climate change, what…
In reaction to our BMC Public Health study published this month that examined the potential to re-frame climate change in terms of health, reader Stephanie Parent had this astute observation, one worth testing in follow up research. I was jazzed to read your article "Maibach et al., Reframing climate change as a public health issue: an exploratory study of public reactions BMC Public Health 2010, 10:299" and learn of the Center for Climate Change Communication. The discussion regarding Figures 4 and 5 struck an idea regarding how people did not respond well to the sentence about increasing…
The announcement of this award is an important step towards greater recognition of the need for public engagement on the part of scientists and their institutions. AAAS should be commended for their commitment to leadership in this area. Details below and here. It will be interesting to see the criteria by which nominations are judged. As I noted last month, how public engagement is ultimately defined, its goals and outcomes, remains an open question. (See also this comment.) There is more major news on this front coming in August including the launch of a new blog, and a special issue…
Changing the conversation about climate change: Graduate students from American and George Mason Universities prepare interview tent on the National Mall. WASHINGTON, DC -- How do Americans respond when they are asked to reflect on the public health risks of climate change and the benefits to health from mitigation-related actions? In other words, if we were to re-frame climate change in terms of localized impacts that people personally experience and can understand--such as vulnerability to extreme heat or poor air quality--could we shift public thinking on the issue? Those are the…
Held in over 30 countries, the World Wide Views on Global Warming initiative represents the state-of-the-art in new approaches to public engagement, the subject of several recent reports and meetings. This video features a short documentary on the Australian event. Over the weekend, my friend Chris Mooney contributed an excellent op-ed to the Washington Post pegged to an American Academy of Arts and Sciences event yesterday. The op-ed previewed a longer essay by Chris released at the event in which he described some of the major themes expressed in the transcripts of three meetings convened…
You have to like the U.S. chances in advancing to the semi-finals of the World Cup. That's right, the semi-finals. If the U.S. beats Ghana on Saturday--and they should be a favorite--they play the winner of Uruguay and S. Korea in the quarterfinals. Meanwhile, readers will find interesting this video from Reuters featuring CalTech scientists testing the controversial "Jabuluani" ball used at the World Cup. What do you think? Like the U.S. chances to make the semis? Has the ball had an impact on the games?
Credit: NY Daily News Over the weekend, Politico ran a lengthy feature by Josh Gerstein in which he asks various experts to assess how environmental groups have reacted to the Obama administration's handling of the BP oil disaster. In my own comments quoted in the article, I note that environmental groups appear to have adopted a smart strategy, letting the heavy news attention and general emphasis on public accountability do the communication work for them. If environmental groups were to become more open in their criticism of the Administration or too visible in news coverage, they risk…
Tomorrow morning at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, I will be addressing the annual conference of the University Research Magazine Association. I have pasted the text of my prepared remarks below with relevant links embedded. I will post a follow up on Friday highlighting questions, comments, and reactions. Readers are strongly encouraged to weigh in with their own reactions. As professional science communicators and journalists, you are living in an era of convergence between two major trends in society. The first trend is a dominant focus of this conference: Technology, audience…
Next week the Howard Hughes Medical Institute will be hosting the annual conference of the University Research Magazine Association (URMA). The association is comprised of editors and staffers at magazines that cover the research and scholarly activities of universities, nonprofit research centers, and institutes in the U.S., U.K., Canada, and Europe. Depending on your field and professional background, you may or may not be familiar with publications such as Yale Medicine, UNC's Endeavors, the HHMI Bulletin, Florida State's Research in Review, and Arizona State's Research Stories and…
Chiwetel Ejiofor as geologist Adrian Helmsley in last year's blockbuster 2012 is one of the many emerging "hero" images of scientists in popular film and television. In graduate school, I published with several colleagues a paper examining the portrayal of scientists in film and television and the relationship to audience perceptions. At last week's workshop on science and art in Alberta, I had the opportunity to return to this topic, one that remains much debated by commentators and scientists. Contrary to conventional wisdom that entertainment media portray science and scientists in a…
Sculptor Marilene Oliver uses MRI, PET, and CT scanning to create her works. Last week I traveled to the Canadian Rockies to participate in a unique workshop organized by the University at Alberta that focused on the shared perspectives and collaborations among artists, scientists, ethicists, and social scientists. The workshop was the second in a series organized by brothers Sean Caulfield and Timothy Caulfield, professors of Art and Law respectively at the University of Alberta. In 2009, the first workshop resulted in the "Imagining Science" exhibit at the Art Gallery of Alberta and a…
A Federal inter-agency report released today reviews eleven key categories of diseases and other health consequences that are occurring or will occur due to climate change. The report, A Human Health Perspective on Climate Change, provides a starting point for coordination of federal research to better understand climate's impact on human health. The recommendations of the working group include research to identify who will be most vulnerable, and what efforts will be most beneficial. Not only does this report call attention to objectively serious risks of climate change, but on Earth Day,…
In 2007, I called attention to a Point of Inquiry interview with philosopher Paul Kurtz in which he expressed concern over the direction of the New Atheist movement while asserting the commonly shared values between secular humanists and many world religions. Kurtz at the time was not the only prominent humanist to voice such concern, as Philip Kitcher in a POI interview expressed dismay over the "unremittingly negative" rhetoric of New Atheist authors. The interview was one of the first volleys in an ever louder critique by Kurtz of the New Atheist movement, affirmed earlier this month in…
Organizers of the upcoming Science for Media Forum in Madrid, Spain have launched a blog as part of the build up to the event. In the first posts, several European-based journalists raise concerns about the increased financial pressures on news organizations that have reduced the amount and quality of science coverage. At the same time, there is concern about the resources spent on journalism in comparison to those spent on public relations, including the contributions to "science hype" from university-based communication initiatives. In articles published with colleagues last year and in…
For readers in Europe, on May 12 and 13, the Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology (FECYT) will be hosting in Madrid the Media For Science Forum 2010. The event is intended for science journalists, media officers, science communicators, and scientists and is co-organized by the European Union Science Journalists Association. Registration is free. Following the Forum, a report featuring conclusions about the state of science journalism and public engagement will be released with recommendations aimed at enhanced cooperation among journalists, science communicators, scientists,…
At Science today, contributing journalist Yudhijit Bhattacharjee reports on the decision by the National Science Board to drop discussion of survey questions about evolution from their 2010 Science Indicators report. As a reviewer of several previous versions of the report and as an expert who provided input and feedback on the design of the 2006 survey instrument, I have several thoughts on what I think Bhattacharjee in the article unfairly portrays as a "controversy." The NSB is correct to be concerned about how these questions are interpreted by the public and by the scientific community…