This story was told in a story circle at the Learning History workshop in February 2008.
Read how, when a group of scientists were brought together with members of the public to discuss climate science there were some striking differences in how different scientists communicated about the issue.
Talking Heads – Communicating Climate Science
A story told in the “Down with Carbon” story circle
Obviously in the context that I am in, I do not have a story about innovation either in terms of reducing carbon reduction. So I think that I will talk about a project that I have been involved in research project which I think has some relevance. It was a project that we called “Deliberating the Environment” which we did a couple of years ago. We got together scientist from the University with local people, and we tried to get them on a one-to-one basis with the facilitator to talk about environmental issues including climate change.
The idea was to see whether there is any potential for deliberation in that context. Deliberation is a key idea in politics and in political theory that you actually want to open up ideas and get that kind of discussion amongst people. We had six scientist that we recruited from the University, natural scientists or engineers that had a clear interest in environmental issues. And then we just locally recruited people. Actually, we have got quite a few older people who are interested in participating. Some of them wanted to get off of the streets as well!
The conversations that they had were very important: one of the really striking things in trying to relate to these issues of carbon reduction or thinking about climate change generally…. One of the things that people talk a lot about is communications of these ideas, and what we have found was really interesting, was the different approaches that the scientist took to trying to talk about what were the environmental issues by diversity, climate change issues around water and energy, so different issues that we have picked up on.
And some of the scientists were incredibly willing to talk about the science behind the issues, but to make it real for the people that they were talking to. Others wanted to stay very much on the surface and to talk about the issues very much in a way that was more just like an expression of opinion and pubchat in the same way that the member of the public might engage in that, so they were staying at that level.And some of those scientists just weren’t engaged deeply. So that was one really striking thing about the way that the scientists engaged in that communication process. And the other really striking thing was that the individual personality was key, and that is the one thing that seems to come through in all of these cases* (Learning Histories featured at the workshop). There were a couple of scientists among our group of people who were just very engaging personalities.
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