Last week the House of Commons Science and
Technology Select Committee met at London's Science Museum to
take evidence from experts on communicating the risks and
uncertainties linked to climate change. Marion Ferrat, climate
scientist at Imperial College London, offers her take on the
The question at the centre of the Science and Technology
committee's investigation is that of the link between scientists,
government, the media and the public: What are the respective roles
of these groups, and how can science communication be improved to
create dialogues about climate science?
At the session held at the Science Museum a range of
climate scientists and experts in science communication gave
evidence, and the discussion was wide ranging.
What is the role of a scientist?
The panel suggested four main roles for scientists -
to undertake research, to identify issues of relevance and work at
solving them, to explain their work, and to assist in
decision-making by communicating their results.
Professor John Pethica, Vice-President of the Royal
Society, stressed that it was the duty of scientists not just to do
the science, but also to participate in the discussion. The
witnesses generally agreed that despite lots of progress in
scientists talking about their work, there needs to be better
training in communication for scientists.
Researchers are trained to communicate their results
to other scientists at conferences and scientific publications, but
often do not know how to deal with the emotional response involved
with communicating results that have a direct impact on people's
lives, it was suggested.