Trouble Communicating with Non-Scientists?

Do you have trouble communicating with Non-Scientists? Check out these tips from leading weather scientist, Dr. Marshall Shepherd.

  • Know your audience. Many scientists are guilty of delivering the same message to the Rotary Club or Congressional Staffers that they give at a science conference. Research and understand your audience. Anthony Leiserowitz, an excellent climate communication scholar at Yale, once told me, "Not knowing your audience is like throwing darts at a dartboard with the lights off."
  • Get to the point. As scientists we are trained to describe a ton of details and background information before we give the final results. This is the very nature of how graduate students are trained to write their theses and dissertations. It is how scientists deliver presentations at conferences. For the public or policymakers this approach needs to be flipped. The key points or findings need to be delivered very early (see below) and it needs to be concise (think elevator speech).
  • Use social media. Social media can be tricky but is a "net" good for science communication as long as you are able to deal with the very high noise to signal ratio, dissenting thoughts (whether expert or not), limits on messaging and time management. I cringe when I hear a scientist or scholar say they shy away from social media. Newsflash: It is not new. It is not just for the kids. It is an important medium that policymakers, media and other scholars follow.

Check out more of Dr. Shepherd’s Tips