The Science Communication Problem

Like many scientists, farmers can often speak in a way that is incomprehensible to the general public.

We talk of environmental plans, animal traceability, and hazard analysis programs. We talk about how many jobs we add to the country’s economy, agriculture’s effect on Canada’s Gross Domestic Product, and offer up ‘Did You Knows’ that provide little context.

While necessary to point out our accomplishments and pat ourselves on the back for a job well done, are we managing to adequately engage the public?

Even if we’re speaking in layman’s terms are we getting the right messages across in such a way as to leave no room for doubt as to their relevance and importance?

Is there a way to help translate the science, get deeper inside our audience’s brains and create meaningful connections and conversations?

Turns out there is – and we fall back on science to help us out.

Science: the problem and the answer

Agriculture and science have an immense impact on humanity. As a very science based profession agriculture’s scientific concepts can be difficult to understand without technical training. In order for people to feel empowered enough to make decisions about agriculture’s importance and the policies that affect the industry and its (our) future, they first have to understand the surrounding issues.

For our industry’s benefit, we have a duty to act as translators. It’s crucial to be speaking the same language if we want to encourage public engagement. We need to use the language of our audiences and place an emphasis on two-way communication that favours mutual learning by all stakeholders.

We need to become better storytellers. We need to take a lesson from the teacher’s handbook and build ‘conceptual bridges’ (analogies) to help people visualize things. We need to deliberately choose words that ring true with a particular audience, and we need to illustrate our challenges by telling stories about real people.

We need to assume that our listeners and readers are just as curious and concerned as we are, but we have to understand that they can’t know what they don’t know. Most people aren’t deliberately ignorant about farming, they just haven’t had an opportunity to get the right information from the right sources in a world where anyone can publish whatever they want online.

Science

Making farming sexy

There are myriad things for people to worry about and take care of in everyday life. To captivate our audiences’ attention and guide them along the information path, we need to rise above the noise and understand how to make farming resonate, relevant, and sexy.

The Farmer’s Survival Guide explores topics like how to define your audience, how to choose the right words, supporting information and visualizations, and how to develop your messages. While there are plenty of awesome resources and organizations out there already doing a fabulous job of this, we’re taking a peek inside the workings of the human brain to help solve the science communication problem.

FSG blog-1

 

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