Recently, the Montana Climate Assessment was released to the general public and the accompanying website was launched the same day.
While the report contained excellent information on the future of water, fire, snowpack, drought, and agriculture in Montana, I was more impressed with the way the report was presented. The report was made into a user friendly, easy to understand, and modern website that employed the latest social media and website advancements.
The Communication Hurdle
One of the biggest hurdles as a scientist is communication. Many of us are stuck in the dark ages of scientific reporting not willing to embrace a new and modern way of presenting scientific information.
I read a lot of scientific journal articles and they all follow the same format – Abstract, Introduction, Methods, Results, Discussion, Conclusion, and References.
For me, the format makes sense and it is the reporting standard in the scientific community. But, let’s face it, it’s boring. There are no catchy pop-out blocks of summarized information or in-text links to other useful information. The font and colors are basic and the graphs are created for printing in grayscale. In general, scientific reporting is not modern.
Science Embracing Modern Communication
As you can imagine, when I opened the link to the new Montana Climate Assessment, I was blown away. This group of scientists decided to try something new and modernize scientific reporting. Don’t get me wrong, there is still a link to download the old school reporting style pdf. But the new website is modern, incorporates lots of color, graphics, and pictures.
The whole point behind reporting is to communicate results. So, as scientists, if we want to communicate scientific information for effectively to the general public, we need to communicate in a way that reaches the masses. Scientists need to embrace social media and hire contemporary website designers.
It’s time for scientists to ditch the old school way of thinking “this is the way we have always done it” and try something more contemporary.
The nation is moving into a century of rapid climate change, environmental degradation, desertification, and population explosions. “This is the way we have always done it,” is not going to cut it.
There is a large portion of our population that doesn’t even believe in climate change. But, I am sure the climate change skeptics will embrace the concept of a new heart valve if ever necessitating the need for replacement. It’s the same science. Yes, all scientists incorporate the same scientific methods. Scientists undergo the same scientific scrutiny within the scientific community. The only difference is advancements in medical science are easier to embrace because it’s personal and can save your life. But, scientific evidence behind man-induced climatic change is much more difficult to accept because it will change your life.
If humanity truly accepted the responsibility of man-induced climatic change, life as we know it would change. Because currently, any counter-measures aimed at reversing man-induced climate change are not enough. To truly make an impact, all of humanity would have to change. We would have to stop over-consuming, overproducing, and overpopulating the earth. We would have stop the reliance on oil, coal, and gas and immediately switch to cleaner, renewable forms of energy. This would have to be a global push that would change the entire world.
I can’t imagine this happening in the near future without the help of a catastrophic event. So, in the meantime, for most, it’s easier to say (climate) scientists are evil and keep doing what they have always been doing.
Scientists must remain unbiased in order to protect the scientific method. But, we can present our scientific results in a fashion that is available and relatable. The point behind communication is to communicate.Let’s take that a step further. Scientists need to embrace modern forms of communication in order to reach as many people as possible. If you want to reach the masses, speak in the language of the masses.
After all, it wasn’t until Martin Luther translated the Bible into a common language of the people that the everyday person could read and understand the teachings of Jesus.
There is a lot of pertinent scientific results unknown to the general public because the results have not been translated into something everyone can understand. Alternately, there is much scientific research perverted by the media translations.
As scientists, we can’t let the media or special interest groups twist scientific results into something that is unrecognizable from the original research. It is the job as scientist to translate research results into something that can be easily understood by the general public before an improper translation occurs.
Science Is The Key To Humanity’s Future
If scientific research is to survive in today’s political climate of alternate facts, the way scientists communicate needs to evolve. A great example of that evolution is the Montana Climate Assessment. Great job Montana!