Ocean Acidification for the Nation: Congressional Briefs for Communication

Laura Anderson1, Jennifer Mintz2, Elizabeth Jewett2 and Alicia Cheripka2, (1)NOAA Ernest F. Hollings Undergraduate Scholarship Program, NOAA Ocean Acidification Program, Silver Spring, MD, United States, (2)NOAA Ocean Acidification Program, Silver Spring, MD, United States
Effective science and policy communication requires understanding current scientific research, translating that research into accessible language, and evaluating and refining materials based on audience feedback. This project works within this framework to find effective strategies for communicating ocean acidification (OA) science and solutions to a Congressional audience. Five Congressional briefs about OA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Ocean Acidification Program (OAP) were developed for this study using framing, values, metaphors, visuals and other communication approaches from cognitive science and FrameWorks Institute research. These briefs conveyed national OA scientific advances as well as regional research efforts in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Pacific Northwest and Alaska, and Tropics.

Effectiveness of the briefs was evaluated using pre and post-surveys taken by NOAA scientists, educators and staff, regional partners, and members of the general public. The surveys measured understanding of OA science, the OAP and motivations around risk, adaptation, and preparation. Survey results from 122 national and 95 regional respondents show significant increases in understanding and motivation (National range: p< 1.4E-11 - p<0.05, Regional range: p<1.1E-14 - p<0.05 ). When respondents were grouped based on initial understanding of OA, greatest increases in understanding and motivation occurred in the low familiarity group were found (n=6 for both National and Regional). Post-survey results show no significant difference in motivation between familiarity groups, suggesting effective communication can yield similar motivation regardless of background.

Qualitative results from survey responses suggest graphics and metaphors were the most engaging elements of the briefs along with the impacts of OA on communities. These results together with insights from interviews with communication experts demonstrate the importance of human connections in science and policy communication materials.