Breakout Group C: Challenges and solutions for enhanced paleoscience communication

At the 2nd YSM there was consensus among the young international paleoscientists that there is a great need to better develop skills for communicating with different types of non-academic audiences. Clear and effective communication to the public is becoming increasingly important as current and future climatic and environmental changes are frequently a major focus in the media and politics. However, for the paleoscience community there remains the challenge of properly conveying the concept of past change on longer timescales. Facilitating better public understanding of the scientific process is required to break down barriers and have objective discussions, especially regarding the issue of future climate change.

A productive discussion at the YSM about how to address the challenges we face in communicating paleoscience resulted in two potential solutions:

First, as scientists, we need to be proactive in making our research available in our local communities. Creating connections with internet platforms, classrooms, media outlets and other informal science education venues can be highly productive and rewarding, but also difficult and time consuming to develop. To address this problem and to facilitate paleoscience communication, we propose to link with the PAGES scientist database and outline researchers availability for specific outreach activities (e.g. classroom visits, blog articles, Skype calls, laboratory tours, radio interviews). This type of additional database should be communicated through educational networks such as Polar Education International (PEI). The ultimate hope is that this freely accessible database can begin building lasting relationships between the public and local researchers by making it easy for the public to find local scientists. An encouraging example is the Social Media Knowledge Exchange (www.smke.org), which provides a platform for early career scientists in history and archeology to share their research with non-academic audiences.

Second, the current lack of formal training opportunities in science communication is a major obstacle preventing the effective communication of our research. Coursework and other training opportunities, beyond short workshops, are needed to instruct researchers how to effectively and concisely communicate the significance of their research to any audience. In a highly inter-connected world, it is critical that scientists develop an appropriate level of fluency and understanding of how to use communication tools ranging from social media to informal writing.

Ultimately, communicating our scientific results should become a regular and professionally recognized part of the scientific process. Developing the skills to effectively share our science will undoubtedly increase our broader impacts, and PAGES is in a unique position to facilitate this development in the paleoscience community. Already the YSM has stimulated discussion, and we hope that this dialogue can continue in the broader PAGES network to strengthen and broaden our science communication skills into the future.

Category: Open Highlights | PAGES Magazine articles


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