Between Scientists & Citizens

Scientists: Don’t feed the trolls

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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.

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Written by jeangoodwin

December 5, 2016 at 10:35 am

5th ISU Summer Symposium: Public Participation

5th Iowa State University Summer Symposium on Science Communication
Confronting the challenges of public participation in environmental, planning and health decision-making
3-4 June 2016; Ames, Iowa
Submission deadline:  January 29, 2016

In January 2014, the editor of the leading journal Public Understanding of Science acknowledged that his publication has transitioned from the focus suggested by its name to a new focus on public engagement. Still, he wrote: “the meaning of this transition is not unambiguous.” The purpose of this conference is to explore these ambiguities, in a supportive, yet critical examination of the processes, outcomes and impacts of public participation in decision-making in natural resources, planning and health contexts. A variety of fields have taken up the call to develop new forms of interaction between experts and decision-makers, on one hand, and community residents, patients, landowners, industry representatives and other affected publics on the other. This expanding area for research and practice goes under a variety of names:  public participation, deliberation, dialogue, consensus communication, collaborative governance, participatory modeling, citizen science, among others. Significant creativity has been invested in developing specific practices–indeed, Rowe and Frewer (2005) list 113 mechanisms. We propose to explore both procedural and normative issues in the design, implementation and assessment of public participation processes. Public participation is widely expected to be “better”:  to lead to better physical and social science (e.g., better models), better social outcomes (e.g., trust, collaboration), and better decisions on environmental, health and planning issues. Our goal is to promote a conversation that asks:  better in what ways, compared to what, and measured how?

We invite contributions from relevant disciplines including communication, rhetoric, human dimensions of natural resources, planning, science and technology studies, history & philosophy of science, psychology, sociology, etc.–as well as from scientists who have been involved in participation exercises; using approaches including conceptual analysis, case studies, qualitative and quantitative methods. Possible foci include:

  • defining the boundaries of public participation as situated between public consultation and social movements;
  • articulating key assumptions of public participation such as “representation,” “transparency,” “stakeholder,” “democracy,” “expertise” and of course “public” and “participation” themselves;
  • incorporating, accommodating and managing indecorous voices, deep disagreements, skepticisms and irreconcilable conflicts in public participation mechanisms;
  • exploring the affordances of new technologies and media to support public participation;
  • exploring defensible and practical mechanisms for assessing participatory processes, including by defining what “better” means in these contexts;
  • documenting connections between the public participation processes, their immediate outcomes on participants and their long-term impacts on environment, health, and communities;
  • developing sustainable institutions for public participation;
  • linking public participation activities with curricula in secondary and higher education.

Proceedings of the workshop will be published in print-on-demand and electronic formats. For consideration, submit to Jean Goodwin (goodwin@iastate.edu) by January 29, 2016:  (a) a blinded 250-500 word abstract with an additional 5-10 item bibliography, and (b) a separate cover page with complete affiliation and contact information.  Please also indicate the expected status of the work to be presented (from early overview to completed study); note that this will not affect acceptance, as we look forward to promoting dialogue among scholars at different stages.  For further information, seehttps://scicomm.las.iastate.edu/summer-symposia/2016-summer-symposium/ or contact Dara Wald (dwald@iastate.edu) or Kathleen Hunt (kphunt@iastate.edu ).

Program Planning committee: Dara Wald and Kathleen Hunt (Iowa State University) with S. Scott Graham (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee).  Organizing committee:  Michael Dahlstrom and Jean Goodwin (Iowa State University)

Written by jeangoodwin

November 17, 2015 at 7:06 am

Posted in stray remarks

New York Times: Your reporting fed McCarthyite attacks on Kevin Folta

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So, follow below the fold to find my defense of these three claims:

  1. Folta is an outstanding science communicator.
  2. He is being targeted by McCarthy-style attacks.
  3. The New York Times and the Chronicle of Higher Education failed to resist the McCarthyism.

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Written by jeangoodwin

September 10, 2015 at 7:23 pm

Posted in discourse analysis

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The cost of hidden metaphors

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The New York Times’ blog Scientists at Work is a good example of how scientists’ communication might focus on process, not results.  I’ve been enjoying the current sequence about glaciers in Bhutan;  each episode ends with a cliffhanger!

A couple of words in the most recent post jumped out at me, though.  In addition to “reconstructing the history” and “behavior” of the glacier–how it “changed in the past”–the scientist-author explained his interest in figuring out what the glacier was like when it “last maintained a robust, healthy profile.”  Healthy?

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Written by jeangoodwin

November 12, 2012 at 2:52 pm

CFP: Ethical Issues in Science Communication: A Theory-Based Approach

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Third Iowa State University Summer Symposium on Science Communication

May 30 – June 1, 2013; Ames, IA

Submission deadline: January 31, 2013

As science continues to become implicated in personal and collective decision-making, the stakes for communicating science to non-expert audiences intensify. In such an environment, a clear articulation of ethical issues arising from science communication is essential. Unfortunately, such an articulation does not yet exist. The purpose of this symposium is to bring together scholars from across disciplines whose research can contribute toward a theoretical articulation of the ethical issues surrounding the communication of science to non-expert audiences.

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Written by jeangoodwin

November 3, 2012 at 6:06 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Three little words so hard to say

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Our science communication team here at Iowa State is having fun interviewing scientists about their communication challenges, as part of our NSF funded work to develop cases for teaching responsible communication of science.

Here’s one situation that’s come up a couple of times in our talks.  A scientist is making a presentation to a public (non-specialist) audience.  She’s asked a question relevant in a general way to her topic, but outside of her immediate research area.  She remembers reading something about it, but isn’t quite sure of the answer.  What should she say?

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Written by jeangoodwin

November 3, 2012 at 2:48 pm

Posted in cases

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Listening to what can’t be said

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Judith Curry’s characterization of last week’s PBS report “Climate of Doubt” as “predictable” pretty much captures it. It takes a pretty short memory to think that in 2007 the forces of climate good were on the verge of political victory, snatched from them only by the might of the evil Koch brothers supplemented by the covert work of a host of political operatives (who, by the way, interviewed rather well). I was sorry that the counter-narrative Matt Nisbet’s group put forward in the Climate Shift report hasn’t gotten any traction.

There was one interesting moment, though:  something that wasn’t said.

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Written by jeangoodwin

October 27, 2012 at 10:04 am

Happy birthday, Climate, Etc.!

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A year ago today Judith Curry wrote her first post Climate, Etc.  We should all celebrate the fact that her blog is still more than flourishing.  She has paid consistent attention to issues of communicating science–of course, that’s likely to warm a communication theorist’s heart.  But more importantly she’s been practicing what she’s been preaching.  Comment threads on her blog are among the only places where those with various views of climate science actually talk with each other.

Why not look back and consider how Climate, Etc. has managed to construct and maintain a fragile community?  What kinds of communication practices are making the site work?  At the beginning, Curry aimed for discussions in three different styles.  Did that work out?  There’s at least one rule that didn’t:  limiting comments to 250 words!

Written by jeangoodwin

September 2, 2011 at 12:01 am

Posted in Uncategorized

“Burden of Proof” #1: Managing our own thinking

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In the discussion over at Climate Etc. a couple of weeks ago, there was a particularly clear instance of a move I see a lot–in the blogosphere, and in regular arguments:

I think most people who like science and are interested in climate science would welcome more “skeptic” arguments that meet the above criteria. It is a relief, even when disagreeing, to have some sort of a common language and set of expectations. Without that, argument is pointless, or to put it another way: The first thing you need to prove to me is that your ignorance is something that concerns me.

That’s exactly what I decline to do. The hockey stick needs no defense. Rather, you need to find some cogent explanation of why your ignorance of paleoclimate concerns me.

The writer here asserts that his position “needs no defense”;  it’s up to his opponents to produce reasons–or in other words, they have the burden of proof.

Of course, both sides can make this move.  Another writer comes back later in the discussion to assert that it’s the “hockey stick” [graph] that needs the defense:

There is no basis for discussion about AGW that starts with “the Hockey Stick is correct and unassailable”.

The true statment is  “the Hockey Stick is part of a very large con game and until the AGW side acknowledges that and apologizes, nothing they say should be believed.”   [Later:]   AGW is discredited until it confesses its fraud.

And this argumentative move–“MY position stands until YOU meet your burden of proof”–isn’t just confined to the climate debate.  Should genetically modified crops be presumed to be safe, until there is definitive evidence that they are harmful?  Or by the precautionary principle should this kind of new technology be considered dangerous, until it is shown to be safe?

To straighten out what’s happening in these moves, I want to distinguish between (a) the way people are using “burden of proof” to manage their own, personal thinking, and (b) the way they are using it to manage the debate they are having with other people.  For more on (a), proceed below;  (b) will follow in the next post.

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Written by jeangoodwin

August 29, 2011 at 12:32 am

Posted in discourse analysis

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Conference: Assessing expertise in policy controversies

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Readers of this blog may be interested in a conference we are organizing here at Iowa State University next summer;  see the conference website for full details.

Between Scientists & Citizens: Assessing Expertise In Policy Controversies

June 1-2, 2012
Iowa State University, Ames, IA

Keynote speakers:

  • Sally Jackson, Communication, University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana
  • Massimo Pigliucci, Philosophy, Lehman College, CUNY

We are increasingly dependent on advice from experts in making decisions in our personal, professional, and civic lives. But as our dependence on experts has grown, new media have broken down the institutional barriers between the technical, personal and civic realms, and we are inundated with purported science from all sides. Many share a sense that science has lost its “rightful place” in our deliberations. Grappling with this cluster of problems will require collaboration across disciplines: among rhetorical and communication theorists studying the practices and norms of public discourse, philosophers interested in the informal logic of everyday reasoning and in the theory of deliberative democracy, and science studies scholars examining the intersections between the social worlds of scientists and citizens. For this conference, we invite work on expertise in policy controversies from across the disciplines focused on argumentation, reasoning, rhetoric, communication and deliberation.

Written by jeangoodwin

August 16, 2011 at 12:17 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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