warmth, empathy – and science communication

I recently started following Kevin Folta's blog, Illumination. (I'm sorry I didn't come across it earlier; it's very good.) His latest post quotes a comment from a Kansas farmer, made on a site opposed to Monsanto & its production of GM crops, noting that the commenter is showing some excellent communication skills. Sometimes I think those of us who spend time in science communication forget about some of these attributes; I'd certainly hope that we come across as credible & honest, and that we always keep the 'undecideds' in mind, but the other two… I know I've fallen short of the mark at times.

  • Credibility and honesty are ever-important.
  • Kindness is good. Not least, because it shows it's not just about the science; there are other values that we share with our audience.
  • While criticism can be justified, there are other ways of getting a message out there. At times, simply discussing facts non-judgementally can be enough.
  • An honest, friendly, empathetic message may never win over those who are strongly opposed to a particular issue – but it does offer an alternative to those who are unsure or who may not yet have formed an opinion.

EDIT: also this (the difference between measured science communication, & activism).

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