Saturday, October 06, 2007

Making science matter in public policy--framing

Last night in Seattle, Matt Nisbet and Chris Mooney gave an informative and engaging presentation of their "Framing Science" work that has stirred some blogging scientists to react with great umbrage.

I was eager to hear the presentation and meet the speakers to see for myself what this controversy is all about. Last night's presentation was a thoroughly cogent explanation of framing and how they came to their conclusions. It included lots of supporting data and analysis, along with good and bad examples. I learned quite a bit, enough to see new light shining on some things that I thought I already understood fairly well. Lots to think about.

I suppose it helps that I've been studying framing since reading a consultant's report telling me to frame my work better back in about 2003. I didn't want to hear it then, and so I didn't. After about 2 years and much study and practice, I started to get it, and now the value of framing science is clear.

I won't recapitulate all of the issues and criticisms here. They're available online and can be accessed through the links above or a google search.

In my view, Chris and Matt are advancing the cause of getting public policy to be better informed by science. They're not out to undermine science or turn scientists into spinmeisters. They have a well-reasoned argument, some compelling case studies, and they're not saying they have all the answers. Afterwards, they expressed satisfaction at getting framing on the table for people who want to communicate science, and they're open to seeing the conversation evolve based on input and analysis from all quarters.

There's not much to object to here, which brings me back to the blogospherics. My best answer to why some people are upset is that framing requires scientists to drop superior airs, and that's hard for some scientists to do when they view the general public as deeply ignorant and ill-informed. Note to scientists: understanding evolution doesn't confer superiority any more than a silky smooth jump shot.


thomas robey said...
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thomas robey said...

Mark: It was great to meet you on Friday. I look forward to our next encounter. In the meantime, we'll have to find some virtual projects to work together on!