How to talk about science

There’s a new paper about how scientists should communicate with the public about climate change. It’s rather good, as is the summary that Anna Fahey at the Sightline Institute wrote of it. She draws out four key lessons, which I think are relevant for science communication in general:

  1. Emphasize what is known (a.k.a. Stop leading with unknowns, caveats, and disclaimers)
  2. Invert the standard order for reporting. (a.k.a. Start with the main point, then give the background)
  3. Less is more (“They recommend scientists craft simple, clear messages about what’s important and repeat them often.”)
  4. Stop speaking in code (a.k.a. Choose plain language over technical terms, insider jargon, and acronyms)

I’m trying to take this to heart with my own writing, and if you ever find yourself trying to explain controversial science topics to a non-expert audience it’s worth reading at least Fahey’s summary, or the original article.

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