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Public communication by climate scientists: what, with whom and why?

Abstract

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.

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Acknowledgements

This study was conducted under the first author’s Fulbright Fellowship at Cornell University, USA.

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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.

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Correspondence to Marta Entradas.

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Entradas, M., Marcelino, J., Bauer, M.W. et al. Public communication by climate scientists: what, with whom and why?. Climatic Change 154, 69–85 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-019-02414-9

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Keywords

  • Science communication
  • Surveys of scientists
  • Public engagement
  • Climate change