Event Recap: The Science of Science Communication

dietram_scheufele_penn1Dr. Dietram Scheufele, distinguished professor with the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Life Sciences Communication, is on the cutting edge of understanding how the public learns about science and technology, reacts to it, and uses that information to make future decisions.

About 35 Badger NAMA members and friends learned from Scheufule during his February 9 presentation at HotelRED in Madison, Wisconsin.

Scheufele explained that the national news publications are no longer the leading source of information for consumers.  Rather, a survey revealed the public’s top source for information on science and technology is Internet search engines, followed by Facebook, word of mouth, national TV networks and their web presence, and online aggregates.  This means consumers aren’t necessarily finding the most credible information; they’re finding the most popular information.

In addition, one in four Americans get their news from Facebook and the information they see as they scroll is “narrowcasted” and “microtargeted.”  They get information based on their preferences and interests, and no one sees all the same information.

Scheufele advised marketing communicators to carefully consider how they frame a new technology before it’s shared publically.  Who is your audience?  Where does that audience get its information and, thus, where do you need to share it?  What are the values of your audience?  How can you match your product or message to those values to achieve your goals?  He emphasized that an “unframed message doesn’t exist.”  If you don’t carefully consider how you present a new technology, another group will frame it according to its objectives – and you may not like the results.

science-of-science-comms-event-picThe researcher shared his list of takeaway points with Badger NAMA members:

  • Be clear about your objectives – why are you communicating?
  • Go to where the audience is.
  • Don’t blame the audience for communication failures.
  • Use existing social science research to inform your work – don’t fly blind.
  • Collaborate with social science researchers. The benefits are mutual.
  • Think about how you talk about science as much as the science itself – policy debates are not just about the facts.
  • Take into account values, motivations, and prior beliefs that the audience brings to the table.

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