Scientists and researchers are a treasure cove of information that, if communicated well, can change perceptions, inform the public and showcase the potential value of their work to society. The key is in presenting the information in a manner that is easily understood and as stated in Guidelines on science and health communication, “in ways that minimise the potential for distorted or unwarranted conclusions being drawn.”
The research paper published by Social Issues Research Centre on Guidelines on science and health communication presents a handy guide to communicating science:
Dealing with the media:
While it is important to talk about scientific work in a transparent and responsible manner, it is crucial to understand the media’s stance on the topic prior to any engagement to avoid misinterpretation of facts. Once the position of the reporter has been established, the information must be presented using language and examples from daily life (as much as possible) that can be easily understood by non-science audiences.
A researcher’s or scientist’s word is not going to be enough to build trust with the media or the public. Credibility of the research/study must be stated through evidence and proof to convince or change perceptions about an issue/topic.
Always present accurate and factual information that leaves no scope for speculation. The paper further recommends, “avoid speculation based on opinions or beliefs that are not related to the study itself.”
Communication of risk and benefits:
Science is based on evidence which can change with circumstances. A non-science audience will most likely not understand that changing the ‘circumstance’ might impact the ‘results’ of the study. It is, therefore, crucial to cite potential risks/impacts/benefits in order to avoid conclusions being drawn. Communication of the risks and benefits should also be done in a balanced manner to avoid instilling fear in the audience.
Communicating science is an art. PR Associates can help you present the most complex scientific concepts to a wide group of non-science audience and positively influence their behaviour.