Faculty from Arizona State University’s School of Public Affairs and Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication are teaming up to present the workshop, “Techniques for Communicating Science in an Age of Declining Trust,” at the upcoming American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Annual Meeting.
The workshop, which will be presented virtually on Saturday, Feb. 19, at 9 a.m. Mountain Standard Time will offer participants tangible techniques to effectively communicate scientific results to general audiences.
Professor Eric Welch of the ASU School of Public Affairs is the director of SciOPS, where Lesley Michalegko is project the manager. SciOPS describes itself as “a new type of science communication platform that provides aggregated, unfiltered, diverse, current science expert opinions on timely, important science and technology issues to promote deeper understanding and connections to science in society.”
Welch and Michalegko have partnered with Kristy Roschke, the managing director of the News Co/Lab at the Cronkite School, to create the workshop.
Welch and Michalegko will discuss surveys they conducted in 2021:
- The first, in cooperation with Roschke and the News Co/Lab, asked about public trust in science.
- The second, for which SciOPS collaborated with AAAS SciLine, surveyed views about media coverage of science. Researchers asked scientists and the public for their opinions about scientific research and discovery during a time of diminished media ranks that in many situations has resulted in less coverage of science news.
“The SciOPS and News Co/Lab survey asked scientists what has happened to public trust since the pandemic began, and if and why it has decreased after being about the same for about two decades,” Michalegko said. “We found that more than 75% of respondents agreed on several reasons for the decline in public trust in science, including insufficient science education for the public, active disinformation campaigns and contradictory science findings. A majority also believed researchers don’t communicate effectively, which decreases trust.”
In the SciOPS/AAAS SciLine survey, most respondents said they believed scientists’ messages were accurately and timely conveyed, but that media coverage wasn’t thorough enough, Michalegko said.
Michalegko said she and Welch will discuss what they learned from their own and others’ surveys regarding what the scientific community thinks about public confidence in science and what to do about it, as well as how scientists can interact with the media to promote public trust.
They will also discuss possible incentives, such as universities giving credit toward tenure to scientists who actively work to engage the public in their research.
Roschke will talk about the journalistic process and best practices for explaining complex scientific research to a general audience.
“Although journalists and scientists both want to help explain scientific discovery to the public, they don’t always have the same objectives, which can lead to confusion and honest miscommunication,” Roschke said. “My goal in this workshop is to provide additional background on how news stories develop so that scientists have the right context for sharing their research.”