In my talks, I often discuss the different groups who came to meet with me when I worked on Capitol Hill with regard to who was most effective. On science related issues, the general breakdown fell into two categories (with exceptions):
- Scientists from universities or NGO’s would usually show up in my office with a briefing binder as thick as a phone book. There would be a lot of charts, p-values, figures, and complicated concepts. Most didn’t talk to me, but at me. And the take home message would be different than that of the other scientists I met the previous hour on the same subject.
- Special interest groups were frequently very well organized. They spoke with a common theme and brought articulate speakers. Rather than stop in our office, they usually hosted large and well attended briefings, supplying easy to digest hardcover books with titles like ‘climate change conspiracy.’ Typically they were funny and made references to Michael Crichton’s science fiction. Perhaps most importantly, they provided a free boxed lunches and held long Q&As to engage the audience.
Both types introduced themselves as the “honest broker” of scientific information, but the latter often made the stronger impression with staffers. Now removed from the Hill for several years, this invitation recently landed in my inbox:
The Climategate Scandals: What Has Been Revealed And What Does It Mean?
Senior Fellow in Environmental Studies, Cato Institute
Executive Director, ICECAP and Certified Consultant Meteorologist
Senior Policy Analyst
The Heritage Foundation
Director of Energy and Global Warming Policy
The Competitive Enterprise Institute
The scientific case for catastrophic global warming was already showing signs of weakening when the Climategate scientific fraud scandal broke in November of 2009. This release of thousands of computer files and emails between leading global warming scientists showed evidence of data manipulation, flouting of freedom of information laws, and attempts to suppress publication of research that disagreed with the alarmist “consensus.”
Climategate has raised many questions about the reliability of key temperature records as well as the objectivity of the researchers and institutions involved, but it is far from the only global warming-related controversy. It has been followed by revelations that some of the most attention-grabbing claims in the 2007 UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report – the supposed gold standard of climate science – were simply made up. Before laws regulating energy use are enacted that could well cost trillions of dollars, it is crucial to understand the extent to which the alleged scientific consensus supporting global warming alarmism has been discredited by these scandals. Join us for a discussion featuring two scientists who have closely studied climategate.
Lunch will be provided
I’ve reposted the text because I don’t think most scientists understand the way policy decisions are influenced. We may have a more scientific Washington than when I worked in DC, but science and its allies must fight harder than ever before. Some groups are already effective. Some of us are trying new initiatives. I’m optimistic and realize that change happens slowly, but I hope those working in policy-related areas will take note and become more involved making sure that sound science moves beyond the lab. Because when we’re not explaining what we do and why it matters, someone else is telling the story for us. And we often won’t like the result.
Links to this Post
- It’s like shooting ducks in a barrel [The Island of Doubt] | Death By Cucumber | Great News In No Time | April 16, 2010
- Mike The Mad Biologist: ‘the gloves are coming off’ | The Intersection | Discover Magazine | April 19, 2010
- Why science communication often fails « A Man With A Ph.D. | April 19, 2010
- Why science communication often fails | April 19, 2010