Guidelines - A Primer for Communicating Effectively with NABIR Stakeholders [report]

G.R. Bilyard, C.J. Word, J.R. Weber, A.K. Harding
2000 unpublished
Foreword This version of the Natural and Accelerated Bioremediation Research (NABIR) communication primer has been almost entirely rewritten in response to reader comments, research that is new (or new to us), and our own analysis of interactions between scientists and the public. We attempt to synthesize here the most relevant parts of what is known about sharing fundamental scientific research with non-scientists with the intent of helping scientists in their own communication efforts. Here,
more » ... ion efforts. Here, you will find information drawn from diverse sources, primarily from published literature in science, social science, and communication, from direct observations we continue to make during a variety of communication events on NABIR-related science (e.g., interviews, focus groups, designed engagements), and from the analysis and interpretation of taped interactions involving scientists and other stakeholders. Perhaps the most important observation that we have made is that the communication of science with non-scientists is highly contextual -what happens during the communication of fundamental scientific research and the resulting effectiveness of that communication is dependent on multiple factors that are extrinsic to the science itself. For this reason, there is no "silver bullet" for communicating about science with nonscientists. Different types of scientific inquiry, different participants, differing relationships among those participants, and differences in the outcomes that the participants expect from a communication "event" all influence how effective and satisfying the event will be to the participants. Thus, while it is tempting to rely solely on the terminology and communication practices that can most accurately communicate scientific content, this approach is very risky. It is important that thought be given to the context within which the communication will occur, and to think about communication opportunities with the relevant contextual variables in mind. This version of the communication primer comprises two interlocking parts: Part 1, a practical section, intended to prepare you for public interactions, and Part 2, a theoretical section that provides social and technical bases for the practices recommended in Part 1. The mutual support of practice and theory is very familiar in science and clearly requires a willingness to observe and revise our prior assumptions -in this document, we invoke both. We hope that this offering will represent a step both towards improving practice and maturing the theory of practical science communication. iii Summary The purpose of this report is to help scientists communicate with stakeholders and the public (primarily non-scientists) about fundamental science research. The primary audience for this report is scientists involved in the Natural and Accelerated Bioremediation Research (NABIR) program of the U.S. Department of Energy. However, the information and insights in the report that are not program-specific should be helpful to scientists in other fundamental science research programs. The report first discusses why scientists should talk to stakeholders and the public and the challenges associated with discussing the NABIR program. Then, a practical section provides guidance to prepare for and learn from face-to-face interactions. It covers the expectations, sound and unsound, that most of us have for communication and provides a seven-part system (CLARITY) for on-the-spot interactions. It also contains talking points for NABIR scientists, which are issues and questions that have been shown to be of interest to stakeholders. The last section, Theory, then provides a research grounding for the practical guidance. It is observed that communication initiatives can be characterized by three factors: relationships in the social environment, views of what constitutes communication, and accepted forms of communication practices and products. Four current models that influence science communication are described (transmission, diffusion, social ecology, and dialogue) and a table shows how current science communication practices have been derived from these models. Finally, what research tells us about informal science communication is discussed: public understanding, media influence, trust, mechanics of interactions, and people's strategies for making sense of expert interactions. v T.
doi:10.2172/763923 fatcat:w7otjmne6zf75eiauauhb5uzfm