May 30, 2013

When Sharing Science with Hurried Policymakers and Reporters, It Pays to be Prepared

Posted by kuhlenbrock


Woodrow Wilson once said, “If I am to speak ten minutes, I need a week for preparation…if an hour, I am ready now.” Whether talking with policymakers, the press, or the general public, it is essential to have carefully-crafted messages to effectively share a story. And ten minutes is likely far more time than you will ever have.

AGU is kicking off the 2013 Science Policy Conference with a complimentary, interactive Science & Policy Communications Workshop on Monday, 24 June 2013. There, communications experts will share advice on the best ways to communicate about science in a variety of scenarios, like meetings with legislators or interviews with policy journalists.

At the introductory panel, AGU Congressional Science Fellow Erica Bickford will share the perspective of a scientist working in a Senator’s office and also give practical advice for scientists wishing to work with policymakers. Bickford, who has a Ph.D. in Environment and Resources from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, works on energy and environmental policy for U.S. Senator Bernard Sanders (I-VT), a member of the Senate Committees on Environment and Public Works and on Energy and Natural Resources.

Communications workshop, Climate Science - 2011 AGU conference.

Susan Joy Hassol, center, assists workshop participants at an AGU communications workshop. Hassol, director of the climate communications firm Climate Communication, will speak at the Science & Policy Communications Workshop at the 2013 Science Policy Conference. Photo by Gary Wagner Photos, courtesy of the American Geophysical Union.

Chris Trent, a congressional liaison for the U.S. Geological Survey, will talk about the speaking limitations placed on scientists who work for the government. Trent has worked with both state and federal officials, and currently helps scientists share their work with policy makers across the political spectrum. Climate communications specialist Susan Joy Hassol will discuss why it’s important for scientists to work with policy-makers and share tips for doing so effectively. Hassol, the director of the firm Climate Communication, works with scientists to help translate complex topics for policy makers and the public.

After the panel, Matthew Wright, a communications manager at the Consortium for Ocean Leadership, will lead workshop attendees on crafting messages to share with policymakers, the general public, or the news media. Just as Woodrow Wilson appreciated the importance of being prepared, Wright will guide attendees in preparing messages for brief encounters with these audiences.

Then, attendees will have a chance to practice delivering their messages in impromptu, role-played encounters – for instance, with a legislator at a Science Policy Conference reception, or with a journalist who asks for a quick interview during the meeting. Getting a chance from such scenarios to think about your key messages and how to best use your time to convey them can make all the difference.

For questions about the Science & Policy Communications Workshop, please e-mail [email protected]. To sign up to attend, visit the Science Policy Conference registration page and go to “Add Events.”

– Mary Catherine Adams, AGU Public Information Specialist