Dispatches from the AAAS

Jason and I attended the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting in San José, California in mid-February and were pleased to see — not surprisingly — a great deal of interest in science communication. In addition to attending some top-notch, cutting-edge scientific lectures, we wanted to get a sense of where the broader scientific community is in their thinking about best practices for science communication.

IMG_2438What we saw was a bit of a mixed bag. One the one hand, there seems to be an appropriate amount of skepticism about the so-called “deficit model” of science communication (that basically says “what the public needs is simply more information”). There was also a good amount of attention to the role that values and framing play in science communication and several folks helpfully discussed the challenges that scientists face when they take on the role of champions and communicators and how to help meet those challenges. But we didn’t see as much as we were expecting that went beyond these points to think about the cognitive outcomes of various types of outreach. Though the deficit model is explicitly shunned, it still seems to hold sway in depicting what the end goal of science communication ought to be: the public knowing and believing more true things about science.

This is where we think our project can help. The next AAAS meeting is in Washington, D.C. Maybe we’ll be there. More photos from the trip here.