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Scientists Must Communicate To The Public In Terms That The Public Understands

Researchers have heard it from others, or they've said it to themselves: "It's shocking that people understand so little about science--we need a better educational system in this country, and fast." Three years ago, we took some comfort in the words of George Bush--our so-called Education President--who told us that our collective hand-wringing would give way to action, and we would reach the remarkable goal of total science literacy as a nation by the year 2000. But science literacy will re

Mary Wooley
Researchers have heard it from others, or they've said it to themselves: "It's shocking that people understand so little about science--we need a better educational system in this country, and fast."

Three years ago, we took some comfort in the words of George Bush--our so-called Education President--who told us that our collective hand-wringing would give way to action, and we would reach the remarkable goal of total science literacy as a nation by the year 2000. But science literacy will require something other than a presidential act--it will require acts of scientists. Scientists need to reconsider how they communicate to the nonscientific public. We have to get past the idea that someone will do this communicating for us.

Almost without fail, the research community overestimates the interest level and existing knowledge base of any audience it addresses beyond immediate peers. A scientist can be quickly discouraged when he or she...

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