Successful scientists must be effective communicators within their professions. Without those skills, they could not write papers and funding proposals, give talks and field questions, or teach classes and mentor students. However, communicating with audiences outside their profession—people who may not share scientists’ interests, technical background, cultural assumptions, and modes of expression—presents different challenges and requires additional skills. Communication about science in political or social settings differs from discourse within a scientific discipline. Not only are scientists just one of many stakeholders vying for access to the public agenda, but the political debates surrounding science and its applications may sometimes confront scientists with unfamiliar and uncomfortable discussions involving religious values, partisan interests, and even the trustworthiness of science.
In response to these problems, the National Academy of Sciences has hosted two Sackler colloquia on The Science of Science Communication. These events brought together leading social, behavioral, and decision scientists to familiarize one another, other scientists, and communication practitioners with current research that can improve the communication of science to lay audiences. In the Sackler colloquia tradition, the meetings also allowed social and natural scientists to identify new opportunities for collaboration and advancing their own research, while improving public engagement with science.
The first colloquium, and accompanying special issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,1 included research in science