The Science Communication Problem

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

We talk of environmental plans, animal traceability, and hazard analysis control programs.

We talk about how many jobs we add to the country’s economy, agriculture’s impact on Canada’s Gross Domestic Product, and offer up factual ‘Did You Knows’ that provide little context and even less emotional resonance.

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? Is what we’re saying falling on deaf ears or is it intriguing, resonating, and nurturing the critical farm-to-consumer relationship?

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

Turns out that 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. It’s hard for people to feel empowered enough to make decisions about agriculture’s importance and the policies that affect the industry and its (our) future, without first understanding the basics. For better comprehension, we need to meet them where they’re at on the learning curve and provide them with the right information, in the right way, at the right time.

For our industry’s benefit, we have a duty to act as translators from one culture (farmers) to another (consumers). It’s crucial to speak the same language if we want to encourage public engagement. We need to learn how to cross-culturally share our messages, use language our audiences understand, and place an emphasis on two-way communication that favours mutual learning by all stakeholders in our amazing food system.

We also need to become better storytellers. We need to take a lesson from the teacher’s handbook and build ‘conceptual bridges’ (analogies) to help people more easily understand and visualize concepts. We need to deliberately choose words that resonate 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 must 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.

Alternatively, we need to recognize that the Curse of Knowledge affects how we as farmers are interacting with non-farmers.

We need to find common ground.

We need to uncover and nurture shared realities.

We need to learn how to talk brain to brain.

Science

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 right information path, we need to rise above the noise and understand how to make farming resonate and relevant.

If stories, transparency, and trust are how to build a better dialogue around Canadian agriculture and food, what makes those elements stick? The Farmer’s Survival Guide examines the science behind the tactics and offers tips and tricks for catalyzing your conversational impact.  Join us as we take a peek inside the workings of the human brain to help solve the science communication problem for a better #farmtoconsumerconvo.

FSG blog-1

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