Joining the Board of AGU With a Focus on Science Communication

By Chris Mooney | December 2, 2010 11:07 am

People are emailing me; they seem to have gotten their new copies of EOS, where it’s announced; so it is past time for me to flag the following:

The American Geophysical Union’s board of directors has approved two new members who will bring expertise in science policy and communication: policy advisor Floyd DesChamps and author Chris Mooney. Their selection reflects AGU’s commitment to applying the results of scientific research to challenges faced by the global community, many of which are based in the geosciences.

Floyd DesChamps served as senior advisor on climate change to the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee from 1997 to 2009, and was a co-author of the landmark climate bill, the Climate Stewardship and Innovation Act (also called the McCain-Lieberman Climate Change Bill). He is currently a senior vice-president for the Alliance to Save Energy, where he develops the Alliance’s policy initiatives.

DesChamps has degrees in mechanical engineering and engineering management, and previously worked for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the U.S. Department of Energy.

I got to meet Floyd recently; I also seem to remember interviewing him at one point when he worked under McCain. Obviously, helping to write McCain-Lieberman is a massive achievement and I’m glad to be working with him. And then there’s stuff about me in the release….and then a quote from AGU president Michael J. McPhaden:

“Floyd and Chris will provide expert advice on how to effectively communicate the importance and relevance of Earth and space science to the public and policy makers,” said McPhaden. “We’re really excited about their involvement and what it means for new opportunities to advance AGU’s outreach efforts.”

I’m very glad to serve and help in any way that I can, especially with regard to AGU’s scientific outreach mission–and am looking forward to working with the union and its thousands of geoscientists. The task starts with the incredible AGU fall meeting in San Francisco this December, which brings in well over 10,000 scientists every year, and was the setting for the opening and scene of my book Storm World. The meeting will feature numerous panels focused on science communication, including this one.

More generally, this is an exciting time to be involved in science communication, particularly with regard to climate science–because so much is happening, and so many prior assumptions are being reconsidered. For a great example of how scientists are becoming much more active on this front, I’d point readers to this interview with Scripps climate researcher Richard Somerville, who’s become a top proponent of new outreach efforts:

Q: How well do you think scientists are doing in communicating climate-change issues to the public?

A: A lot of improvement is needed. Scientists generally need professional advice and training to make them better communicators. Translating jargon and mathematics into appealing and understandable English for a general audience is not easy.

Q: How do current communication efforts by scientists compare to those in prior eras?

A: Communicating complex science accurately and effectively has always been difficult. Communicating climate science today is made even more difficult by a well-funded professional campaign of disinformation, designed to confuse the public and create the impression that climate science is not trustworthy. In fact, there is a remarkable degree of agreement in the expert scientific community on the basic findings that climate change, or global warming, is real and serious and human-caused. But most people don’t realize that.

I’m doing a session with Richard at AGU about climate communication; details here. It’s going to be on Tuesday, the 14th. More on that soon….and I hope to see some of our blog readers out at AGU in two weeks!

Comments (8)

  1. Sheril Kirshenbaum

    Congratulations CM! And congratulations to AGU!

  2. Lee Allison

    Chris – excellent news! Delighted to hear you will lend your remarkable talents to the geoscience community. And as 30+ year member of AGU, it’s exciting to see the organization take this step. AGU is also taking the most active approach to use of social media of any major scientific society I know. See you in SF for the Fall meeting.

  3. DrC
  4. Many congratulations, Chris.

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About Chris Mooney

Chris is a science and political journalist and commentator and the author of three books, including the New York Times bestselling The Republican War on Science--dubbed "a landmark in contemporary political reporting" by Salon.com and a "well-researched, closely argued and amply referenced indictment of the right wing's assault on science and scientists" by Scientific American--Storm World, and Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future, co-authored by Sheril Kirshenbaum. They also write "The Intersection" blog together for Discover blogs. For a longer bio and contact information, see here.

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