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More Than Scientists, Mauna Loa, and Better Climate Communication

At UCS when we are thinking about the best way to communicate new scientific results, my colleague Aaron Huertas often asks me, “How do the results make you feel?” As he wrote, the exercise can be helpful in bringing scientific findings back to human emotions and why the results might matter to others. A new campaign called More Than Scientists seeks to enact this effect on a broader scale and I was happy to take part in it. Read More

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Censorship of Government Scientists Spreads to the United Kingdom

British scientists are pushing back strongly against a move by the UK government to control how government scientists communicate their research with the public. This is a very troubling development that is bad for science and bad for the public interest. The news was reported on Friday in the Guardian and Science. Read More

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Portland Sunnier Than Houston? Solar Power Resources Are More Widespread Than You Think…

The spring equinox is a fine time to celebrate the sun. And, for the solar power lovers among us, it’s a great time to take stock of how much sun is available for rooftop solar across the country.

When we do, we find that, over the course of the year, the sun for solar power generation is actually much more evenly distributed than sunny-Southwest-postcards-vs.-Northern-snow-scenes would suggest. It’s also more evenly spread than typical solar maps would lead you to believe. Here’s a better way to see how much you’ve got. Read More

Categories: Energy, Science Communication  

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Where Is the FDA on Social Media and Science?

Last week, we released an update to Grading Government Transparency, a report we first released in 2013. The report assesses the media policies and social media policies of 17 government agencies. How much could policy have changed in only two years? A Washington cynic might assume “not much.” But actually, we found significant improvement when it comes to social media at federal agencies. Read More

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Freedom to Tweet? Government Scientists and the Right to Engage on Social Media

Social media has done great things for science. We’ve seen it educate, advocate, and communicate on scientific issues around the world and at an unimaginable speed. Social media has allowed open science to thrive, scientists to connect, and movements to start. It allows us to organize, debate, and discuss breaking news on science-related topics. As my colleague Aaron has said, when Neil deGrasse Tyson has more Twitter followers than Seth Rogen, we know that social media has potential for communication of science. Read More

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Book Review: How Culture Shapes the Climate Change Debate by Andrew Hoffman

A few years ago, my colleagues and I worked with Andrew Hoffman, the director of the Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise at the University of Michigan, to host a forum on increasing public understanding of climate change. The event sticks with me because the participants came from so many different backgrounds: environmental justice, Creation care, energy production, social science, media, climate science, and service in Congress.

Hoffman has condensed the myriad approaches to climate communication we discussed that day — and much more — into an indispensable guide. At a slim 100 pages, Hoffman’s book offers a fine distillation of the growing body of social science that explains our curious and conflicting approaches to climate issues. In addition to identifying the problematic ways we often approach climate change, he also suggests several potential ways forward that can restore the climate debate to what he calls a “more civilized plane.” Read More

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Can Republican Politicians Change Their Tune on Climate and Energy?

When former Texas Governor Rick Perry (R) ran for president in 2011, he flatly rejected climate science and even claimed that scientists had manipulated climate data. But last week, in response to a question about climate and energy issues at the Conservative Political Action Conference, he touted his environmental record, instead. Read More

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Heart of Science: Leonard Nimoy, 1931-2015

As the eulogistic outpourings of the last few days show, Leonard Nimoy’s death has touched many people in this country and beyond, including those of us with a science bent and a strong affinity for a certain Vulcan. His most famous character says a lot about how to move forward on some issues of monumental importance. Read More

Categories: Science Communication  

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Willie Soon’s Failure to Disclose Industry Funding for Contrarian Climate Research is Another Reason to Support Transparency

My first job in science communication was as an “Explainer” in the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. The program helps visitors – particularly students – understand the forces of flight. Our uniforms included red polo shirts that said “The Explainer Program” on the front and had the name of the company that sponsored the program – Cessna Aircraft – on the sleeve.

I recall this old uniform because the Smithsonian is under scrutiny for an entirely different type of sponsorship that was hidden from public view. Read More

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No Scientist Should Face Harassment. Period.

Last week, UCS released a report detailing the cases of many scientists who have been the targets of open record requests filed by their critics. These attacks have come from the left (e.g., gay marriage) and from the right (e.g., climate change). That same week, Science reported that an advocacy group had submitted extensive open records requests to multiple universities for significant portions of the email correspondence of several scientists who work in genetic engineering. On whether this constitutes harassment, it’s worth revisiting what should be disclosed and what should not. Read More

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