Public communication by climate scientists: what, with whom and why?
Public communication of science has increasingly been recognised as a responsibility of scientists (Leshner, Science p. 977, 2003). Climate scientists are often reminded of their responsibility to participate in the public climate debate and to engage the public in meaningful conversations that contribute to policy-making (Fischhoff 2013). However, our understanding about climate scientists’ interactions with the public and the factors that drive or inhibit them is at best limited. In a new study, we show that it is the most published and not necessarily the most senior, which often talk in public, and it is primarily intrinsic motivation (as opposed to extrinsic reward), which drive them to engage in public communication. Political orientations, academic productivity and awareness of controversy, the topic raises in the public domain, were also important determinants of a climate’s scientist public activity. Future research should explore what is required to protect the intrinsic motivation of scientists.
KeywordsScience communication Surveys of scientists Public engagement Climate change
This study was conducted under the first author’s Fulbright Fellowship at Cornell University, USA.
ME designed the study and wrote the paper; MB provided inputs and feedback into the paper and conceptual advice. BL supported data collection in the US and provided feedback into the paper. ME and JM conducted the data analysis and JM compiled the presentation of the data.
- Alley, R. B. et al. (2007) A report of Working Group I of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Summary for Policymakers, IPCC Climate Change. Cambridge University Press. Available at: https://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar4/wg1/ar4-wg1-spm.pdf. Accessed 22 June 2018.
- Besley JC, Dudo A, and Storksdieck M (2015) Scientists’ views about communication training. J Res Sci Teach 52(2):199–220. https://doi.org/10.1002/tea.21186
- Boykoff MT (2007) Flogging a dead norm? Newspaper coverage of anthropogenic climate change in the United States and United Kingdom from 2003 to 2006. Area 392(2):0–0 Available at: http://www.eci.ox.ac.uk/publications/downloads/Boykoff07-flogging.pdf. Accessed 27 June 2018Google Scholar
- Boykoff M (2011) Who speaks for the climate?: making sense of media reporting on climate change. Available at: https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=zsdRZR88tdkC&oi=fnd&pg=PR3&ots=rjL0XwRPkV&sig=4acbuR52CsogfMGMtfBPDscHnik. Accessed: 26 June 2018
- Bray D, von Storch H (2016) The Bray and von Storch 5th International Survey of Climate Scientists 2015/2016. Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht, Geesthacht, GermanyGoogle Scholar
- Deci E, Ryan R (1985) Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior. Springer Science & Business Media, Berlin Available at: https://books.google.com/books?hl=pt-PT&lr=&id=p96Wmn-ER4QC&oi=fnd&pg=PA1&dq=Deci+EL,+Ryan+RM+(1985)+Intrinsic+motivation+and+self-determination+in+human+behavior.+New+York:+Plenum.&ots=3eHMo2v725&sig=zcJgiJH7tcRngpSLtN4-Rtg-rRo. (Accessed: 25 June 2018)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Dunwoody S, Ryan M (1985) Scientific barriers to the popularization of science in the mass media. J Commun Wiley/Blackwell (10.1111) 35(1):26–42. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1460-2466.1985.tb01882.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Entradas M, Bauer MW (2018) Bustling public communication by astronomers around the world driven by personal and contextual factors. Nat Astron 3(2):183Google Scholar
- Kreimer, P., Levin, L. and Jensen, P. (2011) ‘Popularization by argentine researchers: the activities and motivations of CONICET scientists’, Public Understanding of Science. Edited by M. W. Bauer and P. Jensen. SAGE PublicationsSage UK: London, England, 20(1), pp. 37–47. doi: https://doi.org/10.1177/0963662510383924 Google Scholar
- Lewin K (1951) Behavior and development as a function of the total situation (1946) In Lewin, K. Field theory in social science, selected theoretical papers (edited by Dorwin Cartwright). Harper Torchbooks, New York, pp 238–303Google Scholar
- Marcinkowski F, Kohring M, Furst S. and Friedrichsmeier A (2014) Organizational influence on scientists’ efforts to go public: an empirical investigation. Sci Commun 36(1):56–80Google Scholar
- Martín-Sempere MJ, Garzón-García B, Rey-Rocha J (2008) Scientists’ motivation to communicate science and technology to the public: surveying participants at the Madrid Science Fair. Public Underst Sci. SAGE PublicationsSage UK: London, England 17(3):349–367. https://doi.org/10.1177/0963662506067660 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Nisbet, M. C. and Markowitz, E. M. (2015) ‘Expertise in an age of polarization: evaluating scientists’ political awareness and communication behaviors’, Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. Edited by E. Suhay and J. N. Druckman. SAGE PublicationsSage CA: Los Angeles, CA, 658(1), pp. 136–154. doi: https://doi.org/10.1177/0002716214559699 Google Scholar
- Roser-Renouf C et al (2016) Global warming’s six Americas and the election. Yale Progr, New Haven, CTGoogle Scholar
- Royal Society (2006) Survey of factors affecting science communication by scientists and engineers excellence in science. London. Available at: https://royalsociety.org/~/media/Royal_Society_Content/policy/publications/2006/1111111395.pdf. Accessed 7 June 2018
- Schäfer MS, Schlichting I (2014) ‘Environmental communication media representations of climate change: a meta-analysis of the research field’. https://doi.org/10.1080/17524032.2014.914050.
- Schützenmeister F, Bußmann M (2009) Online-Befragungen in der Wissenschaftsforschung [Online-Surveys in Science Research]. In: Jackob N, Schoen H, Zerback T (eds) Sozialforschung im Internet. Methodologie und Praxis der Online-Befragung. Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, Wiesbaden, Germany, pp 245–260CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Shepherd RG (1981) Selectivity of sources: reporting the marijuana controversy. J Commun Wiley/Blackwell (10.1111) 31(2):129–137. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1460-2466.1981.tb01236.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- The Politics of Climate (2016) Washington. DC.Google Scholar
- Tøsse SE (2013) Aiming for social or political robustness? Media strategies among climate scientists. Sci Commun 35:32–55Google Scholar