Science Research Assistant Hannah Davidson

An important task of our team is to help make science more accessible to the public. 

Photo of EPA Research Assistant Hannah Davidson sitting on steps outsideAn important task of our team is to help make science more accessible to the public.

Science tends to be viewed as some mysterious backroom practice, understood only by the practitioners. Instead, it should be a force for good that engenders people’s trust in decisions, trust in the scientists’ work that underpins those decisions, and trust in the regulatory framework in which they are made. If we simply ask the public to trust us, and feed them facts as information, we are completely underestimating their role in the bigger picture. This reinforces a wall of privilege that shrouds science and scientists, and is reflected in the unhelpful and incorrect “I’m too dumb for science” perception held by many people.

Generally, people demonstrate that they are engaged and involved in the issues that affect them and their communities. If people are feeling unheard, out of the loop, and unsure of how to get over this wall surrounding science and scientists, it’s understandable that they will become frustrated.

Given that the decisions we make, which are designed to ultimately benefit people, the environment and the economy, must be supported by science, it just makes good sense to soundly communicate the role of science in decision making.

Good communication is about listening and speaking to shared values. It is a two-way process. If we do this, an engaged and informed public will be encouraged to communicate their concerns and issues back to us. In turn, this will help us improve our decision making.

There are many tools we can use to get our messages across, such as outreach, fostering better links with resources like the Science Media Centre, and linking up with other agencies and scientists to communicate shared issues.

Our team is not alone in grappling with these issues. Sharing our science is a great way to contribute to the wider task. I know we are up for the challenge.