Their Own Worst Enemies: Why Scientists Are Losing The PR Wars

Sharon Begley writes on Newsweek:
Professor Hubert J. Farnsworth

It’s a safe bet that the millions of Americans who have recently changed their minds about global warming — deciding it isn’t happening, or isn’t due to human activities such as burning coal and oil, or isn’t a serious threat — didn’t just spend an intense few days poring over climate-change studies and decide, holy cow, the discretization of continuous equations in general circulation models is completely wrong!

Instead, the backlash (an 18-point rise since 2006 in the percentage who say the risk of climate change is exaggerated, Gallup found this month) has been stoked by scientists’ abysmal communication skills, plus some peculiarly American attitudes, both brought into play now by how critics have spun the “Climategate” e-mails to make it seem as if scientists have pulled a fast one.

Scientists are lousy communicators. They appeal to people’s heads, not their hearts or guts, argues Randy Olson, who left a professorship in marine biology to make science films. “Scientists think of themselves as guardians of truth,” he says. “Once they have spewed it out, they feel the burden is on the audience to understand it” and agree.

[Read more at Newsweek]

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2 Responses to Their Own Worst Enemies: Why Scientists Are Losing The PR Wars

  1. Hadrian999 March 19, 2010 at 11:57 pm #

    the funny thing is if scientists start playing the game and using emotion it will just let them be attacked
    on the grounds that they don't have faith in the data.

  2. John Allen March 21, 2010 at 10:48 pm #

    I have read the emails. Trust me a fast one is an extreamly mild way of saying what I feel. These people are criminals. They were fully aware of what they were doing and did not care if their false outcome destroyed our lives or countries.

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