Communicating science – basics for application

Many projects in sustainability science are oriented at real-world problems and aim at providing solutions and/ or action guidelines for decision makers. Gwyn Jones, the head of the European Forum for Nature Conservation and Pastoralism (www.efncp.org), has some valuable recommendations for scientists how to communicate research findings to make them more applicable for policy makers:

Behind the words of the scientific every-day life, there are often concepts, notions and theories hidden that only other researchers easily grasp. Policy makers aren´t scientists and will find it hard to understand what scientists mean if they are unable to say it in a simple language. This language should be multi-disciplinary: Science and policy often use the same words but have different meanings (e.g. “sustainable”).

Generalizing findings often means loss of precision, but they are essential to convey the key message instantly to decision makers. If the researcher avoids clear and simple statements, interlocutors might boil down the information, and the chances are high that they might miss the overall point completely. Furthermore, scientists are often attracted by questions that they have not yet answered and refer to these. However, when communicating evidences to policy makers, scientists should value what is known well enough.

Policy interest in research topics often vary hugely within a relatively short period of time, and research activity and political interest are sometimes not in synch. Therefore it is important to provide contributions on time. Policy makers might be more interested in research findings, if they are presented adequately. Communicating science is more than having a website – There are heaps of possibilities and media which allow to make scientific information more accessible to stakeholders.

Thanks to Gwyn for these advices.

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