ANN ARBOR – On Thursday, March 24th, Arthur (Skip) Lupia, Research Professor at the Center for Political Studies and Gerald R. Ford Distinguished University Professor of Political Science, participated in a White House President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) meeting. His section, titled “Improving Science Communication,” focused on how to effectively communicate the benefits of science in a way that overcomes the skepticism and doubt that has increased in recent years.
In his presentation, Professor Lupia noted that human attentive capacity is very limited, so it’s important that scientific information is communicated in a way that makes it easy for listeners to pay attention. He listed three ways to increase the likelihood of attention: the information is relevant to the core concerns of the listener; the information is consistent with the values of the listener; and the information is able to be tied to specific actions.
Professor Lupia discussed the importance of credibility, saying that it is not inherent but instead needs to be earned. Two factors that affect credibility are perceived common interest (i.e. the extent to which a listener believes a speaker wants them to achieve a common goal) and perceived relative expertise (i.e. the extent to which a listener believes a speaker knows more than them about how to achieve a goal). Using this framework, research institutions should present themselves as having specific values, and then should stand by those values when presenting scientific findings.