Science Communication in an Alternative Facts World

Many of the scientific organizations that I support are currently being defunded which is effectively destroying more than a few of these organizations. This occurred with the recent advent of Donald Trump in office and his creation of “alternative facts”.

Trump has been deciding what are facts and what are “alternative facts”. This then snowballs into many people deciding that “alternative facts”, not being true or proved by science, are fine means to live by. As president I mean it does seem that he should have some power to decide what the direction of right and wrong, morally. Yet when he decides what is truth and what is fiction purely without any input from experts in the field, it becomes concerning. When leaders choose to ignore factual evidence that these organizations provide and instead create their own, our world  begins to look a lot more like A Brave New World with the tagline that “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.” This seems about right for Donald’s first 70 days in office or so.

If Trump and his administration can shut down information coming from these sources that provide evidence of our Earth’s climate changing he can make the future whatever he wants to. He doesn’t need to have concern for our countries dwindling environment and the services it provides. So, in this world of our leaders creating opinions over facts overshadowing the very fields that many devote their life to researching, how are scientists meant to spread their knowledge?

This blog post by the Scientific American tells just why science spread is essential for the free flow of democracy. Having the factual science discussed to us by the scientist that performed the work or at least an unbiased source is difficult in a time when every statement can be seen with a lean of bias.

When Trump’s administration demanded communications closed from various national parks and other environmentally minded governmental agencies like the EPA it really destroyed much of the public’s trust in how he would approach the coming threat of climate change. Recently he has decided to roll back all of Obama’s climate safeguards confirming, to the public, that he was going to do the worst he could do.

This was just one of the things that began hindering scientific communication and yet also enhancing it. Science communication has evolved with many scientists taking to guerrilla information through twitter, other social media, and blogs attempting to right the misinformation presented.

This use of twitter by many scientists, always with the asterisks of *not my employer’s or organizations views* has showed how displeased many of these masters of their crafts are. Notice that these are not only the beliefs these scientists have, but instead the data they have analyzed and confirmation through reading their peers papers.

Science communications to our leaders, specifically the president, usually reside within top trusted leaders and experts of the field that is at hand, be it agronomy, climate, or technology. This has been tried and true from leaders since the creation of science, relying on the science of their time, realizing the power it encompasses. In past dynasties science has been shunned and it didn’t turn out well for those civilizations. Look at how successful Christopher Columbus was with the Spanish empire behind him and his quest to sail off the edge of the world, when the rest of Europe saw no hope of his journey discovering the new world.

Science communication has changed dramatically in our digital age, with many younger scientists holding Twitter accounts to share their findings as well as that of their colleagues, yet these accounts are linked to other professionals in their field. These scientists are attempting outreach to the public however they are still only reaching their professional friends.

While 20% of the American population relies on the internet for science, that means there is a still huge gap of about 80% of the population that relies on other methods. These methods may be better however they almost certainly incorporate a media bias from the network or newspaper that is printing them.

This is where a revolution in the thought of science communication needs to change. Changing how science is brought about in the public light. It can be through social media or another more traditional network, but what needs to happen is to conglomerate all of these facts and to decipher the truth from fiction. This battle between fact and fantasy seems to constantly perpetuate itself further in our current political systems without a care for what is correct.

A more thorough outreach role for these scientists or at least the agencies that they are employed by is necessary. Not only is it a necessity for the understanding of the public but also so we can ensure that we are receiving the facts from these scientists. Not some watered down mirage of what is actually happening.

Creating a system and series of science edutainment is one of these steps. Bill Nye the Science Guy has been one of my idols for this reason because he is consistently breaking barriers in this realm. Making it both interesting and presenting scientific facts instead of hearsay are huge parts in making this a successful venture but one that America needs to continue as a global super power.






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