Kristin: The National Enabling Technologies Strategy has conducted awareness surveys on public attitudes towards emerging and transformational technologies since 1999. This includes attitudes towards stem cells, GM foods, cloning, science and technology in addressing climate change and nanotechnologies. Craig Cormick finished his presentation of the latest survey with four key lessons for those of engaged in the public response to science.
- People’s opinions are formed not by fact, but by values. Therefore, expecting people to change those opinions by giving them more information is cuckoo (my term, not Craig’s).
- Public perceptions are more important than reality.
- There is a discord between what people admit to doing and how they really behave. (People will say they buy healthy food, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they do or will.)
- Science is based on building a case from what’s know. Public perception is focused on the emotional response to what is unknown. Therefore to be effective science communicators we must think like the public, not like scientists if we want to have genuine engagement.
So great science communications that engages the public, changes misconceptions and transforms behaviour needs to be emotional, surprising and memorable – just like any good communication. What are your best examples of this well done?