I have been traveling, and so haven’t posted to DeSmogBlog in a while. But now I’m back, and I’ve got a pretty big piece over there that summarizes the research (5 studies, at least that I’ve found so far) on correlations between watching Fox News and being more misinformed about public policy issues.
Yup, that’s right: I’ve found five separate studies on this so far–touching on the Iraq War, global warming, health care, the Ground Zero mosque, and the 2010 election. I’m not really sure whether they’ve all been pulled together before–or, whether there are more of them out there that I just haven’t seen yet. If you know of any, post the links here!
Meanwhile, head on over to DeSmogBlog for the rundown.
My latest DeSmogBlog item continues the discussion of the whole Romm-Nisbet brouhaha, which is of course mostly about how to engage in accurate finger-pointing in the wake of what all perceive as a failure of climate policy.
Romm has now given some actual rough percents for how he sees the blame-o-meter, and I comment on those–I’m guessing I’m somewhere between Romm and Nisbet, probably closer to Romm:
I would never downplay (as Nisbet did) all the attacks on science that have occurred. But I also would not exonerate environmental organizations. God knows they have their problems, and personally, I’ve felt that the inward firing squad is the biggest—and the lack of unity and common cause.
Nor would I completely exonerate scientists—and they’re not letting themselves off the hook either. They know they need to communicate better. The introspection and reflection going on in that world at the moment is a really impressive thing to see.
But Romm is right that science denial and the media (combined) have been the biggest problem. I don’t know about 90 percent, but surely in the 60-90 percent range.
You can read the full DeSmogBlog piece here.
Matthew Nisbet has a big contrarian report out that criticizes environmentalists–and scientists, and Al Gore–for their role in the failure to pass a climate bill or to achieve progress on the issue. Meanwhile, the report seeems to downplay the influence of climate change denial, ClimateGate, and Fox News.
I collaborated with Nisbet on framing several years ago, and thought his work on that topic was insightful–but I’m troubled by this report, as I know are many, many others.
Joe Romm has gone on the offensive, and one of Nisbet’s peer reviewers, Robert J. Brulle, has dropped off. Romm debunks Nisbet’s (apparent) claim that environmental groups outspent their industry opponents during the cap-and-trade battle. Media Matters, meanwhile, challenges Nisbet when it comes to the significance of ClimateGate (which, obviously, has had a transformative effect on the political debate around climate, as anyone paying attention to Capitol Hill knows) and of Fox News.
No one has yet taken on the part of the report that I find in some ways the most stunning: Nisbet’s attempt to claim that members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, “in comparison to other social groups for which data is available [rank] among the most partisan and ideological.”
Nisbet also acts as if the notion that there were copious attacks on science during the last administration is just some biased opinion subscribed to by politicized AAAS scientists–rather than a reality extensively documented by myself and many, many others, like the Union of Concerned Scientists.
For the moment, I just want to flag this–I’ve collaborated with Nisbet in the past, but this is not something I can stay silent about.
I’ve been blogging less, traveling more, and taking on some exciting new responsibilities which I’ll be sharing soon. But in the mean time, I’d like to point readers to the work of my brilliant friend and former colleague Michael Conathan. He’s sharp, articulate, and has tremendous experience working on U.S. oceans policy. In 2006 when I served in Senator Bill Nelson’s office, Mike was the Knauss Sea Grant Fellow on the Senate Commerce Committee. Perhaps our greatest accomplishment that year was contributing to the long-overdue reauthorization of the Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act–the primary law governing marine fisheries management in the U.S.
Michael recently joined the Center for American Progress as the the Director of Ocean Policy and they are very lucky to have him on board. He’s also writing a terrific column called Fish on Fridays which I’ve been following over the past weeks. Here’s a sample from March 11 entitled Waking from the Gluttony:
A strong case can be made that fishing is America’s oldest profession. Europeans were using parts of what is now Atlantic Canada as seasonal fish camps as far back as the early 15th century—even before Columbus confused the Caribbean for the shores of India.
Many fisheries scientists were sure there was no way humans could make a dent in the seemingly endless abundance of fish in the ocean as late as the middle of the 20th century. But our fishing industries were already well on their way to proving them wrong. It now seems that the problems facing our fisheries are as plentiful as cod once were on the Grand Banks off Newfoundland and throughout the Gulf of Maine.
We now live in a world where overfishing is far too prevalent. To stem this tide, regulators impose tighter and tighter restrictions on fishermen,* in the face of fundamental disagreements among harvesters, regulators, and conservationists about how many is too many.
Our oceans are in real trouble and we critically need experts like Michael who understand more than the biology and trophic interactions beneath the surface. He notably includes the people and policy, as well as the science and has the experience on and off the Hill to be practical toward progress. In short, I encourage everyone to make Fish on Fridays part of their weekly reading. These columns are also posted at Climate Progress where you can participate in the comment threads.
Answer: When he has Ann Coulter on the air, and somebody has to act responsible:
For a thorough debunking of Coulter, see here.
I’m excited to announce that I’ll be attending an amazing event in late June: the World Conference of Science Journalists’ annual conference, this time to be held in in Doha, Qatar. On June 28 I’m organizing the following plenary session:
Am I a Science Journalist?
In the evolving world of science communication, how do we define a science journalist? This panel will discuss whether the venerable word “journalist” can or should be applied to some, all, or none of the new generation of science bloggers and educators who are remaking the field.
- Chris Mooney, Discover; Point of Inquiry (USA)
- Bora Zivkovic, A Blog Around the Clock; Scientific American (USA)
- Ed Yong, Not Exactly Rocket Science (UK)
- Moheb Costandi, Neurophilosophy (UK)
- Homayoun Kheyri, freelance; BBC World Service (Australia/Iran)
- Cristine Russell, Council for the Advancement of Science Writing; Harvard Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs (USA)
But of course this is just a tiny part of this historic conference–I believe it is the first time WCSJ has been held in the Arab world. The event will feature over 180 speakers from all over the world and 100 developing country journalists will be brought to Doha.
For many more details, and to see how you might attend, see here.
Over the weekend, I had the privilege of sharing a panel with two science writers I admire tremendously: Carl Zimmer and Deborah Blum. The topic was science blogging, journalism, and the changing media environment. Preparing for our session gave me plenty of time to consider the dynamic nature of the blogosphere and the evolution of online weblogs since my arrival in 2006.
Science blogging itself has virtually exploded during past years. What was once a small community of blogs and bloggers has grown into a myriad of lively networks that interact and engage with each other and broad audiences. We were initially a handful of familiar names and urls, yet now the list is so long that no one—except Bora Zivkovic perhaps—can hope to know every member of the ever-expanding science blogging community. Niches have emerged across disciplines, covering topics from genetics and open access science to, well, everything all at once. And the all-stars do a heck of a good job sharing stories and posing new questions as well.
It’s been extremely interesting to observe the shifting motivations of those who decide to enter the world of science blogging. Years ago, I suspect the majority of us were drawn to this kind of forum as a means of self-expression. A creative outlet. For me, it was cathartic–I had all of these ideas swirling through my head and posting served as a wonderful way to explore them further with readers. I doubt that five years ago, many of us envisioned blogging would be a career asset. At that time, it was still somewhat taboo. Universities didn’t know what to make of blogs and some initially tried to restrict participation by faculty and staff. Meanwhile, we supported each other and the community was close.
Fast forward to 2011 and I’m meeting so many so many fascinating individuals–particularly students, early career scientists, and journalists–who have embraced blogging as a way to stand out, engage others, and get noticed. Many job applicants list blogs near the top of CVs and universities are teaching courses on using new media. Bloggers with authority speak out when they see bad science reporting and a system of mutual online peer review has emerged. There are exceptions to all of this of course, but I like the overall trends I’m observing: Blogs have become the norm. They are redefining the meaning of “mainstream media” and often determine what makes “news.” Best of all, they are changing perceptions of who scientists are and what we do.
These are my thoughts on the flight home to Austin, and I’m curious to hear readers’ perspectives on the evolution of science blogging. If you are a blogger, when did you begin and what motivated your decision? If you’re a reader, do you enjoy the burgeoning community or feel lost because of information overload? Are your favorite blogs written by scientists, science journalists, or someone in between? The comment thread is yours for discussion, and I’ll be back to participate…
This is painful to watch, but in terms of media scientific illiteracy, also highly instructive (h/t CJR):
I’ve got a new post up at DeSmogBlog, airing some of my outrage over this exchange in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. It’s between a climate denier and John Abraham, and while Abraham gets the better of things factually and intellectually (of course) I don’t think oped pages ought to be printing columns that, essentially, misinform:
A few posts back I highlighted new research suggesting that “on the one hand, on the other hand” coverage of fact-based political divides leaves citizens in a postmodern funk, uncertain what the truth is and whether they are capable of discerning it. It’s yet another reason why journalists have a responsibility to serve as arbiters of factual disputes—rather than thinking their job is done if they let one side say the sky is pink, but then provide a counter-quote from an expert saying that in fact it’s blue.
What goes for journalists ought to go for op-ed pages. While it might be more difficult to design a study to test the effect on readers of an exchange like that in the Star Tribune, I would guess it is the same—making them feel helpless about discerning where the truth lies.
You can read the full DeSmogBlog post here.