National Meeting - Communicating Climate Science

Science communication in the UK: have we moved from top down to discursive models?

Date: Wednesday 7 November 2012

Time: 15:00

Type: Oral

Presenting author: 
Dr Alice Bell, Science and Technology Policy Research, University of Sussex

Science communication in the UK has long been obsessed with a move from top down to discursive models of communication, although despite broad uptake of words like “engagement” and “dialogue” it is questionable how successful this shift has been in practice. We might also ask questions about the applicability of this shift to climate change. As Naomi Oreskes argued in an LA Times op-ed last January, perhaps we need leadership when it comes to climate change, not more public debate. Yet, much of the discussion post-Rio was that leaders had failed us, and so hope lay in work of civil society. Looking at the various initiatives celebrated for their “bottom up” approach,  I sensed echoes of Steve Yearley’s argument that the green movement enjoys the language of mass participation but only on their own terms (and that similar critique could still be applied to much of the scientific community). The challenge of such grass roots activity, if we choose to take it, is to get beyond the merely rhetorical.