AGU 2012 Day 1: Scientific Literacy, Communication and Climate Change

I had a great first official day of the conference. I went to talks, poster sessions, and a few events! Over all of these presentations, the overarching themes seemed to be scientific literacy, communication, and climate change.

First I attended a Presidential Forum with Science Friday host Ira Flatow. Science Friday is a program on NPR. Below is an explanation of Science Friday:

“Science Friday is a weekly science talk show, broadcast live over public radio stations nationwide from 2-4pm Eastern time as part of NPR’s ‘Talk of the Nation’ programming. Each week, we focus on science topics that are in the news and try to bring an educated, balanced discussion to bear on the scientific issues at hand. Panels of expert guests join Science Friday‘s host, Ira Flatow, a veteran science journalist, to discuss science – and to take questions from listeners during the call-in portion of the program.”

This keynote was about the misconceptions and barriers of science that people believe because of the media and other influences. For example, people think that people actually lived with dinosaurs (like in the Flintstones), or that the Grand Canyon was made by the floods from Noah’s Ark, neither of which are true. However, because of a lack of retention of science, people believe it! This is because the media that usually reports on science is shrinking and under-reporting the actual scientific facts of a story if it does air in the first place. Even though shows like “The Big Bang Theory” and “Numbers” are the all-time favorites of the masses, people still don’t understand the fundamentals of science. In order for this to be changed, Flatow explained that the science world needs scientists to use mass media and social media to educate people, because research shows that people live on TV and this is where they can be most affected (which is sad in its own right). In order for these scientists to correctly reach an audience, they must use plain English and stick to their point of view, no matter what the doubter says.

Below is an example video which NPR makes to explain science:

Next, I walked around the presentation hall and looked at the posters while scouting out my poster space for tomorrow. The hall has about 2,800 poster areas. For those who have been to a research conference: Try to picture that!

After that, I attended a talk series on Environmental Communication where researchers and scientists from different groups and disciplines explained their research. One scientists talked about the changing educational values that we students have today, and that we want to change and mold our curriculum with internet, mobile options, and social media. She also spoke about how scientists need to learn to communicate with the public to explain advanced scientific concepts even if said scientist doesn’t know how to or doesn’t want to because a cross-disciplinary approach of communications and science can be beneficial to these new learning environments. A few of the other speakers spoke about this as well, explaining how scientists need to use their skills to present data and research to the public, especially when the public doubts climate change. Professor Scott Mandia also shared his research, called the Climate Science Rapid Response Team, which is a matchmaking service between top scientists and the media. This resource allows media outlets to inquire about information and the CSRRT gives them the scientific contact to inquire.

One scientist from Japan debuted a computer game called Earth Girl (click hyperlink to play!), which is about a girl who is determined to save her family and friends from environmental disasters. Below is a video about the game!

Lastly, I attended an AGU Open Mic Night, hosted by my professor and top climate scientist Richard Alley! As my professor, he sings these songs to the class for our review sessions. It is quite funny, but it really does help!For some reason, I can’t post the video from my phone (from the event), but here is one from YouTube.. You get the picture!

All in all, today was a great day! I was actually surprised how much this conference is focusing on science literacy and encouraging all types of scientists use their knowledge to educate the public. Along that note, I am surprised about the amount of climate change talk, but it is appropriate because of all the recent environmental repercussions of climate change, like Hurricane Sandy and sea level, for example.

Tomorrow (Tuesday), I present my iBook.. Wish me luck!

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