Between Scientists & Citizens

Archive for the ‘in theory’ Category

Unilateral Disarmament in the “War on Science”

with 10 comments

Here is the thesis that I’m nailing to the cathedral door.

Some scientists perceive themselves as an embattled minority, fending off attacks from a public whose declining trust in science has been manufactured by self-interested adversaries aided by an easily-duped press. This perception is largely unfounded. When scientists communicate to the public from this point of view, they don’t contribute usefully to public deliberations. In fact, they add more toxins to the already polluted science communication environment. There has to be a better way.

This is a story that the public is anti-science–I want to promote an anti-“anti-science” story. Or put dramatically, I want to promote unilateral disarmament in the so-called war against science.

To make a case for this thesis, I aim to advance discussion of the following questions:

1. What does the anti-science story look like, in detail? How frequent is it, who is telling it, for what purposes?

2. Which aspects of the anti-science story are largely true, which speculative, and which false? For example, a small number of scientists have been targeted for harassment–that is true, and reprehensible. But is there evidence for a decline in trust, a significant role for “denialists,” or misbehavior by the press?

3. How does the anti-science story influence scientists’ public communication? How does it influence the reception and impact of scientists’ public communication?

4. Why do scientists find the “anti-science” story so attractive?–especially the speculative/false bits? Are there psychological biases in play, e.g., the false polarization effect?

5. What are approaches to communicating in the face of deep disagreement and even hostility that aren’t based on the anti-science story?

6. How can scientists be engaged in reflection on and discussion of this topic?

Written by jeangoodwin

August 30, 2017 at 10:00 am

Scientists: Don’t feed the trolls

with 2 comments

We all know how internet trolling works. The troll writes something outrageous, which provokes the readers to respond with outrage, which amuses the troll and his cohorts. We also know the solution: don’t feed the trolls.

Yes, this applies to science communication, too.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by jeangoodwin

December 5, 2016 at 10:35 am

Some communication principles for an e-salon

with 11 comments

There are going to be a thousand diverse ways to run a worthwhile blog on a controversial topic.  As long as the blog community is willing to try things out, reflect on their experiences and then enforce their own standards through modeling and (civil) correction, I think they’re likely to come up a with their own workable practices.

Judith Curry in 1688?

Still, it’s not like the online world is completely separate from the world of face-to-face communication, and the blogosphere can draw from communication skills already well-developed and understood in “meat-space” contexts.  I’ve done a series of posts, for example, on how debate can work online (here and here).

Similarly, in a very interesting post, Judith Curry has identified her objective on her own blog as translating an old communication activity into a new setting:

I am striving for something different, sort of an e-salon where we discuss interesting topics at the knowledge frontier.

Three hundred plus years ago, another prominent woman wrote extensively about salon communication;  let’s see what we can learn from her.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by jeangoodwin

August 5, 2011 at 11:28 am

Posted in in theory

Tagged with , ,

The David/Goliath fallacy

with 5 comments

Here’s a test:  for each of the following statements, identify whether it was written by a defender or a detractor of the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC):

[1]  “The 21st century Goliath is [the forces on the other side from the author]. It is a powerful six-legged monster. In no order of strength, those legs are:…The total financial resources and power structure behind Goliath are staggering.”

[2]  “The [other side’s] forces have owned the media in all but name on this issue, for decades. [The coverage is becoming more fair, and] when you’re Goliath, that kind of trend seems disturbing.”

[3] “I think that unfortunately this is sort of a classic David vs. Goliath type battle. [My] community isn’t organized — it doesn’t have a single politically driven motive, as the [other side does]. It’s not organized, it’s not well funded in terms of public outreach in the way that [people on the other side] are funded.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by jeangoodwin

March 25, 2010 at 10:48 pm

Posted in in theory

Tagged with