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Framing Science: The Road to 2008 and Beyond

Framing Science: The Road to 2008 and Beyond

Monday, June 4, 2007

The New York Academy of Sciences

Presented By

Presented by Science Alliance


In the past several years, the seemingly never-ending fights over evolution, embryonic stem cell research, and global climate change have taught the scientific community a hard lesson. It has become increasingly apparent that scientific knowledge, alone, does not suffice to win political arguments, change government policies, or influence public opinion. Put simply, the media, policymakers, and the public consume scientific information in a vastly different way than do the scientists who generate it. As a result, upon stumbling out of their labs and ivory towers, scientists too often find themselves at a loss over how to connect and explain themselves to diverse groups of citizens.

As issues at the intersection of science and politics gain more and more attention, something more than pure science--more than just "getting the facts out there"--will be necessary to break through to the public. But what's the missing ingredient?

In this joint presentation, two leading science commentators--Seed Washington DC correspondent and ScienceBlogs blogger Chris Mooney and strategic communication expert Matthew Nisbet--combine their knowledge to help point the way forward. Using cutting edge research on public opinion and media coverage of science issues, and drawing on case studies from the battles over stem cell research, evolution, global warming, hurricanes, and other subjects, Mooney and Nisbet show how scientists can learn to frame stories about old issues in new ways, while taking advantage of the fragmented media environment to micro-target specific audiences. In the process, scientists and advocates can engage citizens who are currently tuning out their messages, insulate against likely attacks, and ensure enduring relevance for their work.

This lesson couldn't be more urgent: Science will figure, as never before, in the 2008 presidential campaign and beyond. Scientific "facts" will increasingly be pulled into fraught political contexts, and bent and twisted in myriad ways. If scientists don't learn to cope in this often bewildering environment, they will be ceding nothing less than their necessary role in determining the future of our nation.