Debate continues in the blogosphere on how to talk to non-scientists about science, especially when the science can inform a policy debate. As a scientifically-trained conservation advocate, I routinely use scientific findings in policy debates, and have views on this subject. The vehemence of this debate is surprising, and I think the debate has become inflamed partly because people are talking at cross purposes. So…
I wonder if it’s foolhardy to attempt to state succinctly the core arguments for and against what’s being called “framing” science. Probably, so here goes:
Framing: The best way to talk about science to non-scientists is to extract accurately the core results of a scientific subject and present them in a comfortable context. This builds trust and acceptance, encourages listening, and minimizes the impact of ideological or other filters. This approach is especially important when policy implications exist, because that’s when it’s hardest to get people to listen to and understand science.
Against framing: The right way to talk about science to non-scientists is to display science including assumptions, evidence and uncertainty. This is much like talking to scientists, except understanding can be encouraged by helpful examples, translation of jargon, and engaging presentation. This approach is especially important when policy implications exist, because including any opinions or spin casts doubt on the reliability of the science.
There you have it, the blogfish view of the essential pro and con sides of the argument. For what it’s worth. If I have them wrong, perhaps somebody smarter on these subjects will do a better job of stating the essential framing pro and con.
Anyone out there who wants to comment? Or perhaps blogfish is too small of a pond to attract any fish.