Navigating the Application of Evidence-Based Science Communication

Monday, 15 December 2014
Martha R Downs, The Nature Conservancy, Arlington, VA, United States
Science communications professionals not only come from varied backgrounds, but also have different goals and institutional contexts — as do the scientists with which they work. An approach that succeeds at information dissemination may be ineffective or even counterproductive for improving institutional reputation, achieving behavior change, or fostering use-inspired research. Thus, the application of communications research cannot be one-size fits most. One role for the science communications professional is as a “navigator,” matching evidence-based communications practice with the goals and contexts of scientists.

The Nature Conservancy’s Science Impact Project establishes a continuing partnership between the organization’s science communication leadership and a select group of Conservancy scientists with strong interest in effective communication. Working closely together over a 30-month program, scientists gain grounding in communications research and practice, while communications professionals gain a thorough understanding of the scientists’ specific communication goals, opportunities, and research-appropriate questions. Program scientists are performing experiments at the intersection of conservation science and communications. Topics include: municipal decision making on green infrastructure, uptake of conservation innovations, and the effect of injecting new voices into frozen debates. Additional opportunities for active collaboration with communications researchers are emerging from the program’s first 3 years.