Climatic Change

, Volume 124, Issue 1–2, pp 1–8 | Cite as

Finding your place on the science – advocacy continuum: an editorial essay

  • Simon D. DonnerEmail author


The late founder of this journal, Stephen Schneider, argued that climate scientists must find the right balance between being honest about the limits of our knowledge and being effective in communicating the risks that climate change poses to society. The worlds of science and communications have changed dramatically in the years since Schneider first described this “double ethical bind”. Yet for most scientists, the core challenge of public communication remains. How do we choose between what we perceive as science – being honest – and what we perceive as advocacy – being effective? This essay suggests that scientists should view science and advocacy as opposite ends of a continuum with many possible positions. Drawing upon findings from psychology, communications, and science and technology studies, I describe how scientists can use research and critical self-analysis to be “scientific” about public engagement and to choose a suitable place for themselves on the science-advocacy continuum.


Policy Option Public Engagement Climate Scientist Normative Judgement Address Climate Change 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The author would like to thank two anonymous reviewers for very helpful comments. This manuscript is based in part on talks and training sessions prepared for the University of British Columbia’s TerreWEB Program.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of GeographyUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada

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