This week I enjoyed a second face-to-face meeting with my mentor at a Chapman Conference on communicating climate science in Granby, Colorado. After a particularly scenic Amtrak ride through the snow-capped mountains, I arrived at the train station and continued with Stacy on to the Snow Mountain Ranch. By the time I arrived, Stacy had already attended the conference for several days and made many contacts that will prove useful to our project.
Even though the conference centered on the communication of climate science, I was able to draw several conclusions about communication and how it relates more broadly to science and data:
- A rift exists between the production and communication of scientific knowledge. The information is there, but transforming it into a message that really resonates with people (rather than alienating them) has proved difficult. Conferences like the one we attended try repair this gap by thinking critically about different methods of communication and how they might be applied
- Historically, science communication has relied more on intuition than on a studied understanding of learning and communication. As science communication becomes more evidence-based, its effectiveness will surely increase
- There is a lot of great work out there on the importance of storytelling in relation to communicating science. Some scholars and scientists are already embracing narrative form as a way to repackage data and its conclusions into more creative and emotionally-appealing explanations. How can these models help guide us in the writing of data stories?
While Stacy and I both learned so much from the various presentations and poster sessions, we also saw the conference as an opportunity to network and spread the word about the Data Stories project. Our human subjects protocol prevents us from recruiting interviewees directly, so instead we must rely on others to recruit for us. This in mind, we traded contact information with a few individuals who could help the process along and refer other scientists whose data stories have yet to be told. In the coming week, I will be reaching out to those we met at the conference and diving into the interview process.