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Science in a Time of Controversy

Scientists often struggle to communicate their work, said Ralph Cicerone, president of the National Academy of Sciences, in his introductory remarks on the second day of the Arthur M. Sackler colloquium on The Science of Science Communication II. Even clear descriptions of evidence based on careful experiments, observations, or calculations do not always get through to many audiences. As a result, scientists have realized that they need to learn new ways of communicating scientific information to nonscientists.

In recent years the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council have grown increasingly concerned about the communication of science-related issues to the public. As a consequence, the institutions have been inviting social scientists to meetings to learn more about the challenges of science communication. The institutions have learned about how people form beliefs and attitudes and why scientists sometimes get caught in the middle of political, economic, or moral disputes. They have learned about the economic and social factors that can shape science communications and about the potential of social networks. Those interactions led to a more systematic engagement when the Academy hosted the first Sackler colloquium on the Science of Science Communication in May 2012.

Like the first colloquium, the second was designed to push people in “uncomfortable ways,” said Cicerone. Social scientists were asked to bridge the gap from their controlled studies to the complex world in which communication actually takes place. Science communicators were asked to



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2 Science in a Time of Controversy S cientists often struggle to communicate their work, said Ralph Cicerone, president of the National Academy of Sciences, in his introductory remarks on the second day of the Arthur M. ­ ackler S colloquium on The Science of Science Communication II. Even clear descriptions of evidence based on careful experiments, observations, or calculations do not always get through to many audiences. As a result, scientists have realized that they need to learn new ways of communicat- ing scientific information to nonscientists. In recent years the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council have grown increasingly concerned about the communication of science- related issues to the public. As a consequence, the institutions have been inviting social scientists to meetings to learn more about the challenges of science communication. The institutions have learned about how people form beliefs and attitudes and why scientists sometimes get caught in the middle of political, economic, or moral disputes. They have learned about the economic and social factors that can shape science communications and about the potential of social networks. Those interactions led to a more systematic engagement when the Academy hosted the first Sackler colloquium on the Science of Science Communication in May 2012. Like the first colloquium, the second was designed to push people in “uncomfortable ways,” said Cicerone. Social scientists were asked to bridge the gap from their controlled studies to the complex world in which communication actually takes place. Science communicators were asked to 35

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36  /  THE SCIENCE OF SCIENCE COMMUNICATION II augment their own professional judgment with scientific evidence about how they communicate. Subject-matter experts were asked to listen both to social scientists and to practitioners while making certain that they get the facts right. The object of the colloquium was to foster innovative thinking and fruitful new collaborations through interactions that would not have occurred otherwise. RESPONDING TO THE ATTACK ON THE BEST AVAILABLE EVIDENCE Kathleen Hall Jamieson, Elizabeth Ware Packard Professor of Com- munication at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication, began her keynote address on the second day of the colloquium by looking at two broad communities that are involved in science communication. The scientific community is part of an expert or elite community responsible for knowledge generation. This community also includes institutional entities such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Con- gressional Budget Office that use the best available methods to generate knowledge, internally critique their methods to improve them, and police what it is that they communicate. This community seeks to make sure that it does the best it can to communicate what is knowable with the best avail- able evidence. It usually does not achieve complete certainty, but it also seeks to communicate the levels of uncertainty associated with knowledge. Journalists are part of a community that does not generate knowl- edge; rather, it uncovers and transfers knowledge that already exists. Journalism, too, is responsible for being transparent, for disclosing how it does what it does, and for policing itself. When it makes mistakes, the journalistic community, like the scholarly community, is expected to cor- rect the record. Both communities, when they perform their functions well, inform the policy-making community. In the process, they are able to hold the policy-making community accountable for its actions in relationship to the knowable. This model is not a completely accurate description of reality, Jamieson acknowledged, but it provides a framework for analysis and discussion. Correcting Mistakes The expert community’s policing process requires that the public understand how it knows what it knows. When the expert community cer- tifies that it knows something, the public should be confident that it does.

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SCIENCE IN A TIME OF CONTROVERSY  /  37 Sometimes the scientific community gets something wrong. For exam- ple, the peer-reviewed 1998 article by Andrew Wakefield that associated vaccination in children with a pervasive developmental disorder was a highly consequential case in which peer review failed and the expert com- munity communicated something that it should not have communicated. The journalistic community also was at fault in this case by not uncovering the overall scientific consensus. Most journalists ran with the story, but one journalist began to investigate improprieties in the research that eventu- ally led to its being discredited. When the scientific community learned of flaws in the evidentiary chain, it retracted the article. In this case, both communities eventually acted as they should have. People were still hurt, but fewer people were hurt than would have been if the two communities had not eventually maintained their standards of self-correction. One problem with self-correction is that it can fan the suspicions of those who believe that these communities are inept, duplicitous, or par- tisan, Jamieson observed. To prevent such suspicions from undermining the integrity of these communities, they need to frame the correction in such a way that the public understands that these communities are act- ing as they should. If corrections were common, the functioning of the communities could be questioned, but most of the time they get most of what they do right. Some percentage of the population will never be persuaded on particular points, Jamieson acknowledged. But democratic systems have mechanisms to decide when sufficient numbers of voters agree to take action. Factors that Undermine Credibility However, this model of knowledge generation and dissemination can be undermined, Jamieson continued. First, the custodians of knowledge can be challenged. For example, nonpartisan institutions such as the Congressional Budget Office can be attacked as not using the best available evidence and methods but instead articulating a partisan position. Similarly, politicians may attack journal- ists as partisan when reporting infringes on their ability to construct a reality for the electorate. Second, individuals have a tendency to see evidence through a parti- san filter. When a partisan perspective is applied, evidence may be used in a partial fashion, not in a way that represents the best use of all the available evidence. Effectively responding to such attacks on the use of the best available evidence requires acknowledging the two personae functioning in every communication, said Jamieson. The first is the communicator; the second

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38  /  THE SCIENCE OF SCIENCE COMMUNICATION II is the intended audience. Both have obligations that they bring to any exchange. The scientific community needs to be credible, impartial, and respect- ful. Polemics are outside the engagement process that is appropriate either for journalists or for the expert community. The scientific commu- nity therefore needs to view its audience as intelligent, thoughtful, and worthy of engagement. Scientists do not have the responsibility to make policy decisions, but science has the potential to establish a context within which people can decide to act. It can lay out the consequences of doing something and the mechanisms that produce those consequences. In this way, it can enable people to make decisions based on the best knowledge backed by the best available evidence. The scientific community also needs to find common ground with the audience it is trying to reach. Effective communication is built on shared premises or assumptions. An audience has to invest meaning in a com- municative exchange. This meaning exists at the intersection of a text, a context, and a receiving audience. Finally, scientists need to try to share knowledge, not impose it. They can inoculate against opposing claims by explaining what is known and what is not known. The Attributes of Science Communications The integrity of all evidence needs to be rigorously scrutinized. But science communication also needs a way to convey the existence of a consensus, Jamieson observed. Communications can emphasize that the experts who have formed the consensus have been right in the past. They need to employ a voice that is credible, impartial, and trustworthy. They need to communicate that scientists care about this issue and problem but also that they care about the integrity of their methods and in provid- ing information that is as accurate as possible given the existing state of knowledge. Sources of funding need to be disclosed so that people can judge the effect that a funding source might have on the credibility of scientific results. Journalists also have a responsibility of determining when a consensus does not exist. When journalists do not scrutinize the available evidence, they run the risk of conveying misinformation. Journalists can err both by failing to report on consensus and by assuming a consensus that does not in fact exist. Besides conveying the presence or absence of consensus, science com- munications need to be nonpartisan, so that they can counter partisan filters. They need to provide a construction of reality that lets people

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SCIENCE IN A TIME OF CONTROVERSY  /  39 understand what is known and how it is known. And science communica- tions need to use a voice that conveys respect for the audience. Rewriting Headlines Jamieson used several examples to illustrate her points, one of which involved the following 2013 headline from the New York Times: “Arctic Ice Makes Comeback from Record Low, but Long-Term Decline May Continue” This headline frames the issues discussed in the article in a highly mislead- ing way, Jamieson contended. It fails to point out that the long-term trend in Arctic sea ice has been steadily downward. It cites further declines as possible but uncertain. As Jamieson said, an asteroid “may” destroy the National Academy of Sciences building, but it is highly unlikely. On the Fox News website, this news was framed as follows: “Arctic sea ice up 60 percent in 2013” The article went on to note that the increase is “a dramatic deviation from predictions of ‘an ice-free Arctic in 2013.’” The article also said, “The surge in Arctic ice is a dramatic change from last year’s record-setting lows, which fueled dire predictions of an imminent ice-free summer.” However, the article also cited data from the National Snow and Ice Data Center of Boulder, Colorado, showing the overall trendline in sea ice as going down. This point of common ground can be used to forward, deeply and respectfully, an alternative argument—that the amount of sea ice has been declining over time. Furthermore, this argument can be supported by visual demonstrations and additional data to reinforce the concept that the trendline is down. In addition, vivid images, clarifying metaphors, and evocative narratives can be used to reinforce the overall message—such as the idea that the reduction of sea ice is dramatic enough to see from the moon, or reports of changes in polar bear behavior and mortality. Conveying a consensus to the public requires time, education, and breaking through partisan filters, Jamieson concluded. When scientists are positioned as nonpartisan, evidence is more likely to be heard and scientists are less likely to be seen as polemicists or persuaders.

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40  /  THE SCIENCE OF SCIENCE COMMUNICATION II PUBLIC ATTITUDES, STAKEHOLDER PERSPECTIVES, AND THE CHALLENGE OF “UPSTREAM” ENGAGEMENT For some important issues in science and technology, public engage- ment and communication need to move upstream to much earlier in the research and development process, said Nick Pidgeon, professor of environmental psychology at Cardiff University in Wales. The objective is not just to persuade someone that a new technology should be accepted. Rather, a more discursive and two-way approach to public engagement can foster better overall decision making. In the case of nanotechnology, for example, the Royal Society report Nanoscience and Nanotechnologies: Opportunities and Uncertainties (Royal Academy of Engineering, 2004) made the point that early engagement and dialogue can achieve several critical ends: • Incorporating public values in decisions, • Improving decision quality, • Resolving conflict, • Establishing trust and legitimacy, and • Education and information. Upstream engagement also has several obvious difficulties, Pidgeon continued. People are likely to know less about a technology at an early stage of research. Mental models of risk processes are likely to be absent or ill formed, with analogies instead serving as a proxy of risk. Both the future course of the science and potential regulatory needs or gaps will probably be uncertain, and the promoters and detractors of a technology are likely to issue both hype and dystopian narratives. Geoengineering All of these difficulties are apparent when considering geoengineering— the intentional manipulation of the Earth’s climate to counteract warming or other aspects of climate change. Modification of the climate has been discussed for decades, but geoengineering as a way to counter climate change has been seriously discussed for only a few years, and scientists are deeply conflicted about it. It involves reflecting solar radiation back into space to lower global temperatures or removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, either of which would require engineering projects of immense scope. Neither the feasibility nor the full consequences of such methods for geoengineering are yet known. In 2010 the equivalent in the United Kingdom of the National Science Foundation (NSF) commissioned the Stratospheric Particle Injection for Climate Engineering (SPICE) project. Conducted by a large consortium of

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SCIENCE IN A TIME OF CONTROVERSY  /  41 engineers and scientists, the project explored the possibility of delivering reflecting aerosols through a 20-kilometer pipe tethered to a giant weather balloon. The project involved laboratory experimentation, modeling, and background review of the project and its possible impacts and risks. The project also included a proposed field trial—a small-scale 1-kilometer mock-up with a small balloon spraying water to answer some basic engi- neering questions. The project was approved by two university ethics boards on the grounds that it did not jeopardize human health, interfere with animals, or have any detrimental effect on the environment. However, the reaction of the press and of some nongovernmental organizations was intense. Given the sensitivities of the technology and its implications, the research gov- ernance protocols that allowed it to be approved have to be questioned, Pidgeon said. A Framework for Responsible Innovation In response to the controversy, the SPICE researchers were asked to address five criteria before the pipe and balloon test could go ahead. One was to identify mechanisms to understand wider public and stakeholder views regarding envisaged applications and impacts of the experiment. Pidgeon’s team then was asked to design a protocol that would enable members of the public who knew very little about the technology to form a considered opinion on whether the field trial should go ahead. Developing such a protocol was immensely challenging both in con- ception and in methodological terms, said Pidgeon. It required intensive piloting, extensive engagement with the SPICE team and other geoen- gineering experts, and input from a stakeholder advisory panel. Three two-day workshops were conducted in different British cities, with 10 members of the general public selected to participate in each workshop. The aim in each workshop was to bring participants up to speed on the science and ethics of geoengineering and then to solicit their views. Methodological considerations in holding the workshops included fram- ing the issue and the materials and experts to be employed. For example, workshop participants needed to be exposed to different framings of the issues involved (on both technical and ethical questions) to avoid presup- posing their positions. A particular methodological consideration was which people should be included in the workshops. There is a difference between an audi- ence chosen essentially at random, such as the jury approach eventually adopted in this case, and an audience with a preexisting interest in a ques- tion. People with a preexisting interest can have a different set of attitudes prior to an engagement, yet they can be just as important in deciding an

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42  /  THE SCIENCE OF SCIENCE COMMUNICATION II outcome as people without a preexisting set of attitudes. Another question for future dialogues around geoengineering involves whether participants should be from developed countries or from the less developed countries that are likely to suffer the most severe immediate consequences of climate change or unintended adverse impacts of geoengineering. These and other questions regarding the make-up of participants in such exercises are still being debated. Following the workshops, very few participants wanted to rule out the 1-kilometer test, Pidgeon reported. They felt that it was a good thing for scientists to explore the topic, even though their views on the use of stratospheric aerosols were very negative, since people are disturbed by the thought of interfering with natural systems on a planetary scale. In controversial areas, Pidgeon concluded, scientists and science com- municators need to respect the views of the public if science is to progress. In addition, decision making over issues that will affect our lives in the future requires an emotional commitment as well as the analytical weigh- ing of costs and benefits. Upstream Complications Upstream dialogue is extraordinarily important, agreed William Hallman, professor and chair in the Department of Human Ecology at Rutgers University, in his comments on Pidgeon’s presentation. But sci- entists and science communicators need to be very careful with what they do upstream, “because what we put in the water upstream we end up drinking downstream.” One issue is that consensus needs to exist that a particular problem is worth discussing, Hallman said. Once this consensus exists, discussion can proceed on whether a particular technology is the right way to solve a problem. Upstream dialogue is also complicated by the fact that most members of the public will know very little about the topic (though this often will not prevent them from stating an opinion). Those initiating the dialogue therefore need to be very careful about what they bring to the discussion. Downstream Consequences Rick Borchelt, director of communications and public affairs for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, also agreed that upstream engagement is laudable as a democratic ideal. In practice, however, it is fraught with potential problems. Climate change is distinct in posing a dire problem that needs to be solved. But other technologies do not necessarily present problems in their

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SCIENCE IN A TIME OF CONTROVERSY  /  43 earliest stages of development. The question therefore becomes whether upstream engagement is generally applicable to many of the issues that interest science communicators. In addition, upstream engagement runs the risk of inciting others to develop counternarratives that might not have existed if the engagement were not performed. If the objective of upstream engagement is to fend off future controversy, the question becomes whether the efforts should be done without reference to the possible controversy or as a fully transparent exercise. One possibility is that engagement will create an arms race down- stream over issues. In general, the upstream environment is rarely free of the controversies that upstream engagement presupposes, Borchelt said. In general, the nature of the engagement process is critical. For exam- ple, scientists need to both provide information and gather information through listening. If they are not prepared to listen as well as talk, they should not be going into an engagement opportunity. THE BENEFITS OF EXTREME SIMPLICITY IN COMMUNICATING NUTRITION SCIENCE For a guideline to change behavior, it has to be memorable and action- able, said Rebecca Ratner, professor of marketing at the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland. An exception involves guidelines so complicated that they cannot be easily remembered, in which case a checklist can be an effective way to influence behavior. But in general, a guideline must be remembered by the target audience, and they must be able to do what it recommends. Nutrition is an area where guidelines are useful since people gener- ally cannot consult a guide every time they make a decision about what to eat. For example, the food pyramid, which was developed in 1992, called for people to eat 6 to 11 servings of bread, cereal, rice, or pasta each day; three to five servings of vegetables; two to four servings of fruit; two to three servings of milk, yogurt, or cheese; and two to three servings of meat, poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs, and nuts; in addition to eating fats, oils, and sweets sparingly. The guideline was memorable, Ratner said, though people had a hard time remembering the recommended numbers of servings of each food group. However, it was less actionable, because people were not sure about the size of a serving and it was hard to keep track of servings over the course of a day. In 2005 the U.S. Department of Agriculture released a new guide- line called MyPyramid consisting of five food groups: grains, vegetables, fruits, milk, and meat and beans. People were asked to go to a website where they would enter their age, sex, and how much exercise they got in a typical day, and the website would produce individualized guidelines

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44  /  THE SCIENCE OF SCIENCE COMMUNICATION II for how much people should eat, in ounces and cups, from each of the five groups. Ratner and her colleague Jason Riis studied the memorability and actionability of the food pyramid and found it wanting in both dimen- sions. After studying the personalized guidelines in each of the five cat- egories for as long as they wanted, people were asked immediately after to recall the five numbers they had just seen. Only 19 percent of participants correctly recalled the numbers in all five categories, and less than 1 percent correctly recalled the correct numbers in all five categories 1 month later. People also were unsure about the size of an ounce of food, and again they had difficulty tracking their consumption over the course of a day. A Better Way Porter Novelli, the public relations firm that helped to develop MyPyramid and the original food pyramid, was testing another message at about the time that the food pyramid was introduced: fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables at every meal. Ratner and Riis saw this as a much more memorable and actionable recommendation, and testing confirmed their hunch. Immediately after studying it, 85 percent of par- ticipants correctly recalled the guideline, and 62 percent recalled it one month later. The guideline was also actionable, since people can tell when roughly half of a plate is full of fruits and vegetables and they did not need to keep track of their consumption over the course of a day. When a guideline is memorable and actionable, people are more moti- vated to follow the guideline, Ratner stated. For example, in a comparison of the MyPyramid and the half-plate recommendations, both dieters and nondieters demonstrated more interest in adhering to the latter, with a particular increase in motivation among dieters. Ratner said that she was delighted to learn that the new Obama administration intended to revamp the government’s messaging about nutrition. In 2011 a new guideline, ChooseMyPlate.gov (http://www. choosemyplate.gov), incorporated the half plate of fruits and vegetables into a much more schematic treatment of the five food groups. This revi- sion “definitely has the potential to help people follow nutrition science,” she said. Extensions Beyond Nutrition In general, Ratner listed four attributes that make a message memo- rable and actionable, no matter what its subject.

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SCIENCE IN A TIME OF CONTROVERSY  /  45 First, it needs to be simple. Examples of simple messages are “got milk?” “drop and roll,” and “just do it.” They are easy to remember and easy to follow. Second, the message needs to be easy to visualize. For example, the “got milk?” message is associated with a simple and easy-to-remember advertising image. Third, a message should specify when to engage in an action. For example, when people were asked to take vitamins each day, those given an action plan for taking the vitamins—such as doing so every morning at breakfast—were nearly twice as likely to do so than those without an action plan. Fourth, a message should embed a trigger to take action. For example, the dining hall message “live the healthy way, eat five fruits and veggies a day” was not nearly as effective as the message “each and every dining hall tray needs five fruits and veggies a day,” because the latter reminded people to eat fruits and vegetables—but only in dining halls that had trays. What Should Be Simplified? Besides being memorable and actionable, messages need to be moti- vational and plausible, said William Hallman, professor and chair in the Department of Human Ecology at Rutgers University, in his comments on Ratner’s presentation. For example, people need to understand why eat- ing more fruits and vegetables is important. The graphic does not convey that information, so the reasons for eating some foods rather than others would need to be learned. Also, not everything should be simplified. Much nutrition advice is simplified—“dangerously so,” Hallman said. “Sugar is death” is a simple message, but in purely biochemical terms it may be more accurate to say that no sugar is death. Messages can be simple, plausible, memorable, and actionable—“and just plain wrong.” What Should Be Actionable? Many science communications are not actionable, added Borchelt. Indeed, science communicators often would prefer that scientific informa- tion not be dragged into a political arena where it can be used to justify action of one kind of another. Where action is desired, constraint recognition often stymies action. People may recognize that climate change is a dire problem, but they may also believe that nothing they do will make a difference. People often do not have enough information to determine whether they have the ability to take action, Borchelt said. Simple and actionable

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64  /  THE SCIENCE OF SCIENCE COMMUNICATION II analogies with nearby domains to generate hypotheses, and long-distance analogies across domains to conceive of explanations, with their goals dictating the kinds of analogies they use. Dunbar and his colleagues also have been using brain scans to iden- tify parts of the brain that are more active when making an analogy. For example, the farther an analogy is from the source concept, the more active is a particular part of the brain known as the front polar cortex. Using Analogies Effectively Dunbar also has been involved in brain-scanning experiments where subjects are given data that are consistent or inconsistent with a hypoth- esis. Data that are consistent with a hypothesis generate activity in par- ticular parts of the brain, while data that are inconsistent do not. The use of analogies makes a difference in laboratory interactions. Laboratories where members have similar backgrounds, such as a labora- tory where everyone is a microbiologist, tend to have greater difficulty using analogies effectively. In contrast, laboratories where members have different backgrounds, such as a laboratory that combines physicists and chemists, can use analogies more readily to make discoveries. Gender Analyses Finally, Dunbar briefly mentioned that female scientists and male scientists do not differ in their use of analogical reasoning and social interactions. However, men were more likely to assume that they knew the cause of unexpected findings, whereas women were more likely to set out to determine the cause of such findings. Using Stories to Communicate Science Dunbar’s observations are a powerful argument for interdisciplinar- ity in science, said Green. They also shed light on how narratives can be used to reach particular types of audiences. Nonscientists often say that they cannot deal with math or that physics is too hard, but they do not say that they cannot deal with stories. Both analogies and narratives can make science more accessible to such individuals. At the University of North Carolina, for example, a program called “Scientists with Stories” is training scientists in storytelling techniques to help them better communicate their science while also helping them look for the stories in their own research. Green also cited the importance of giving undergraduates research experiences so that they can learn that science is messy and hypotheses are not always confirmed. Even if they do not become scientists themselves,

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SCIENCE IN A TIME OF CONTROVERSY  /  65 they will know how the research process works, which could increase their trust in scientific findings. Science as Narrative Kaplan observed that Dunbar’s conclusions demonstrate that doing science is a narrative. Research has dead ends, surprises, mistakes, ser- endipity, and adventure. Even the choice of a problem to study involves ambition, competition, personalities, glory, and rewards. Yet the drama of science is obscured in scientific papers, which are reverse engineered so that the outcome looks inevitable. Scientific papers are written from the perspective of “first-person invisible,” said Kaplan, with the process of science removed from the scientific results. Even though the process of science is a compelling story, scientists typically ignore that story in describing their work. TALES TEENS TELL: INTERACTIVE MEDIA COMMUNICATIONS CAN IMPROVE ADOLESCENT HEALTH Narrative communications have a unique power to promote under- standing, and that understanding can improve decision making, said Julie Downs, director of the Center for Risk Perception and Communication in the Department of Social and Decision Sciences at Carnegie Mellon Uni- versity. Narratives can capture and hold people’s attention and provide the basis for a fuller understanding through coherent arguments, vivid imagery, and a foundation for new knowledge. They make people want to know what comes next, which means that people are more likely to get to the end of the message. People can acquire a general understanding from a narrative, even if they do not recall all the details. They can learn even when they do not realize that they are learning. To translate science into narratives, theoretical models that can serve as guides are useful. In the health field, social cognition models of health are examples, though other models can also be used. These models do not provide specific content, but they broaden thinking and result in better communications than those created with no theoretical underpinning. To determine what content needs to be included, however, developers need to use a systematic investigation of what is known and understood by the target audience. The Narrative Content Narratives can take many different forms, some of which work bet- ter than others. The initial narrative is probably not going to be the best

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66  /  THE SCIENCE OF SCIENCE COMMUNICATION II communication. As a result, early versions of a narrative need iterative testing with members of the target audience. Are they understanding the narrative the way they should? Are audiences interpreting the word choices in a way consistent with the narrative’s objectives? To the extent that the narrative offers advice, how practical is that advice? Pilot tests with a target audience need to encourage criticism so that the narrative can be refined and tested. The goal is a narrative that people understand in the proper way, that explains the science comprehensibly, and that urges action in the appropriate circumstances. A Narrative Targeting Sexual Decisions Downs used the example of a narrative that helps teens avoid preg- nancy and sexually transmitted infection. The narrative was delivered through interactive video, which is an effective vehicle for audiences that may be skeptical and lack patience, which is the case for adolescents. Inter- active video gives teens a feeling of agency and structure as they choose which way to go in the narrative. Teens also are used to nonlinear forms of media such as games or streaming videos. The narrative was developed with expert input of what adolescents need to know to make good decisions about sexual behavior. Unlike much of the sexual education adolescents get, the narrative took a nonpersuasive approach. It sought to convey how infections are transmitted and how teens can reduce the chance of infection. Teens are overwhelmed by what appears to be highly scripted behav- ior, said Downs. They adhere to behavioral scenarios that play out the same way every time, in the same way that people know what to do when they eat at a restaurant. Teenage girls describe going to a party, finding their way to a private room with a boy, and engaging in sexual activities. They do not see themselves as having much agency to act otherwise. Teens also underappreciate relative risks and lack health knowledge. They have been taught in their sexual education classes that there is no such thing as safe sex, but they nevertheless will figure out ways to go right to the verge of what they have been taught not to do. They do not have a good understanding of what is high risk and what is low risk. They know about HIV infection, but have little understanding of how other sexually transmitted diseases are different and what implications that has for transmission or treatment. The narrative builds on teens’ highly scripted behaviors to make them comfortable with the story. It has characters who follow scripted paths that pause several times with opportunities for decisions, at which point the narrative stops and the viewers are asked what they want to see the character do next. One option is to continue along the scripted path, but

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SCIENCE IN A TIME OF CONTROVERSY  /  67 other options would get the character off that path. The narrative also provides suggestions for how to take these alternate paths, some of which are cheeky and funny, others of which are direct or evasive. The videos then provide a 30-second cognitive rehearsal in which viewers can think about how to apply those suggestions in their own lives. “We can’t force them to think—if only we could—but we can at least force them to wait,” Downs said. “During this 30 seconds, we hope they give this some thought and apply it to their own lives.” The videos also try to foster a better appreciation of relative risk through the metaphor of a risk scale that goes up and down. They point out that some behaviors are riskier than others and how to reduce the risks. They also explain reproductive physiology and attack misconcep- tions about, for example, how infections are transmitted. A 6-month randomized controlled trial involving 300 subjects found that this approach resulted in decreased risky sexual behaviors and decreased sexually transmitted infections. A wider field trial was under way at the time of the colloquium that includes follow-ups and greater use of clinical outcomes and health records. Taking Readers Out of a Narrative A particularly intriguing aspect of this project, said Green, is its use of formative research to figure out what information people have and what information they need. That is a key step with these types of interventions that should be emphasized. Green also played devil’s advocate with regard to the use of interac- tive videos. Despite the time and technology that goes into creating them, largely the same experience can come from reading a book. Communica- tors need to think about when interactive technologies are helpful and when it is better to stick with low-tech options. The nature of the audience is one factor in making this decision. Another is the psychological process a message is designed to evoke. Narratives can transport a reader into another world, Green noted. Readers become immersed in the storyline and identify with the charac- ters. But if readers have to stop and make a decision, they can be taken out of the narrative. The benefits of making them take responsibility for the future course of the story must be weighed against the potential disrup- tion to the narrative experience. The Role of Edutainment Entertainment education, or edutainment, is a field that has been studied for 50 years, observed Kaplan. It has a highly developed theoreti-

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68  /  THE SCIENCE OF SCIENCE COMMUNICATION II cal base, a set of best practices, and techniques to evaluate its impact. It is well known for the impact it has had in such areas as combating adult illiteracy, domestic violence, and public health problems. More than a decade ago, the Centers for Disease Control and Pre- vention (CDC) recognized that people pay attention to health messages in entertainment even if they know the entertainment is fiction. In 2001 it formed the Hollywood, Health, and Society program, which has been run by the Annenberg School and functions essentially as the CDC’s Hollywood office. The program has worked with hundreds of television shows to raise the profile of public health needs. For example, shortly before Atul Gawande’s book The Checklist Manifesto came out, the program brokered a connection with the show “E.R.” to have a life saved because a doctor was forced to use a checklist. The day after the show aired in New York, a conference of 150 surgeons watched the entire episode as a way to learn the value of checklists. In “The Bold and the Beautiful,” a show watched by 500 million peo- ple worldwide every day, the Hollywood, Health, and Society program was involved in a storyline in which one of the main characters confessed to his fiancé that he was HIV positive. The day that happened, the STD/ HIV helpline spiked from 2,000 calls to 5,000 calls, a greater response than for every other public service announcement, campaign, and surgeon general’s announcement. SURGING SEAS: A COLLABORATION IN FIVE ACTS Note: This transcript of the final presentation on the second day of the colloquium has been edited for length. Act 1: All the Science That Fits to Print Ben dials on his phone, and Gabrielle answers her phone. GAB – Hello? BEN – Gabrielle Wong-Parodi? GAB – Yes? BEN – This is Ben Strauss from Climate Central. One of your colleagues at Carnegie Mellon recommended you as an expert on communicating risk. GAB – I’m flattered. What are you looking for? BEN – I’d like some help sharing results from a large study I’m leading on U.S. vulnerability to sea level rise and coastal flooding.

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SCIENCE IN A TIME OF CONTROVERSY  /  69 GAB – Tell me more. BEN – We’re building an online tool to show our results. I think it’s very important that we share these results with the communities that could be affected most, and with leaders, and it has to be a powerful tool. I have the feeling that people really don’t get the danger that climate change poses, and that’s a problem I want to help tackle. GAB – That sounds good. An online tool could be really valuable. BEN – We’re generating a lot of data, and we don’t want to dumb it down. GAB – Alright. . . . BEN – The first thing is, we’re doing our analysis for every kind of place you can think of. We’re analyzing every coastal state, every coastal county, every coastal city, town, even zip codes. We’re looking at congressional districts, at state legislative districts, at federal and state agency districts, even at city council districts. We really want our work tailored for differ- ent audiences. GAB – That’s a big positive. It’s well known that the more you can local- ize risk for specific audiences, the more you can command their attention. BEN – We’re doing our analysis, too, for a huge number of potential impacts. We’re looking at housing, at population subgroups, infrastructure from power plants to airports to roads to rail; we’re looking at critical facilities like hospitals or fire stations; we’re looking at schools, churches, hazardous waste sites, military installations, parks, and more. Much, much more. GAB – That’s a lot. BEN – And then we also overlay our results against a spatial index of social vulnerability, divided into three categories based on a standard deviation method, so we can show how the physical exposure intersects with com- munities’ intrinsic response capacity. And we have results that assume levees, when present, are adequate in their protection, and a different set of results that assume that they are not adequate in their protection. GAB – Alright. . . . BEN – And, finally, most important of all, the time dimension. We made localized sea level projections at more than 50 water level stations, but also integrated them with local flood statistics to generate forecasts of flood risk, not just sea level. So we want to show sea level projections, annual flood risk projections, cumulative flood risk projections, plus how climate change multiplies risk, for each decade, and for 10 different water levels. We want to give users a choice of carbon emissions scenario, of sea level

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70  /  THE SCIENCE OF SCIENCE COMMUNICATION II model, and of what percentile estimate to view. How can we tweak our presentation so it hits in the gut? So people really get it. GAB – I see. I would like to help. BEN – I’m so glad I called. Talk again soon? Act 2: Education or Manipulation? Gabrielle calls Ben. GAB – Hi, Ben. There’s something I want to talk about. You say you want people to get it. What does that mean? BEN – That they understand the stakes. Feel them. And that the feeling fits the stakes and, ultimately, that action fits the stakes. I keep seeing surveys that show people ranking climate change low on their issue priority list. I know I’m a specialist, but that’s tragic to me. I want people to have the right level of concern. GAB – Listen, I sympathize. And I happen to agree on the threat level. But did you hear yourself? How could you know what the “right” level of concern is for someone? BEN – Maybe not personally. But at least professionally. Risk priorities should be in the same order as risk ranks. GAB – But people are not always rational, at least in the way that you would like them to be, or they may have different values and priorities. You can’t just give them information and hope that it works. There’s so much more going on here. BEN – That’s a big problem. GAB – Albert Camus once said, “Fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth.” What if the only way to get people to feel the “right” level of concern—to really prioritize climate change according to its true risk—is to leave them with a false impression? BEN – That’s a bigger problem. I need to stay true to the science. That’s my foundation. That’s who I am. GAB – I needed to know that. I feel the same way. I’m not interested in spinning this. BEN – So here’s the deal: we work together for compelling communication— as powerful as we can make it—that leaves the audience with a proper understanding of the science. GAB – Deal.

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SCIENCE IN A TIME OF CONTROVERSY  /  71 Act 3: Optimist or Pessimist? Gabrielle calls Ben. GAB – Hi Ben. Ben, you really have to slim down how you show projec- tions. This isn’t the control panel of the Starship Enterprise! BEN – But I think it’s important to give people a range of values and some choice depending on how much risk they feel they can tolerate. Besides, the answers depend on future carbon emissions—on top of all the model uncertainties. GAB – Providing some simple, limited choices makes sense. Just not the control panel of the Starship Enterprise. I’d suggest giving three or four choices—say, on a spectrum from optimistic to pessimistic. BEN – Optimistic to pessimistic. That seems like it could capture a lot of things—uncertainty in the models, the level of emissions, and maybe even luck. And maybe it would give more of a personal connection. GAB – That’s what I was thinking. But first I would like to test it. BEN – Really? We’re just talking about a couple of words here. I like your intuition. GAB – You would be surprised at the power a couple of words can have— and how wrong intuition can be. Several months later. BEN – Well? GAB – Wow. Some surprises. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my expe- rience, it’s that data often trump intuition. “Pessimistic” made people think that the situation was very bad, that it was a worst-case scenario, as I expected. However, it also made them think that the situation was hopeless, that nothing can be done about sea level rise. Listen to what one subject said: “All of our coastal communities and development are doomed.” Then she added, “Seems as though fast rise can be dealt with, but ‘pessimistic’ makes me feel like nothing can be done.” BEN – Really. GAB – And “optimistic” seems to make people think sea level rise isn’t a problem at all. Listen to this: “That there’s hope, it’s okay that the sea level is rising, because it’s rising slowly and we won’t see any dramatic change soon. If we’re optimistic about slow rise, then we don’t really have to care.”

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72  /  THE SCIENCE OF SCIENCE COMMUNICATION II BEN – So, we get rid of our bright idea, and keep the terms simple: “fast” or “slow.” GAB – That’s what the data say. Act 4: Near or Far? Gabrielle calls Ben. GAB – So the results are in for the first big experiment using our simple research tool. It turns out that concern is highest for the persons to whom we showed the year 2050 projections, not the 2020 or 2100 projections. BEN – A rather balanced outcome in light of the conflicting forces we imagined. GAB – People tend to care about the near term: the right here and right now. The farther off the problem is, the less they worry—all else equal. BEN – But the farther off into the future that we project sea level rise, the more dangerous it becomes. So how do those opposite trends play against each other? How steep or accelerated does the sea level rise curve have to be before it evokes concern for the more distant future? GAB – Good point. I think 2050 may be our sweet spot because it’s far enough off to have a real sea level rise effect, but not much more than a 30-year mortgage away. It’s a stretch, but maybe people can imagine themselves in 2050, or somebody they know. But 2100 just seems too far away, no matter how awful the scenarios are. BEN – Okay. So we established in this experiment that projections for 2050 evoke more concern. But is that concern appropriate? How well did subjects actually understand the risk, and did it vary by treatment? GAB – People really understood the 2050 numbers well. Equally as well as the 2020 figures. I was honestly quite surprised; I’ve rarely seen such good comprehension on a survey. However, there’s a lot of confusion around the 2100 projections. BEN – Well, that’s nice to hear about the 2050 numbers! I think it provides some powerful guidance for this project. I do have a nagging doubt, though. We tested subjects using projections and flood statistics for New York City. How robust are the results going to be for different risk profiles from different places? Does each place have its own sweet spot year? GAB – That’s a really good point. I think I hear the sound of a new research proposal.

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SCIENCE IN A TIME OF CONTROVERSY  /  73 Act 5: Theory and Practice Ben calls Gabrielle. BEN – Gabrielle, we couldn’t do everything you recommended, or even that our work together suggested. We had only so much money, time, and flexibility. We did try. GAB – I understand. BEN – You advised me to simplify. The website and pages should be broken into bite-size pieces with a clear order. We landed on the idea of breaking the tool into four page types to handle four main functions, that we call WHERE, WHEN, WHAT, and COMPARE. That’s “mapping,” “projections,” “impacts analysis within communities,” and “threats com- pared among communities.” GAB – I like it. BEN – We broke the individual pages into sections, too. For example, with sea level rise and flooding projections in the San Francisco Bay Area, you can choose between the simple slow-through-fast sea-level rise scenarios we worked on labeling, how much carbon do you think we’re going to put in the air, how lucky do you think we’ll be, and how long do you think you’ll live? GAB – I like what you did. A few simple choices up front, like we dis- cussed, but an “Advanced” tab, too, that’s a bit harder to access. BEN – Couldn’t help myself. Users who want can choose specific sea level models, emissions scenarios, and low-range to high-range results given those parameters. GAB – That’s fair. Actually, it will be quite useful, I think, for some audi- ences. However, I’m a bit concerned that there will be too many options for some users and that it might be a bit confusing. BEN – We did our best to explain, but I agree there’s a risk. GAB – We talked about focusing on one year—2050—but also about how using a simple sentence, versus a chart, would improve most people’s understanding. As a scientist, it’s easy to forget sometimes how hard it is for people to understand numbers. BEN – You know I’m not completely sold on 2050 yet; and honestly I didn’t really see how we could do it given the overall structure of the app. I take your points, though. We’re planning to use those findings in other contexts—like one-page fact sheets and press releases. Here it just seemed important to provide richer data. But if you hover your mouse

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74  /  THE SCIENCE OF SCIENCE COMMUNICATION II over one of the columns, you get a pop-up that explains the finding in a sentence or phrase. GAB – That’s terrific! I like the simplicity of the description, too. BEN – Well, I didn’t forget your lectures about writing for a junior high reading level. You chopped up too many of my sentences after your pro- gram evaluated them as written for philosophy majors. GAB – Well, I hope people of all reading abilities can use this tool, and especially kids who are in junior high. They’ve got more at stake here than adults do. BEN – That is too true. Look, I’m so grateful for your help, and can hardly believe that we’re almost there. We’re almost ready for our launch. Now comes the biggest test of all: how will people respond to the real thing, when it’s really about their backyards. GAB – I can’t wait to see. FINAL COMMENTS In the final session of The Science of Science Communications II col- loquium’s second day, Dietram Scheufele, the John E. Ross Professor in Science Communication at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, identi- fied four themes that struck him forcefully over the course of the day. The first involves the role that scientists should play as arbiters of what is knowable. With controversies over vaccines, for example, scientists can determine the probabilities of certain things happening given particular levels of vaccination in the population. However, the policy implications of this information must be worked out through the democratic process, not in the scientific arena. Second, the social and behavioral sciences have a fantastic new source of information in the data being generated by social networks. By making the invisible visible, these data provide scientists with information that they have never had before. Third, collaborations involving business, scientists, and science com- municators offer great potential, and not only in areas where science can help business sell more products. The field of science communication has much to learn from business that could be both unanticipated and extremely useful. Finally, ethical issues play a surprisingly large role in science commu- nication. What can be done is not always what should be done. Science communication needs to be held to a higher standard than most other forms of communication. That may put science at a political disadvantage, but failing to maintain high standards puts science at risk.