An interesting article in Nature last year, by scientist and journalist Anita Makri, described how science communicated in the popular media sometimes leaves the public confused, and that in the ‘post-truth’ world, scientists are increasingly being ignored. Makri criticised what’s known as the ‘deficit model’ of the public understanding of science concluding that it’s partly scientists’ fault that they are being ignored. The message is clear. Scientists need to be less technical and perhaps even a bit more humble when putting over their messages. Over the last year at the British Geological Survey (BGS), we’ve been putting this theory into practice communicating our major UK Geoenergy Observatories investment to the public.
Over the last decade, the level of interest in climate change communication has grown rapidly – there’s now a huge number of people, organisations and institutions involved in the theory and practice of public engagement.
In part, the enthusiasm for public engagement has come from the realisation that without significant and sustained public support, technological and political progress on decarbonisation and wider sustainability goals is fragile. The reversal of domestic progress in the US following the election of Donald Trump (not to mention the withdrawal from the UN Paris accord) shows what can happen if there is not a robust, and bi-partisan platform of public support behind climate and energy policies.
Citizen science can be described as the participation of non-professional volunteers in professional science projects. Citizen science plays an important part in delivering environmental data on a range of scales and forms the basis of scientific research and management decisions. Such activities might involve counting ladybirds and bees, monitoring volcanoes or spotting an insect affecting trees. If citizen science is to be successful and sustainable into the future, project organisers need to know what motivates their volunteers and their colleagues!
In this post I want to share with you some findings from a recent report we published on motivations for citizen science (funded by the UK Environmental Observation Framework (UKEOF)).
I feel honoured to have been chosen as a Polar Ambassador as part of the Government’s Polar Explorer Programme – having the opportunity to engage with and positively influence young people’s life choices is definitely one of the best aspects of my job and I consider it a real privilege.
As a current STEM Ambassador I’ve delivered a number of school talks about Antarctic research and operations, but as a Polar Ambassador I can take this engagement to a much deeper level. I’m using the new Polar Research Vessel, the RRS Sir David Attenborough, which comes into service in 2019, and my own work experience as Head of Corporate Services at the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) as tools to inspire both pupils and teachers to raise their aspirations in STEM subjects.
Science communication is an essential part of research, and one which is necessary to better understand how scientists can work alongside other members of society. As a Senior Lecturer in Science Communication, I am bound to say this, but engaging with a variety of audiences has helped me to have a greater understanding of what I do as a scientist, and also why I do it. It has also been a tremendous amount of fun, mainly because I have been fortunate enough to combine some of the other passions in my life as part of this process. Continue reading “Embracing engagement”
How can we go about solving our world’s environmental problems?
Which groups of people are the most important to share your research?
Should we be spending money from the public purse on environmental science research?
These questions are just a starter for ten, looking at what might be explored here.