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The Myth of “Just the Facts” Science Communication

A reflection on my assumptions about science communication.

I’ve always thought science communication was trying to find the best way to present the facts of science to the public. I assumed that if we could show the data in a better way, a more easily understood way, then we can reduce skepticism of science. I was excited about taking a whole course to learn how to do just that. Imagine my surprise upon learning that science journalism has been steadily moving away from just presenting facts into interpreting the science and what impact this could have on society as a whole.

My assumption of what science communication is was actually characteristic of the deficit model, or literacy model, named as such because the hierarchical model assumed that the public had a lack of knowledge. It was used in the U.S. in the 1960s and involved science literacy tests to assess knowledge of the methods and facts of science. This assumes that knowledge leads to appreciation, but there are plenty of people who have knowledge about evolution but still reject it.

Using more facts to try and convince skeptics to believe something won’t work. Information overload is actually increasing the amount of fake news spread. Grant says the people who doubt science want their concerns addressed. They are scared for themselves and their community and acknowledging these feelings and the culture they are coming from is the best way to approach them. I believe that compassion is one of the best strategies we have to communicate with skeptics.

LB 321 senior at Michigan State University, majoring in Microbiology with a minor in Environment and Health