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The Sciences of Communication

Several years ago, a committee appointed by the National Academy of Sciences began working on the third edition of the book Science and Creationism. The first two editions of the book had been widely cited in legal cases, said Barbara Kline Pope, executive director for communications at the National Academies and director of the National Academies Press, in her introductory remarks. But the committee and its staff wanted the third edition to have a bigger impact. At the time, intelligent design creationism was a relatively new concept, and it was being pushed into science classrooms by vocal and well-financed groups. The committee decided that formal audience research was warranted—despite the time and cost it would add to the project—to gauge what people believe about evolution, intelligent design, and creationism.

Just as the facilitators’ guide for the focus groups was being written, Judge John Jones issued his decision in the case Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, ruling that intelligent design “cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents.” The staff working on the book thought that this message would be a “slam dunk,” said Pope. They felt that the message would resonate strongly with audiences and directed the focus group facilitators to point out that a judge had decided that intelligent design is a form of creationism and thus religion and that teaching it in science classrooms is therefore unconstitutional and illegal.

Pope was watching the live focus groups on her computer while eating dinner. “I slowly lowered my fork to my plate, and my jaw dropped with it. I saw backs seizing up and eyes getting squinty, and one guy said,



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1 The Sciences of Communication S everal years ago, a committee appointed by the National Academy of Sciences began working on the third edition of the book Science and Creationism. The first two editions of the book had been widely cited in legal cases, said Barbara Kline Pope, executive director for communica- tions at the National Academies and director of the National Academies Press, in her introductory remarks. But the committee and its staff wanted the third edition to have a bigger impact. At the time, intelligent design creationism was a relatively new concept, and it was being pushed into science classrooms by vocal and well-financed groups. The committee decided that formal audience research was warranted—despite the time and cost it would add to the project—to gauge what people believe about evolution, intelligent design, and creationism. Just as the facilitators’ guide for the focus groups was being written, Judge John Jones issued his decision in the case Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, ruling that intelligent design “cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents.” The staff working on the book thought that this message would be a “slam dunk,” said Pope. They felt that the message would resonate strongly with audiences and directed the focus group facilitators to point out that a judge had decided that intelligent design is a form of creationism and thus religion and that teaching it in science classrooms is therefore unconstitutional and illegal. Pope was watching the live focus groups on her computer while eat- ing dinner. “I slowly lowered my fork to my plate, and my jaw dropped with it. I saw backs seizing up and eyes getting squinty, and one guy said, 1

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2  /  THE SCIENCE OF SCIENCE COMMUNICATION II ‘No judge is going to tell me how to run our schools.’ I saw the rest of the participants clenching their jaws and nodding enthusiastically.” The staff was shocked at how wrong they had been, especially when a quantitative survey uncovered the same attitudes. Relying on their intu- ition about effective messages would have been “a very bad idea,” said Pope, and the third edition of Science, Evolution, and Creationism (NAS/ IOM, 2008) is a very different document than it would have been had audience research not been done. The Science of Science Communication II colloquium was similarly devoted to using the best available evidence to guide science communica- tion. The colloquium was built on the first Science of Science Communi- cation colloquium,1 but it sought to dig deeper into the methodologies, analyses, and findings of science communication research. It also featured, on the third day of the colloquium, concurrent workshops on four press- ing topics—evolution, climate change, nanotechnology, and nutrition and obesity—where researchers and practitioners could develop research- based insights on communication strategies that would have immediate application. LAY NARRATIVES AND EPISTEMOLOGIES Science communication occurs through artifacts, including language, diagrams, and other representations. These artifacts both reflect the cul- tural assumptions of their creators and reinforce different ways of seeing the world, said Douglas Medin, the Louis W. Menk Professor of Psychol- ogy at Northwestern University. Science communication, therefore, needs to pay attention both to the artifacts with which it is conducted and to the different ways people have of looking at the world. As an example of cultural differences in perspectives, Medin cited cog- nitive research comparing East Asians, typically Chinese, Japanese, and Koreans, with westerners, typically people from the United States. East Asians tend to pay more attention to background information, while west- erners attend more to focal objects. For example, when shown successive pictures that look very similar, East Asians are much better at detecting background changes, while westerners are better at detecting foreground changes. Another study found that western paintings have three to four times as much representation devoted to faces, while East Asian portraits include more background information. The same difference was reflected in the aesthetic preferences of East Asians and westerners. 1 See http://www.nasonline.org/programs/sackler-colloquia/completed_colloquia/ science-communication.html.

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THE SCIENCES OF COMMUNICATION  /  3 Native Versus European American Perspectives Medin and his colleagues at Northwestern have been involved in a collaborative research partnership with the American Indian Center of Chicago and the Menominee Nation of Wisconsin. Four thousand to five thousand Menominee, who are the oldest continuous residents of W ­ isconsin and are well known for their sustainable forestry practices, live on tribal lands in and around three small communities. Interviews with Menominee and European American parents and grandparents revealed large differences in distancing discourse. When European American par- ents and grandparents were asked about the five things they would like their children or grandchildren to learn or know about the biological world, they talked about nature as an externality. They wanted their children to respect nature and know they have a responsibility to take care of it. Native American parents and grandparents were much more likely to say that they wanted their children to understand that they are a part of nature. Another example of distancing discourse comes from depictions of ecosystems in publications by westerners. Virtually none include humans as part of the representation, suggesting that westerners generally think of themselves as outside of ecosystems. Another demonstration of differing perspectives comes from an anal- ysis of children’s books written by Native American and European Ameri- can authors. The illustrations by Native Americans tend to have closer, more personal, and more wide-angle representations. As a result, they provide more alternative perspectives. The books by European American authors were more likely to have straight-ahead perspectives at eye level. The Native American books were more likely to provide the perspec- tive of an actor in the scene by using an over-the-shoulder or embodied representation. The texts of the books also differed. Native American–authored books were more likely to mention seasonal cycles, native animals, and objects that, in a western perspective, would be part of the background. Conceptions of Nature These results parallel those from cognitive experiments on conceptions of nature. For example, when Native American and European American adults in rural Wisconsin were asked to describe the last time they went fishing, the median point at which European Americans used the word “fish” was the 27th word, whereas the median for the Native American Menominees was the 83rd word. The Native Americans were much more likely to supply context and background information—so much so that some never mentioned fish at all.

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4  /  THE SCIENCE OF SCIENCE COMMUNICATION II In another study, about 40 percent of Menominee children spontane- ously imitated or took the perspective of the animals when shown pictures containing those animals, while no European American children did so. In a set of related studies, fishing experts were asked to sort 44 local species of fish into categories that made sense to them. European Ameri- can experts tended to sort the species either in terms of taxonomic rela- tions, such as the bass family, or by goals, such as large and prestigious game fish. Menominee experts were much more likely to sort ecologically or by habitat, such as fish found in fast-moving water. However, when the groups were asked to sort the fish by habitat, the differences disap- peared, indicating that the intergroup differences involve the organiza- tion of knowledge rather than knowledge per se. In a follow-up study, Menominee experts were more likely to recognize positive reciprocal relationships among fish species, such as the reciprocal eating of spawn, fry, and small fish, while European American experts mentioned fewer relations, and those that they did mention primarily involved adult fish. Implications for Science Communication These findings have some important implications for science com- munication, Medin concluded. Distancing and outsider perspectives can undermine engagement with science. The use by researchers of terms such as “the public” also can be distancing and homogenizing. In addition, community members bring many skills to an exchange with experts. In work the collaboration has done on community-based citizen science, participants have had strong backgrounds in chemistry, hydrology, and forestry. Finally, mismatches between lay epistemologies and orientations implicit in communication may be a source of alienation, Medin said. Artifacts That Shape Perspectives The research described by Medin raises intriguing questions about the everyday artifacts that shape views of humans in nature, said Ann Bostrom, the Weyerhaeuser Endowed Professor of Environmental Policy at the University of Washington. For example, how are children’s perspec- tives shaped by what they see? And how readily can these perspectives be changed? Bostrom addressed the first question by considering several video games popular among children. In the game Knytt Underground by Nicklas “Nifflas” Nygren, children explore a natural landscape from a third-person perspective. In the game Minecraft, on the other hand, chil- dren play from a first-person perspective. Some games, such as Kerbal

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THE SCIENCES OF COMMUNICATION  /  5 Space Program, can be played from either a first-person or third-person perspective, though one perspective may be easier to play than the other, depending on the game. Other visual representations also can be either first or third person. For example, popular earthquake films can leave the viewer outside the scene by taking a third-person perspective or draw a viewer into the scene with a first-person perspective. The basic metaphor for these representations, as Stanford psycholo- gist Barbara Tversky has pointed out, is proximity, and proximity has an influence on cognitive progresses. Because humans have embodied minds and points of view, our spatial orientation affects the speed with which we process information. For example, from top to bottom is easier for us to discriminate than from side to side, because our bodily axes and asym- metry affect how we process information. With regard to artifacts, readers form mental images from texts. These images can have a variety of perspectives due largely to the abstractness of texts. Translations offer a good example. One such translation is of an ancient poem by Wang Wei entitled “Deer Park”: There seems to be no one on the empty mountain… And yet I think I hear a voice, Where sunlight, entering a grove, Shines back to me from the green moss. A more recent translation is by the poet Gary Snyder: Empty mountains: no one to be seen. Yet—hear—human sounds and echoes. Returning sunlight enters the dark woods; Again shining on the green moss, above. Changes in perspectives also characterize mental models of hazard- ous processes, Bostrom observed. For example, about 10 percent of people asked in one study about climate change said that they have direct experi- ence with climate change—for instance, through changes in the seasons. In other cases, people recruit mental models that do not depend on personal experience. Stories create meaning, Bostrom concluded. They make causality con- crete and close. But can stories alone enable readers to shift fluently between points of view? The broad environmental expertise of the Menominee may enable them to shift fluently between perspectives, as well as to better distinguish between correlation and causation. But the question of which artifacts matter for science communication remains largely unanswered.

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6  /  THE SCIENCE OF SCIENCE COMMUNICATION II Multiple Representations of Knowledge Multiple representations of knowledge are also an important con- sideration in science education, said Kevin Dunbar, professor of human development and quantitative methodology at the University of Maryland in College Park. In the past, science education has been oriented toward filling students with facts that they can repeat back on tests. More recently, education has emphasized the construction of knowledge at a social as well as an individual level. By having students pose questions on nature, they are expected to learn through discussion. Students also learn by con- fronting their naïve conceptions with the results of classroom experiments. However, what if multiple valid epistemologies exist, Dunbar asked. Similarly, if different cultures have different views of science, is the result different sciences? For example, do different Native American nations have different epistemologies, and if they do, should the differences be reconciled or should those differences be used to communicate science? Dunbar has worked as a consultant on the Trail of Time in the Grand Canyon. At least 12 American Indian tribes think of the Grand Canyon as their homeland, and these tribes can have different epistemologies related to time. How can these differences be presented in positive way rather than one group being wrong and one being right? This is a major goal of science communication, said Dunbar—to deal with differences in a constructive way. Finally, Dunbar mentioned ongoing research into how culture changes the brain. For example, are epigenetic changes a mechanism for the embodi- ment of cultural knowledge? Studies looking at epigenetic changes fol- lowing educational interventions have been “very suggestive,” but much more work needs to be done to know whether biology can inform science education. Multiple Cultures in Science A prominent topic of discussion during the question-and-answer period was the influence of multiple cultures on science. As Medin pointed out, the way that science gets done depends on the cultures of the people who are doing it, and multiple approaches to science make for strong science. This is a strong argument, he said, for diversity in research teams and in science education. For example, Medin’s collaboration had a diverse research team to approach problems from multiple perspectives. However, attracting diverse groups to science can be difficult, Medin added. Unlike medicine, which often reflects the deepest values of medical students, the study of science often does not always allow students to express their deepest values. As another example of the value of multiple perspectives, Medin cited research in primatology, which has made progress both from a western

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THE SCIENCES OF COMMUNICATION  /  7 orientation that sees researchers as distant from nature and from an east- ern perspective that sees researchers as part of nature. Dunbar pointed to the differences in culture between U.S. molecular biology laboratories, which tend to be inductive, and Italian laboratories, which are much more deductive, even though the laboratories produce papers that are very similar and are published in the same journals. The presenters also discussed alternatives to the term “the public,” given the diversity of audiences that science communicators would like to reach. Bostrom suggested using the names of professions, the groups with which people are involved, the communities of which they are members, the roles they play in relation to the use of science, or the technologies they use. Discussion also revolved around the extent to which perceptions shaped by culture can be changed. Medin pointed out that cultural arti- facts can have causal force. For example, presenting Americans with typical Japanese scenes can lead the American participants to become relatively better at detecting background changes, though perceptions are probably both chronic and flexible, he said. Bostrom observed that perceptions are reinforced by the roles people take in the world, which tend to reinforce both their cultural positions and their ways of thinking about the world. Yet psychology research shows that people’s views often depend on context as well. Medin pointed out that there are hundreds of federally recognized Native American tribes, and so results from one tribe cannot generalize to all, and great diversity exists even within a single culture. As Bostrom added, even with professional groups such as hurricane forecasters and emergency responders, differences in the mental models within a group are larger within the differences among groups. MOTIVATED AUDIENCES: BELIEF AND ATTITUDE FORMATION ABOUT SCIENCE TOPICS Audiences’ motivations as human beings affect how they interpret science communications, observed Susan Fiske, Eugene Higgins Professor, Psychology and Public Affairs, at Princeton University. With climate change communications, for example, people who pay more attention to politics in the news have perceptions polarized away from those of people who pay more attention to scientific and environmental stories in the news. Furthermore, over time the amount of skepticism about climate change has increased, despite the increasing scientific consensus on the role of human beings in the changing climate. And to the extent that information about climate change is getting through, members of the

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8  /  THE SCIENCE OF SCIENCE COMMUNICATION II public are getting more alarmed, which is not necessarily the message that policy makers or scientists wish to convey. The first step in reconciling differences between scientific and pub- lic perspectives is to recognize that scientists are not the sole source of valid information, Fiske said. The second step is to recognize that both cognition and emotions, or affect, influence perceptions and interpreta- tions. Together, cognition and emotions create motivation, and persuasion works best when both factors are taken into account. People are not idiots, Fiske said. The public now knows more about climate change than in the past, and it generally can distinguish science from nonscience. Some have a classical view that science yields a single true picture of the world, while some have a more modern view that science can produce multiple answers that have to be negotiated and debated. The Credibility of Communicators To be credible, communicators need both expertise and trust, Fiske said. If someone is seen as an expert on a topic, other people tend either to agree with that person or at least think about a message. But communica- tors also need to be trusted to be effective, which means that they need to be seen as having a motivation to be truthful and accurate. Trust has been a largely neglected topic in the science of science communication. In general, people trust those who they think are like t ­hemselves. People who belong to a group have a shared reality and a motivation to share understandings. “This is human nature,” explained Fiske. “People trust people who they think share their values [and] goals. . . . This is a core insight within social and behavioral science.” Group membership provides a sense of control over one’s environment and circumstances. It also enhances feelings of self-worth. Thus, both cognitive and affective factors affect trust. Warmth and Competence Fiske and her colleagues have developed a framework for understand- ing the social and cultural landscape of groups. The first question people ask, in identifying whom to trust, is whether a person is friend or foe. If a person is seen as being on the same side or sharing the same values, they are seen as trustworthy and warm. The second question people ask is whether the other can act on their own intentions. In other words, is the other person competent so that their acting on those intentions will produce a desired (or undesired) outcome?

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THE SCIENCES OF COMMUNICATION  /  9 The combination of warmth and competence produces a two-dimen- sional space that people use to interpret communications. For example, according to research by Fiske and colleagues that was under review at the time of the colloquium, polling data from more than 30 countries demonstrate that the middle class, white people, and blue-collar people are seen as high in both warmth and competence. Poor people and teens are seen as being neither warm nor competent—and the results for poor people are true all over the world, said Fiske. Children and old people are seen as being well intentioned but not very competent, while rich people are seen as competent but not warm, again all over the world. Fiske noted that responses to people in the four quadrants of this two- dimensional graph fall into four emotional categories. Cold and incom- petent people tend to be treated with disgust, warm and incompetent people with pity, competent and cold people with envy, and competent and warm people with pride. According to pilot data collected online, when professionals are assessed against the dimensions of warmth and competence, research- ers and scientists are seen as competent but cold, while professors and teachers are seen as both competent and warm—though not as competent and warm as doctors and nurses. When asked about the emotions felt toward these groups, researchers and scientists, in keeping with their position in the two-dimensional space, were more often the subjects of envy. People cooperate with envied groups because they have needed resources, including knowledge. But these groups can be attacked in times of instability, which creates a dangerous ambivalence. Envy implies that “you have things that I respect and I’d like to have, and I’d like to take them away from you,” Fiske said. Cold competence also can create resentment. For example, envied groups can be the object of Schadenfreude—the sense of pleasure at someone else’s misfortune. When electrodes are connected to people’s facial muscles, images of someone from an envied group getting his or her comeuppance often generate smiles. “When a guy in an Armani suit gets splashed by a taxicab or sits in gum on a park bench, people smile. They can’t help it.” Increasing Warmth People tend to believe that scientists and researchers are competent but do not trust their intentions. For example, when asked about the intentions of climate scientists, some answered that scientists might lie with statistics, complicate simple stories, feel themselves superior to non- scientists, pursue a liberal agenda, or provoke and hurt big corporations.

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10  /  THE SCIENCE OF SCIENCE COMMUNICATION II The most common answer is that scientists might slant research to get research funding. “That’s our Achilles heel,” said Fiske. Public perceptions of science and scientists are more polarized today than they have been in the past. For example, even the proposal to name a science laureate for the United States has encountered political resistance. Opponents felt that a science laureate would have a pulpit to talk about values rather than science and disseminate a political agenda. The news is not all bad, Fiske continued. Scientists gain a measure of trust because they are seen as interested in educating the public, preserv- ing the environment, and saving humanity. People respect the educational mission of scientists and researchers in the same way they do those of teachers and professors. People also tend to trust an impartial agenda and not trust a persuasive agenda, which argues for separating science communications from the policy implications of those communications. Scientists would be more trusted if they emphasized deliberation rather than persuasion, Fiske said. Scientists need to respect the intel- ligence of their audiences. They need to convey information and resist issuing policy conclusions unless they clearly label such conclusions as their own opinions. One way to warm up scientists would be to emphasize their service to the public through forums such as the National Academy of Sciences, Fiske emphasized. The teaching role of scientists also generates positive reactions among members of the public. Similarly, letting people know why someone went into science, and having a diversity of people work- ing in the sciences, can increase trust. By clearly expressing motivation, scientists can establish credibility and not be treated simply through stereotypes. Though the incentive structure in U.S. universities remains oriented toward research, teaching in universities, through its influence on the next generation of managers and policy makers, can improve the public’s trust of the scientific community. Influences on Perception Craig Fox, Ho-Su Term Chair in Management at the UCLA Anderson School of Management, elaborated on the unconscious allure of in-group positions and the polarized political environment that tends to drive people’s perceptions apart. In one experiment, people were asked what their political affiliation was, after which they were asked whether they wanted to invest in a conservative, moderately conservative, moderately risk-tolerant, or risk-tolerant investment portfolio. People who identified as Republicans were attracted to the conservative option, while Demo- crats were attracted to the more risk-tolerant options. However, when they were asked about the investment decision first, Republicans and

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THE SCIENCES OF COMMUNICATION  /  11 Democrats tended to choose the low-risk options with relatively equal frequencies. Choices also tend to be supported by an illusion of understanding, Fox observed. People are overconfident in how well they understand how everyday objects, such as toilets or ballpoint pens, work. But when they are asked to explain in detail how such an object works, they realize that the mechanisms are more complicated and lower their self-assessed understanding of an object. The same effect applies with public policies. For instance, when the Supreme Court upheld most of the provisions of the Affordable Care Act in 2012, more than three-quarters of Americans in a Pew poll expressed a perspective on whether they supported or opposed the ruling. However, barely half of them could correctly identify what that decision was. In another experiment, Fox and his colleagues presented individuals in an online sample with several policy issues—for instance, a cap-and-trade policy to curtail carbon dioxide emissions or a national flat tax. Respon- dents gave their positions and their level of understanding of the issue, after which they were asked either to give the reasons for their beliefs or to explain how the policy would have the desired effect. People who had to explain how a policy works subsequently rated their understand- ing of the issue as lower. They also described themselves as less likely to contribute to advocacy causes, especially those who were most extreme in their views. Self-assessed understanding of scientific issues displays the same pattern. When people were asked to explain how carbon emissions affect climate change, they later rated themselves as having less understanding of the issue and more moderate positions—an effect not seen when they were asked just for the reasons for their beliefs. However, people whose illusion of understanding had been punctured were also less willing to support further research on the topic. “That’s something we need to look at,” said Fox. Overweighting Marginal Views Even on scientific topics surrounded by considerable consensus, such as climate change, low-probability events tend to be overweighted in making decisions, Fox observed. For example, if people are told that 10 percent of scientists believe x, many interpret this statement as mean- ing that x could be true or false, even though the position is held by only 10 percent of scientists. However, if people are led through the response of each scientist one by one—so this scientists believes x, this scientists believes x, this scientist does not believe x, this scientists believes x, and so on—they become more sensitive to the actual probabilities.

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24  /  THE SCIENCE OF SCIENCE COMMUNICATION II about friends of theirs who had voted. Leveraging such interactions poses both opportunities and risks for science communication, Milkman said. Risks Posed by Social Media As an example of the risks posed by social media, Milkman noted that social networking technologies can support herding, where people associate only with like-minded compatriots. On the flip side, herding may be used for constructive purposes. Technologies make it possible to track, for example, a snowball effect taking place on the web, so if a video has gone viral and is communicating misinformation, people can take countervailing steps to counter it. As another example of possible risks, Milkman pointed out that efforts to help someone within a network can hurt someone who does not have as strong a connection to the network. For example, women and minori- ties who do not have the same strong network connections as men or majority populations are less likely to receive the same recommendations and favors. The Future of Social Media In the past, new communication media such as radio, the telephone, and television, each of which had sweeping effects on society, took a couple of decades to develop and deploy at scale, said Deb Roy, a tenured professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and chief media scientist at Twitter. Today, the convergence of communication media and computers has made it possible to develop new communication mechanisms within weeks. Once an idea has been developed, software can quickly be written for hardware that already exists. The development of communication platforms has gone from what Roy called a solid phase to a liquid phase. In such circumstances, envisioning the state of communication media 5 to 10 years from now is much more difficult than it was in the past. Cul- tural adaptation, as much as technological capability, is what determines which communication platforms spread and how fast they do so. Changes in the Culture In response to a question from a participant about the factors that keep scientists from using new media, Roy responded that the 140-character limit to tweets is not a serious limit, because people can always tweet again. But it is a format that works well for some kinds of communica-

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THE SCIENCES OF COMMUNICATION  /  25 tions and not for others, he said. For example, tweets can point to new scientific papers, intriguing observations, and other points of interest. As another example, the Sackler colloquium itself generated a healthy stream of tweets, Roy noted. When one of these is retweeted, it can end up in the timeline of someone unaware that the colloquium was occurring. The result is an ad hoc dynamic social network that can amplify messages and create long-lasting links. New media may initially be seen as lightweight or trivial, but they evolve over time, Roy said. Today, scientists are using new media suc- cessfully, and new uses will continually be discovered. Contractor added that the culture has changed in institutions in the past few years, and people who know how to use these tools and use them effectively are now being rewarded. For example, more portfolios submitted to tenure and promotion committees include metrics involving new media. Among younger students and graduate students, many are adept users of Twitter and other new media. Media Adaptation Contractor also noted that when a new communication medium is developed, people tend to think that it will democratize access and bring back the public square. But history often indicates otherwise. For example, new media can help people connect more strongly with others like them- selves, creating echo chambers for opinions. Even in science communica- tion, new media can create an interest in talking with like-minded others. In such cases, research can point to people who can serve as bridges or brokers between groups. Network dynamics also can vary from place to place, Contractor said. People in India use Twitter and Facebook frequently, but not for profes- sional work. Most companies in China frown on their employees using LinkedIn because it indicates that an employee is looking for a job. Distinct norms emerge in different places and evolve over time. Contractor added that when a new medium is developed, the existing media need to adapt if they are not to be displaced. Radio replaced the newspaper as the main place where people got their news, and radio in turn was replaced by television as the major means of news dissemina- tion. As the communication ecosystem continues to explode, all media will need to adapt to continuing change. Furthermore, many communica- tion media remain in what some have called permanent beta, where they continue to change and evolve.

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26  /  THE SCIENCE OF SCIENCE COMMUNICATION II Don’t Believe Everything You Read on the Web During a follow-up conversation on the risks posed by new commu- nication technologies, Contractor pointed out that echo chambers have a natural tendency to form in new networks. Research may suggest ways to open up the dialogue, even if doing so would push people out of their comfort zone. Contractor also observed that new media make it possible to target specific audiences with specific messages to accomplish a common good, even though people are reached in different ways. Roy agreed that it is easier to deliver a specific message to targeted groups, but this can make it difficult to reach large numbers of people because it is hard to differentiate messages for so many different groups. As another potential risk of new media, Contractor pointed to the “dark web,” where people can mobilize using new media without being publicly visible. Even Facebook has secret pages that invite large numbers of people by invitation only. Roy acknowledged the risk of misinformation spreading through new technologies. Information on the web can be difficult to trace back to its source, reducing certainty about the veracity of that information. Better education and better tools are needed to help people make sense of what they encounter through social media. As Contractor reminded the partici- pants, a useful reminder is the quotation “Don’t believe everything you read on the web.—Abraham Lincoln.” Measures of Success Regarding metrics of success, the particular people being reached may be more important than the absolute number, said Roy. In addition, the content of the messages that flow through a network can be used to measure the effectiveness of dissemination. Tools are being built to assess who is reached, Contractor observed, but they are in their early stages. For example, two people with the same followers do not necessarily increase the distribution of a message as much as two people with different followers. Similarly, if a person’s followers have many followers themselves, that person may be a more effective disseminator of a message. SCIENCE COMMUNICATION AS POLITICAL COMMUNICATION Science is encountering politics more and more often, and the trend will not change anytime soon, said Dietram Scheufele, John E. Rose Professor in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences at the Univer- sity of Wisconsin-Madison. The societal applications of modern science

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THE SCIENCES OF COMMUNICATION  /  27 are inherently political issues, whether the issue is stem cells, climate change, obesity, or synthetic biology. This is the case despite the fact that many members of the public know relatively little about these issues. For example, when a sample of the public was asked whether it was true or false that the Obama administration had recently banned all research on synthetic biology, about a third were able to provide the correct answer, 12 percent thought it was true, and 55 percent did not know. An idealized model of society holds that events occurring in the arenas of politics, science, economics, or other societal domains have a direct influence on perceptions of reality and public opinion. But very few people can observe these events directly, Scheufele noted. Most percep- tions of reality are mediated, usually through the media. The informa- tion transmitted through the media is in turn selected through a process known as agenda building in which people negotiate the content of media messages. For example, corporations work to push certain content, while scientists and their institutions write press releases to get their stories covered. In this negotiation, science is only one of many voices in society. Research has shown that media coverage of particular science issues increases when politics become involved in the issue, and media cover- age spikes when an issue becomes controversial. Thus, science tends to get covered by the media when politics become involved. Furthermore, people tend to remember and use information that they get from the media—a phenomenon known as media priming. If an issue is ignored by the media or by the people the media is covering, it will not become salient in public perceptions. Framing Information derived from science is often ambiguous, Scheufele observed. Carbon nanotubes may cause cancer because they behave similarly to asbestos fibers, but carbon nanotubes are also important components of many types of materials and equipment that may allow for the early detection of cancer. For a lay audience with no training in nanotechnology, this is an ambiguous stimulus that could be interpreted one way or the other. All perception depends on the context, especially for ambiguous stim- uli. The framing of information therefore shapes how people think about that information. Sometimes framing has a partisan motivation, but in most cases it is simply a tool for information processing to help people determine why an issue is important and how to think about it. Framing reduces ambiguity by contextualizing information, and it is most success- ful if it resonates with an underlying schema.

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28  /  THE SCIENCE OF SCIENCE COMMUNICATION II There is no such thing as an unframed message, Scheufele said. Even in an entirely professional setting, such as a scientist’s grant proposal to the National Science Foundation (NSF), the use of framing is inevitable. Making Sense of Science Researchers have developed several models of how public opinion is formed, both at the individual level and at the societal level. For example, the expression of opinions can vary depending on individual character- istics. Males are more likely to speak out in controversial situations than females, and young people are more likely to speak out than older ones. But expressing opinions also depends on the social environment. If a particular opinion is not favored in a society, then people are less likely to express that opinion, which in turn leads other people not to express that opinion. The result is a spiraling process in which particular opinions can become dominant because people in the minority are much less likely to express their views. Social norms campaigns use the same logic to shape opinions. For example, when hotel guests see a sign saying “75 percent of the guests who stayed in this room reused towels,” they are more likely to reuse their towels than if they see a sign saying simply “75 percent of guests reused towels” or “You can show your respect for nature and help save the environment by reusing your towels.” Motivated Reasoning People process information based on their beliefs, identities, and ideologies. Studies of this process of motivated reasoning are not new but have seen a recent renaissance, said Scheufele. Motivated reasoning functions both through selective exposure to information and through the interpretation of that information. When people firmly believe something, they are more likely to seek out new information that conforms with that belief. They also are more likely to question information that does not fit with that belief. However, today’s targeted media environment is making it more difficult to be exposed to debates and the other side of the issue. Even newspapers soon could be customized to give people only informa- tion they want. Ambivalence about a topic makes if more likely that people will engage in both sides of an argument. Also, if people are in groups that disagree with them so that they have to justify their opinions, they are more likely to process information carefully. As a final example of this research, Scheufele pointed to work in politi- cal communication on why having a heterogeneous network that exposes

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THE SCIENCES OF COMMUNICATION  /  29 a person to different opinions is correlated with having more factual politi- cal knowledge and greater public participation. “Disagreement is good for us for a whole variety of reasons and actually forces us to think through some of these things more carefully.” Next Steps Separating the social context from the science is critical for the scien- tific endeavor but is dysfunctional for science communication, Scheufele noted in closing. Whether scientists like it or not, new science will be debated in a complex media environment where individual predisposi- tions and societal expectations loom large. In such an environment, systematic efforts are needed to increase citizens’ ability to find scientific information in increasingly fragmented media environments, connect science to their daily lives, and process information accurately. It is not just about getting information to citi- zens but about helping them get it right, Scheufele said. There are no easy answers for how to do all of these things, but the questions can be addressed through empirical research. Problems with Science Communication Research Science communication research is not necessarily a cumulative sci- entific enterprise that gives practical guidance on difficult issues, said Patrick Sturgis, professor of research methodology from the University of Southampton. It is better characterized as a loose assemblage of interdis- ciplinary frameworks and approaches. As a result, it will not necessarily provide easy off-the-shelf solutions to the long-term problems of science communication. Sturgis described several of the key problems associated with science communication. One problem is that small variations in the wording of questions make big differences in the answers obtained. The wording of questions can shift apparent public opinion from a minority to a majority position, which is “worrying if what we think we’re doing is measuring something real and concrete.” Another problem is that people are willing to provide opinions on nonexistent issues. Polls demonstrate that many Americans are in favor of the monetary control bill, the agricultural trade act, and so on, but these pieces of legislation do not actually exist. In Britain, people were even more strongly in favor of nonexistent bits of legislation, Sturgis noted. If people are willing to offer opinions about nonexistent issues, it must lead to questions about the robustness of opinions measured on genuine questions of public policy.

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30  /  THE SCIENCE OF SCIENCE COMMUNICATION II There, problems are particularly acute in the area of science and technology because many people have heard little or nothing about key areas of research and application. A 2012 Wellcome Trust survey of adults in Britain, for example, found that over half of the population had never heard of the term human genome. Science communication research has a valuable space in describing the shape of public understanding and preferences, but it is on shakier ground when it comes to explanatory accounts. Because most data are observational and nonexperimental, multiple accounts of how they arose are often equally plausible. For example, accounts of motivated reason- ing can be equally well explained through an “enlightened preference” framework. A recent study found that greater knowledge about genetics does not necessarily lead to greater approval of the use of genetically modified crops. It does for people on the left of the political spectrum, but for people on the right side, greater knowledge leads to less approval for the use of such crops. This can be interpreted as a case of enlight- ened preference rather than motivated reasoning, in which an increase of knowledge enables people to connect their core values to their policy preferences. More generally, it points to the difficulty in making causal inferences from observational data. Despite this somewhat pessimistic perspective for the ability of sci- ence communication to deliver, Sturgis concluded by pointing to the “huge amount of benefit” that can be derived from the interdisciplinary field of science communication. However, social scientists need to avoid overpromising what the field can deliver, a trap that bench scientists are often accused of falling into themselves. They also need to avoid the implicit promise that they can provide insights that will enable scientists to get the public on their side for the latest favored technology. Microtargeting and Counterframing Kathleen Hall Jamieson, Elizabeth Ware Packard Professor of Com- munication at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication, made four points in commenting on Scheufele’s presenta- tion. First, microtargeting—repeating a tailored message through multiple channels, including social media channels, to a small target audience—is becoming increasingly common. For example, during the 2012 presiden- tial campaign, Republicans targeted groups in coal states to receive tar- geted messages about “the Obama war on coal.” This approach can have a powerful influence on targeted groups by creating coherent arguments and supporting strands of evidence. At the same time, microtargeting works against the kinds of exchanges across ideology or perspectives that can expose people to new information. For example, microtargeting

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THE SCIENCES OF COMMUNICATION  /  31 strategies rarely raise the microtargeted message to a higher level because doing so would make it susceptible of being identified as inconsistent. The second point Jamieson made is that presidential debates, in con- trast to microtargeting, function well in American society by helping people learn about the candidates and issues. They feature both sides of the campaign and are watched by large numbers of people. As a result, they promote postdebate discussions that at least have the potential to intersect with non-like-minded networks. Even if they may not be per- suaded, people are at least going to hear the other side. The success of presidential debates prompts the question of how to create more mass exposure experiences featuring exchanges about the things that matter to public policy. Jamieson’s third point is that framing does not have much of an influence when counterframing also exists. Most experiments that show framing to be powerful do not include counterframing. Where counter- framing exists, as in highly partisan media environments with high levels of microtargeting, framing’s influence is reduced. Jamieson’s fourth point involved the credence given to minorities that resist majority opinions. Historical examples such as Galileo indicate that minority resistors can be correct. As a result, when people argue aggres- sively and persistently for a position, they tend to be taken seriously. Changes Due to Social Media The potential of social media to change science communication was a prominent topic of discussion during the question-and-answer period. Scheufele said that social media and other online media can give scien- tists a voice they have not had before by enabling them to present issues in the ways that they desire. But messages disseminated through social media can have a widespread effect only if they can take advantage of a multiplier effect. Jamieson added that the linking and alerting functions of social media potentially can be used to motivate individuals to gain deeper knowledge about an issue, including greater ability to argue and counterargue an issue. This is a very rich area for scholarly pursuit, she said. Sturgis, however, was pessimistic about social media’s ability to bet- ter connect scientists to parts of the public that are not usually reached. People select into social media channels, and if they are not interested in information they tend to be put off by it. Social media have extraordinary potential for communication among scientists, “but I very strongly doubt that it will open up a new channel of unmediated communication between scientists and lay public,” he said. Sturgis also noted that the entire public,

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32  /  THE SCIENCE OF SCIENCE COMMUNICATION II not just the users of social media, need a voice on matters that are conse- quential for public policy. Social media opinions are not proxies for public opinion, Scheufele agreed. But social media can point to emerging themes, which in turn can suggest ways to start conversations and promote engagement. From Mass to Micro Media In many ways, said Scheufele, the idea of a mass medium is declining. The media environment is much more diverse than in the past, and people have much more access to this diverse environment. The problem is that people do not have a motivation to seek out information that does not accord with their preconceptions. Even on social networking sites, people are far more likely to have friends with similar views than different views. But Jamieson countered that the mass media era is not yet over. Even if a transition is under way to other sources of information, much of the information on the Internet originates in a mass media channel of some sort. With any medium, people need to be able to engage in a search for accuracy, Scheufele observed. Part of the motivation for this search comes from being socially accountable. Part comes from a willingness to acquire information from heterogeneous networks. Rather than providing more information to counter misinformation, can people be taught how to make a more effective cognitive investment in assessing the accuracy of informa- tion, so that they can make more enlightened choices even if they do not fully understand an issue? The Limits of Public Opinion Polls During the question-and-answer session, Jamieson also discussed some of the problems with polls of public opinion. They often force people to make choices when in fact their opinions are unformed. The survey research system needs to spend more time figuring out what people actu- ally know, which would indicate what they need to learn to enter into a discussion. Reporters used to report polls very uncritically, Jamieson pointed out. Now their stories often include such information as margins of error, response rates, and the existence of framing effects. This is an exam- ple of how the education of journalists can help protect the integrity of journalism.

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THE SCIENCES OF COMMUNICATION  /  33 LESSONS LEARNED Fischhoff concluded the first day of the colloquium by identifying four points that he considered the highlights of the day. First, the science of science communication has ways of better under- standing other people. Social scientists have produced tools to learn about individual interactions. These tools make it possible to avoid thinking that public opinion is refractory to any sort of external criticism. As Susan Fiske said earlier in the day, Fischhoff noted, people are not idiots. The science of science communication can help figure out what they are thinking and doing. In the process, scientists and science communicators can reflect on themselves and broaden their own perspectives. Second, science communications can be improved. Even though there are no magic bullets, a base of knowledge exists that scientists and science communicators can use to avoid things known not to work and to use approaches that have a better chance of working. Outcomes then can be monitored to increase the rate of success. Third, changes in social and intellectual organizations are needed to improve science communications. For example, integrated multidisci- plinary teams are needed so that people can work together on complex multidisciplinary problems, which will require that institutions support scientists to do this kind of work. Finally, scientists and science communicators themselves need to be willing to create the new forms of interaction needed to solve the problems they face. They need to engage in the kinds of research that will bring dis- ciplines together and avoid fragmented and potentially misleading efforts.

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