Communicating Science

Bio: Sam Wormley is a retired Associate Scientist and Principal
Investigator, CNDE/IPRT/AL at Iowa State. And for 17 years, an 
Adjunct Professor of Astronomy at Marshalltown Community College.
Sam regularly teaches sciences and technology classes for OLLI at
Iowa State.

o A scientist's moral obligation to educate the public

  An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival
  as a free people -- attributed to Thomas Jefferson

  Hiring by the Ames Laboratory (1980).

  Serving on the Ames_ISU Bicycling Committee (1980s)

  Do scientists have a moral obligation to educate the public?

  To the extent that they are paid by the public -- or
  regardless -- do scientists have a moral obligation to
  educate the public? Do they have any social duty to teach
  humanity about their discoveries?

  "Moral obligation" is kind of strong. First of your initial
  assertion that research  is paid by the public is not
  totally true. Many research projects are receiving private
  fundings for better or worse ; worse being when such
  financement is motivated by a desired bias such as back when
  tobacco industry was providing a lot of "research report"
  but many more recent examples can be found. 

  Second even if public funds are provided their research can
  contribute to society without the need to public education.
  An historical example is the Manhattan project: the goal was
  not to educate public about nuclear bomb but to make one.
  Public funds were used for this sole purpose and in fact the
  less general public would know about it the better it was. 

  That being said public education is something that majority
  of scientists are willing (not necessarily good) to do. It
  is part of the culture of research to let results and
  discovery be public in general at least for the purpose of
  sharing it with their peer in order to further advance the
  state of the art. 

o The necessary skill is to translate the science into
  language of the man on the street.

  Wikipedia: Science Communication

  Science Communication to the General Public: Why We Need to
  Teach Undergraduate and Graduate Students this Skill as Part
  of Their Formal Scientific Training

  The public must be able to understand the basics of science
  to make informed decisions. Perhaps the most dramatic
  example of the negative consequences of poor communication
  between scientists and the public is the issue of climate
  change, where a variety of factors, not the least of which
  is a breakdown in the transmission of fundamental climate
  data to the general public, has contributed to widespread
  mistrust and misunderstanding of scientists and their
  research (Somerville and Hassol, 2011). The issue of climate
  change also illustrates how the public acceptance and
  understanding of science (or lack thereof) can influence
  governmental decision making with regard to regulation,
  science policy and funding.

  Example: What is the identity of an electron?

  Well the answer to this is "Pauli's Exclusion Principle".
  The Pauli exclusion principle is the quantum mechanical
  principle that states that two identical fermions (particles
  with half-integer spin) cannot occupy the same quantum state
  simultaneously. Quantum states are the address of an
  electron in an atom. So basically Pauli says that no two
  electrons can have same address.

  Example: What is the proton-proton chain fusion in the Sun/


  Planning for your audience

  Assessing your audience

  Adapting to your audience

  Dealing with audience diversity

o Communicating science is often more successful when engaging
  and respecting your audience. Make all a part of the

o Use enthusiasm and don't be afraid to show emotion. Show
  your passion.

o Know your subject and all the arguments pro and con.

o Be positive and upbeat -- even about global warming.

Winter OLLI Catalog Entry
  Understanding Global Climate Change

  Understanding global climate change provides an overview of
  what climatologists have learned about our changing climate.
  We avoid the political rhetoric and look at what the science
  says. The goal is for each of us to better understand what
  is happening to climate, why, and how we will live with the

The Greenhouse Gas Effect

Ocean Acidification

Effects of Warming

Steps to Reduce Climate Change

NOAA | Climate Information and Indicators

NASA | Global Climate Change Evidence

IPCC | Fifth Assessment Report (AR5)