Each January, I journey to my doctor’s office for my annual physical. She briefly reviews my medical history before conducting an examination, and we end our visit by discussing key risk factors and a plan to manage them. Read more >
February 7, 2017 4:44 PM EDT
October 8, 2015 10:55 AM EDT
I was reminded this week, by an exchange of words between Senator Ted Cruz and Sierra Club President Aaron Mair, that at hearings on policy, the discussion can go off on a tangent toward climate science and what is or is not settled. Spoiler alert: settled is as close as scientists get to knowing that a scientific finding has been a widely accepted explanation or law for which no credible alternative exists. For some concepts, like gravity or the fact that carbon dioxide traps heat in Earth’s atmosphere, the science has been widely accepted for over a century or longer. Read more >
February 24, 2015 7:14 PM EDT
This morning, Rep. Raul Grijalva sent letters to seven universities seeking documents related to academics who have testified before Congress on climate change. The requests come in the wake of revelations over the weekend that the Smithsonian Institution agreed not to disclose payments from the Southern Company, a major utility, to fund and review the work of Smithsonian aerospace engineer Willie Soon. As all of the researchers in question have been critical of mainstream climate science, some are wondering if Rep. Grijalva’s requests can be considered a witch hunt. So is it? Read more >
Willie Soon’s Failure to Disclose Industry Funding for Contrarian Climate Research is Another Reason to Support Transparency
February 24, 2015 1:07 PM EDT
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 >
February 19, 2015 2:25 PM EDT
This post originally appeared on the American Geophysical Union’s Plainspoken Scientist blog.
One of the reasons I love working with scientists is that they tend to be very direct. Ask a question: get an answer. Sometimes the answer is a little long and makes me revisit basic physics I haven’t thought about since middle school, but I definitely get an answer.
Thankfully, most of the questions journalists, policymakers and citizens ask scientists are straightforward. But many are off-base and sometimes even badly framed. If a scientist provides a direct answer to a bad question, they can inadvertently leave audiences with an inaccurate impression of their work. While the examples below won’t happen to every researcher, they illustrate good principles for effectively dealing with such questions. Read more >