The Science of
Science Communication III
Inspiring Novel Collaborations and Building Capacity
PROCEEDINGS OF A COLLOQUIUM
Steve Olson, Rapporteur
Held on November 16–17, 2017,
at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, DC
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS 500 Fifth Street, NW Washington, DC 20001
This publication is based on the Arthur M. Sackler Colloquium of the National Academy of Sciences, “The Science of Science Communication III,” held November 16–17, 2017, at the National Academy of Sciences building on Constitution Avenue in Washington, DC.
Support for the Arthur M. Sackler Colloquia is provided by the Dame Jillian & Dr. Arthur M. Sackler Foundation for the Arts, Sciences, and Humanities. Additional support for this colloquium was provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, The Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, The Kavli Foundation, the Penn State Science Communication Program, the Rita Allen Foundation, Science Sandbox—a Simons Foundation initiative, and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. Any opinions, finding, conclusions, or recommendations do not necessarily reflect the views of any organization or agency that provided support for the project.
International Standard Book Number-13: 978-0-309-46858-9
International Standard Book Number-10: 0-309-46858-2
Digital Object Identifier: https://doi.org/10.17226/24958
Additional copies of this publication are available from the National Academies Press, 500 Fifth Street, NW, Keck 360, Washington DC 20001; (800) 624-6242 or (202) 334-3313; http://www.nap.edu.
Cover art: The Duke & the Duck
Copyright 2018 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Printed in the United States of America
Suggested citation: NAS (National Academy of Sciences). The Science of Science Communication III: Inspiring Novel Collaborations and Building Capacity: Proceedings of a Colloquium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: https://doi.org/10.17226/24958.
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Climate intervention . . . fracking . . . vaccines . . . human genome editing . . . artificial intelligence. . . . With so many complex, important, and sometimes uncertain scientific issues facing our society, there has never been a more critical time to communicate science effectively. Polls show that the public has high trust and confidence in science and believes that science provides great benefits to the world. Yet, many people continue to deny the conclusions of science in areas such as evolution, climate change, and vaccination. Why do people refuse to accept the scientific consensus on these topics given their high confidence in science generally?
The science of science communication can help resolve this riddle. Behavioral and cognitive scientists can explore how people perceive and think about scientific issues. Social scientists can study the contexts in which science communication occurs and the effects of that communication on public policy. These interdependent research areas have revealed much about how people interpret and sometimes reject scientific information, with much more to be learned.
In 2011, the late Ralph J. Cicerone, then President of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and a noted climate scientist, had the vision to convene a diverse group of scientists and practitioners to survey the state of research on science communication and its application in practice. His initiative led to the first Arthur M. Sackler Colloquium on the Science of Science Communication, which was hosted by the NAS in Washington, DC, in 2012. It brought together leading social, behavioral, and decision
scientists to survey the state of the art in their fields as they relate to science communication along with prominent communication practitioners and policy makers, including four science advisors to the president of the United States. A special issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)1 made the research available to a wide audience, as did the webcast and archived videos2 of the sessions.
The second Arthur M. Sackler Colloquium on the Science of Science Communication was held the following year. It expanded the set of contributing sciences and highlighted the particular challenges of communicating about contested or controversial science and of establishing working relationships that take full advantage of the sciences of communication. It, too, led to a special issue of PNAS3 and archived video,4 as well as a published summary.5 Together, the first and second colloquia were a major impetus behind the 2017 consensus study Communicating Science Effectively: A Research Agenda from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.6
The third Arthur M. Sackler Colloquium on the Science of Science Communication, held on November 16–17, 2017, in Washington, DC, used Communicating Science Effectively as a framework for examining how one might apply its lessons to research and practice. It considered opportunities for creating and applying the science along with the barriers to doing so, such as the incentive systems in academic institutions and the perils of communicating science in polarized environments. Special attention was given to the organization and infrastructure necessary for building capacity in science communication. More than 550 people attended the colloquium; the webcast had more than 16,000 live views. Archived video7 is available, with another special issue of PNAS forthcoming.
The sponsors of the colloquium were the Dame Jillian & Dr. Arthur M. Sackler Foundation for the Arts, Sciences, and Humanities, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, The Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, The Kavli Foundation, the Penn State Science Communication Program, the Rita Allen Foundation, Science Sandbox—a Simons Foundation initiative, and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. The colloquium owed a special debt to Dame Jillian Sackler, whose gift
in memory of her husband, Arthur M. Sackler, has made possible four or five colloquia each year that bring together leading scientists in their fields with others interested in the topics of their research. More information about the colloquia is available online.8
At the National Academies, Marty Perreault and Susan Marty helped make the colloquium happen. Frank Sesno and Ashley Llorens moderated the first and second days of the event. Steve Olson wrote the summary of the colloquium, with editorial and administrative assistance from Stephen Mautner.
Finally, we want to especially thank Barbara Kline Pope, executive director for communications and the National Academies Press at the National Academies (until September 2017 and now director of the Johns Hopkins University Press) for her leadership on all three of the Arthur M. Sackler Colloquia on the Science of Science Communication.
Karen S. Cook
Alan I. Leshner
Dietram A. Scheufele
President, National Academy of Sciences
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