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Where we fail: An examination of scientific miscommunication

January 31, 2019


Emily Wilbur

In a country where scientific beliefs are closely tied to social identity and politics, it is difficult to represent objective scientific data to the public. There are hardships for both the scientific community and for the people, some of which are dealt with simply (through social outreach) and some of which seem near impassible (a culture of distrust in science). However, there are many methods such as social media, public education, and outreach that allow the scientific community to communicate so that the public is moved to act and be fully informed. This bridges the issue of communicating every detail via the simple solution of communicating the most relevant details, allowing for action without years of education. This is incredibly important with respect to politics and policy, as science shows how the world is changing, and the complexities of that research are sometimes too difficult to convey, even though the consequences of inaction—the most obvious example being climate change—can be damaging as best, and deadly at worst. The United States is stuck in a state of accurate science, but scientifically inaccurate politics. I explored the culture that caused this and methods that could be used to help the nation overcome it.

With issues as wide ranging as AIDS, vaccination, climate change, and daily conveniences like cold medicine, no one is left out of the issues addressed by science. Science communication is vital to helping the public to understand the issues presented by science, and to informing the decisions of policy makers. Policy with respect to science and scientific claims can change the lives of many people, and sometimes the world. When done well, science communication helps scientists to influence policy makers in order to create policy to help the population to live more safe and healthy lives. Unfortunately, in cases the United States is currently at an impasse with respect to acting on scientific information. With issues like climate change that will disproportionately affect those living in poverty, and the current political polarization and inaction with respect to the subject, we are not seeing policy made to be just and beneficial for the American people. I propose that this is a problem on multiple fronts, but there are simple, accessible ways to bridge the gap and move into the future, such as having information-based conversations with others about climate change.

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