Friday, December 5, 2008

Communicating Science

Reaching and engaging the public about science is about as important as it gets in communication, and Matthew Nisbet has a terrific online piece on just this topic. Highly recommended. It includes a portion of a manuscript draft he's working on with another author, Dietram Scheufele, on communicating science.

They outline a number of recommendations, including some of the obvious ones and one that really caught my eye -- the importance of satirical programs such as The Daily Show and The Colbert Report in reaching a young audience about science.

Yes. Yes. And yes.

Some of the best television interviewing, serious television interviewing, is done on those programs. Serious authors, serious thinkers, they appear and say more in five minutes with Colbert or Stewart than anyone says on CNN or anywhere else on TV outside of PBS. The following graph sums it up:

Other important media outlets for expanding audience reach include comedy news programs such as The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. Studies have documented the ability of these programs to engage younger, harder to reach audiences about political candidates and election campaigns, shaping their political attitudes and levels of political knowledge (Feldman, 2007; Feldman & Goldthwaite-Young, 2008). On science, a recent Pew (2008c) analysis finds that The Daily Show includes comparatively more attention to science and technology topics than the mainstream press and significantly more attention to climate change. These programs also generate buzz online with heavily-trafficked and forwarded clips on hot-button science topics such as evolution, genetics, climate change, or stem cell research. Additionally, both shows frequently feature scientists and science authors as interview guests, examples including Neil deGrasse Tyson and Brian Greene.

If science communication and science knowledge are your thing, read the full piece.

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