Carnegie Mellon University Home

Dietrich College News

Baruch Fischhoff, the Howard Heinz University Professor of Social and Decision Sciences and Engineering and Public Policy, speaking at the National Academy of Sciences conference on "The Science of Science Communication."

October 2013

The Science of Science Communication

The public, and at times the political, dialogue on climate change is one clear example of how difficulty effective science communication can be. Yet, many decisions – from immunization and other health issues to using “smart” electricity grids – require a basic grasp of the relevant science.

Baruch Fischhoff, the Howard Heinz University Professor of Social and Decision Sciences and Engineering and Public Policy, is a leader in bringing together the social, behavioral and decision sciences into the emerging areas of the science of science communication. Last year, he co-organized a conference at the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) bringing together scientists with stories to tell and scientists who can help them to tell those stories. This year, he co-organized the second.

“People need to know about science in order to make good decisions, as individuals and citizens,” Fischhoff said. “Working scientists are often gifted communicators in the classroom. However, they may have a harder time reaching broader audiences, where they lack the direct connections needed to learn what information people want and how well they are providing it. Social science research can provide that connection.”

NAS held “The Science of Science Communication” Sackler Colloquium Sept. 23-25. The sold-out event attracted more than 500 scientists and communicators, with more than ten thousand watching live webcasts. Topics included the influence of social networks, the politicization of science, and dealing with uncertainty – as well as how content goes viral and what difference that makes. (Hint: Lady Gaga retweeting about a social networking book did not affect sales.)

Fischhoff’s presentation, “Communicating Uncertainty,” outlined the challenges of explaining research findings when the results are not cut-and-dry. To overcome uncertainty, he suggested creating standard procedures for making and communicating decisions, a resource center to provide experts with publication-quality support, and shared understanding of essential analytical approaches.

CMU was also represented by Julie Downs, associate research professor of social and decision sciences, and Gabrielle Wong-Parodi, a research scientist in Engineering and Public Policy. Wong-Parodi and Climate Central’s Ben Strauss presented a dramatized summary of their collaboration on the design of the Surging Seas website. Downs showed how interactive media communications can improve adolescent health, by helping teens to make better decisions.

“Once you develop a narrative, you must make sure that it will work,” Downs advised. “Pilot test it with your target audience, then refine it, and test again.” She also represented the science of communication in a working group on obesity and nutrition.

Another highlight was Deb Roy, professor at MIT and chief media scientist at Twitter, and his discussion on “Charting Science Chatter Through Social Media.” Using the powerful reach of television viewers and Twitter users as an example, Roy explained how Twitter was becoming “the social soundtrack for life.”

In addition to Fischhoff, the conference was co-organized by Ralph J. Cicerone, president of NAS and chair of the National Research Council; Barbara A. Schaal, the Mary-Dell Chilton Distinguished Professor and Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis; Dietram A. Scheufele, the John E. Ross Professor in Science Communication at the University of Wisconsin, Madison; and Alan I. Leshner, CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

For more information on the Science of Science Communication – including videos of each presentation, visit http://www.nasonline.org/programs/sackler-colloquia/upcoming-colloquia/agenda-science-communication-II.html.

To read about last year's conference, which included presentations from CMU's David Klahr and Wandi Bruine de Bruin, visit http://www.cmu.edu/news/stories/archives/2012/june/june5_communicatingscience.html.

Stay connected with CMU's Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences on Twitter and Facebook.

Other sources of Carnegie Mellon news include the university news service website and the Carnegie Mellon Today magazine.

Contact Shilo Rea, Director of Public Relations at shilo@cmu.edu or (412) 268-6094.

 

About the Quick Links

Follow the Dietrich College on Twitter and Facebook.
Sign up to receive Dietrich College News, the college's monthly e-newsletter.

  Scott Sandage Helps "Modern Family's" Jesse Tyler Ferguson Learn His Family History on "Who Do You Think You Are?"
Premiering at 9 p.m. EDT, Wednesday, July 30, the episode will show Sandage helping Ferguson uncover the life of his great-grandfather whom trouble seemed to follow at every turn. Read more.
  Save the Date: Celebrating the Work of Steven Klepper
The Dietrich College and Department of Social and Decision Sciences will hold an academic conference and community memorial event on October 17, 2014 to celebrate the work of Steven Klepper. Read more (pdf).
  Dietrich College News: May 2014
Features this month include new psychology research, "Lucky After Dark," the 2014 Adamson Student Writing Awards, alumni news, commencement photos and much more. Read Dietrich College News.
  Heavily Decorated Classrooms Disrupt Attention and Learning In Young Children
Published in Psychological Science, CMU's Anna V. Fisher, Karrie E. Godwin and Howard Seltman looked at whether classroom displays affected children's ability to maintain focus during instruction and to learn the lesson content. They found that children in highly decorated classrooms were more distracted, spent more time off-task and demonstrated smaller learning gains than when the decorations were removed. Read more.   Watch a video.
  Four Students Begin Dietrich Honors Fellowship Program
The program provides summer funding to rising seniors in the Dietrich College's senior honors program as they undertake early-stage research and development of their thesis topics. In this video, the four students participating in program's inaugural year discuss their projects which range from relationship research to anthropology and ethnography studies. Watch the videoFind out more about the program.
  Mapping the Future of the Humanities and Social Sciences
Carnegie Mellon University — which has a long history of the humanities and social sciences collaborating with other fields to solve problems — and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences held the first Pittsburgh-area discussion of the "Heart of the Matter" report and its implications for improving education and creating a sustainable global society. Read more.   Watch the video.  View photos.
  New Dietrich Honors Fellowship Program Announced
The program will provide summer funding support to rising seniors in the Dietrich College senior honors program as they undertake early-stage research and development of their thesis topics. Read more.
  Richard Scheines Appointed Dean of Dietrich College
Scheines, professor and head of the Department of Philosophy, has been selected to lead the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences as dean, effective July 1, 2014. He will succeed John Lehoczky, who has served as dean since 2000 and will return to the Department of Statistics’ faculty. Read more.
  Students, Alumni Attend Under Construction
Nearly 60 alumni returned to support 150 current students and help them build their careers. The second annual “Under Construction: Building Your Future” event encouraged students and alumni to explore the diverse fields available after graduation. Read more.
  Video: The Humanities at Carnegie Mellon University
The Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences is proud to have distinguished faculty and talented students who are leading the humanities into the 21st century. In this short video, Dietrich College faculty, staff and alumni talk about the college’s excellence in the humanities. Watch the video.

 

H&SS Home | Admissions | Advising & Careers | Departments & Programs | Research | Computing & Libraries | News | Alumni

Site Index | About H&SS | Message from the Dean

 

Carnegie Mellon University
College of Humanities & Social Sciences | 5000 Forbes Avenue | Baker Hall 154 | Pittsburgh, PA 15213 | (412) 268-2830