Who Cares What Science Says? Chris Volpe on Why Some of Us Care and Some Don’t

Chris Volpe
I’m Alan Alda and this is C+V, conversations about connecting and communicating
The first thing we found through studies was that the words people use when you talk about science are very positive words. Words like curiosity, discovery, optimism, youth. And then looking a little more deeply in how people talk about it, it became very clear something fascinating was going on there. That for most Americans, they equate the word science with hope.
Asking that question is Chris Volpe, who heads the non-profit organization Science Counts. Through its research into how the public sees the role that science plays in their lives, Science Counts has set itself the task of discovering what is needed to strengthen America’s commitment to science.
Alan: 00:00:01 Chris, I’m really glad to be talking to you today, because I think about this all the time, the relationship between our culture and science and it disturbs me a little bit. Funding is down for science especially basic research, vaccinations are down, measles is up. The climate crisis is just a joke to a lot of people. What’s missing? What do we have to do?
Chris: 00:00:33 Well, Alan, it’s terrific to be here. Thank you. There’s a question that whether the challenge is a breakdown between society and science, or is science of collateral damage to a larger question, and that is the issue of society and question institutions.
Chris: Just a fundamental growth in cynicism by Americans.
Alan: 00:00:57 You mean all institutions tend to get questioned and downgraded in everyone’s mind?
Chris: 00:01:03 Yeah, and there’s actually a lot of data to this. For example, if you’re in the media or you’re a journalist, you’re really not happy right now, because in the last 30 years, trust in journalists has dropped precipitously. Trust in banks and financial institutions has dropped precipitously.
Alan: 00:01:17 Well the banks have done bad things, they’re being fined for them and huge amounts, what have journalist done to deserve that? I missed that. For 30 years. 30 years of downgrading our trust in them, what’s that due to?
Chris: 00:01:30 Well, that’s a big question, and I certainly don’t have the answer. I think some people speculate that it has something to do with the fact that it’s getting harder and harder for average Americans to decide who they can trust, who represents their self-interest. With time, as you said, with banks and pharmaceutical companies and other institutions, there’s more and more stories about how the trust has been portrayed.
I think for someone like me, who’s trying to build bridges between the scientific community Americans, we’re constantly asking ourselves, “Are we just victims of a larger cultural societal trend? Or is it really focused on specific science issues?” I think the truth is somewhere in between. I think some of it is collateral damage, but I do think that there are specific scientific issues that some people feel are infringing or encroaching on other value sets, and so they push back.
Alan: 00:02:32 What does that mean? Give me an example.
Chris: 00:02:33 Yeah, so for example let’s take vaccinations, anti-vax. Interestingly enough most anti-vaxers to the best of our knowledge are actually folks who are not on the right end of the political spectrum. They’re more progressively oriented, and the pushback is part concern about something that is viewed as synthetic, that is not organic, that is not natural. So that’s where some of the resistance is to vaccinations. Others is the fact that the vaccines are produced by companies, big private sector companies.
Alan: 00:03:11 Companies are not trusted by that segment.
Chris: 00:03:14 Exactly.
Alan: 00:03:15 It’s not always what the direct cause seems to be, it sounds like this is coming at it from the flank somehow.
Chris: 00:03:26 It seems like there’s always these large, broad background issues, that’s right. And context really matters when it comes to science a specific issue. I’ll just say, one of the things that we studied, one of the first questions we asked at ScienceCounts was, is there an anti-science sentiment? Are there Americans who are actually broadly anti-science, regardless of what the issue is? Based on what we found and some other recent data the answer’s no. There is no large anti-science contingent. There are individuals who push back on specific issues and you just captured them. Climate change, vaccinations, GMOs.
Those individuals are often different from issue to issue. They’re not the same people.
Alan: 00:04:15 Let me go back for a second, you’re engaged in a project called ScienceCounts, you’re running it. What are you trying to find out? It’s basically research to start with, right? What’s your overall plan for ScienceCounts?
Chris: 00:04:34 Right. ScienceCounts was created to bolster public support and awareness of science. It became evident very quickly, that that actually is too narrow a goal, that there are bigger things going on. And so our research was to try to answer even bigger questions in terms of where does science live in the psyche of ordinary Americans? If I yelled the word science on a crowded bus, what do people think?
Alan: 00:05:05 [inaudible 00:05:05] try to get off.
Chris: 00:05:06 They might, or they might lean in and listen, “Tell me more.” More importantly, what do people feel? What do they sense? Some very fundamental questions-
Alan: 00:05:19 What kind of answers did you get to those questions?
Chris: 00:05:22 Yeah, really interesting, and it was surprising, it was a bit jarring to some folks. The first thing we found through studies was that the words people use when you talk about science are very positive words. Words like curiosity, discovery, optimism, youth. The words that people don’t like to use around science are words that we as science advocates, and in Washington use a lot like investment, and competition, and funding. It seems like the more you make scientists sound like CPAs, the more the public wants to have nothing to do with and get off that bus. And then looking a little more deeply in how people talk about it, it became very clear something fascinating was going on there.
That for most Americans, they equate the word science with hope.
Alan: 00:06:14 Hope? How did they get to that? Did you say, give me your words about science? Or did you say choose from this list of 10 words and hope was one of them? How did they get to hope?
Chris: 00:06:26 Right, so what we did was this was part of a national survey and then also focus groups where you bring small groups of people and you actually have conversations. We did not ask them point blank, choose from the word that best describes et cetera. We listened, and we looked at the way they responded, so we triangulated on hope. One was the words curiosity, discovery, youth, optimism. One was where people… how they engage science, experientially. Where do they go? Museums, planetariums, zoos. And then one was what were they hope… Not hoping but what did they expect from science? Where does science live in their lives? And over and over again, phrases like science serves the greater good, or science is a path to a better tomorrow kept coming to the surface.
It became very clear that for the people we were talking to, science was coupled to some desired outcome. Very payoff oriented.
Alan: 00:07:27 So you interpreted that as hope?
Chris: 00:07:30 That’s right. And then we fed back, we asked them. They said, “Yes, that’s the word. That’s it. That’s exactly what I’m trying to capture.”
Alan: 00:07:36 I see, yeah.
Chris: 00:07:36 Yeah.
Alan: 00:07:40 I guess hope includes health benefits from science and saving the planet from the climate crisis? A whole range of things I would imagine. Also exploring the unknown like getting to Mars and that kind of thing.
Chris: 00:07:57 You’ve hit on something very interesting, which is the challenge and the complexity of this, which is we feel that the data pretty clearly says that to most Americans science is hope. The challenge is though, different people hope for different things.
Alan: 00:08:11 Oh, that’s interesting.
Chris: 00:08:14 The one thing that universally is hoped for his health, bio sci. And we knew this already. It’s one of the things when you ask people why is science good, you usually get an answer that’s related to a disease or helping with an affliction. But then when you get down to those other issues, the public does… they segment out, they break down into groups. And so depending on who you are, maybe you feel that the role of science in protecting the environment and renewable energy is a priority. But other Americans might see it more that science is important for national defense, national security.
Alan: 00:08:49 Right and find hope in that. One of the studies that caught my eye and then I always refer to, because it’s really interesting to me is a study done on what articles from the science section of the New York Times tend to be the most emailed among people? You read an article, you say, “I want to email this to my friend.” I would have thought it was health articles or physical fitness. Instead, it’s articles about the wonder of nature, finding out about cosmology, new findings in that field and other fields that even biology, where we hadn’t explored that frontier before. That interests me a lot because although the… It’s already a select audience, you’re talking to people who read the science section of the Times, so they have a certain bias.
But they seem to be interested more in the wonder, the mystery of nature than they are in more practical concerns. Have you found anything like that in your work?
Chris: 00:10:05 You do see that. Where there’s a bifurcation has to do with when you’re rubbing up against something that you’re asking people to make a trade off. What I mean by that is, there’s a lot… Science is driven by a lot of curiosity, and space science is certainly an area that gets a lot of attention, people are really interested about. But if you change the issue, and you say, “Well, let’s talk money, let’s talk funding. Let’s talk about…”
Alan: 00:10:34 It’s good to read about in the times, but is, “How much is this going to take out of my pay check?”
Chris: 00:10:39 Yeah, or if we have $1, do we spend it on Veterans? Do we spend it on K through 12 education or do we spend it on exploration? Positions change very quickly, and that’s where this problem gets more complex and why we as you said, we started with research because we really have to understand that landscape.
Alan: 00:11:03 Scientists and their work are associated with the word hope. What do you learn from that? What do you do about it? How do you advance the mission of your organization ScienceCounts? How do you get to your end game? And what is your end game? What are you hoping to do with ScienceCounts?
Chris: 00:11:27 I am part scientist, and I’m part marketer. In essence for the brand of science to be hope is wonderful. You couldn’t pay enough money. That’s a great place to be, we should be excited as scientists and science advocates that the public look to science as delivering wonderful things and making the world a better place. The question is, how do you activate that? How do you make that an abstract ideal to a real idea, and to an idea where people can actually express that and get involved. It’s one thing to sit in your living room and say, “Boy, I hope those scientists cure this, or do that, or discover this.” I think we’re at a point culturally where we need people to stand up a little bit more, and express that that’s a priority. It’s not just something they like, but it’s a priority.
Alan: 00:12:15 One of the problems that’s been expressed many times, which is basic research. Research into the true unknown. Where we’re finding out basic things about how nature works, it doesn’t pay off with practical application sometimes for 100 years, sometimes longer. And certainly often in the next generation, and it’s… You don’t know how it’s going to pay off its basic. Einstein’s work 100 years ago enabled us to have GPS in our phones in our pockets. Nobody knew that at the time, and if his was a big project would it have got funding because 100 years later you’d able to do something that you didn’t even know you needed. Isn’t that a difficult situation in trying to get exploratory curiosity driven science funded? How do you do it? How do you go about it? How do you use hope to do that?
Chris: 00:13:22 Fortunately, people seem to be willing to give us the scientific community a long leash, partially because of what you said. Because to some degree curiosity is good enough, discovery is good enough. One of the challenges that we found is not that a lot of Americans think that the government shouldn’t fund or participate in science, but the sim-assumption that the role that the government, that we as taxpayers play is very minor. We found that only one out of four Americans thinks that the role of government in science is necessary. And the pervasive-
Alan: 00:14:01 Where do they think it comes from?
Chris: 00:14:03 Google, Apple, Elon Musk.
Alan: 00:14:07 [inaudible 00:14:07].
Chris: 00:14:06 Yeah.
Alan: 00:14:07 In other words, if science is really worth it in some people’s minds or many people’s minds, if science is really something that we can regard is helpful and useful then it ought to be making a profit and supporting itself.
Chris: 00:14:22 In many areas, and that is in fact the sense of that’s what’s going on today. That most of the scientific research, even basic research is being done by big corporations and philanthropies and Elon Musk. And that’s a name that came up a lot.
Alan: 00:14:38 That’s interesting.
Chris: 00:14:40 The problem is that’s not reality. The problem is that the taxpayer federal government supports about 50% of all the basic research in the US. There’s a fundamental misunderstanding in terms of what’s the tail and what’s the dog when it comes to doing this.
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Alan: 00:14:56 What do you hope to do when you finish your research find out how science is regarded by the public? And you have some new research on that too, don’t you?
Chris: 00:15:08 We do we actually have some very new data about scientists attitudes about some of the same questions in terms of trust.
Alan: 00:15:16 Yeah, that’s an interesting question. Before we get to the question of what you’re going to do with all this research, tell me some more about what you found out about how scientists regard their role in this.
Chris: 00:15:28 We worked together with some of the great researchers at the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science, and we just gave a survey, a pretty comprehensive survey of scientists across all fields, physical science, biological science, social science. From student level, graduate student level to retired scientists, and we asked them some basic questions. One of the questions we asked was, what organization do you trust to conduct science without it getting polluted by politics or ideology? Which is a question we asked the public. And not surprising or surprising, depending on your point of view scientists are people too, that should be a bumper sticker. And so-
Alan: 00:16:12 Why? What kind of answer did they give?
Chris: 00:16:14 Well, it depended on where you fell personally in your political ideology, which was scientists who are a little more conservative oriented tended to trust the private sector to act more in their interest, and folks who are a little bit more on the progressive side of the equation trusted academia more, and that’s exactly how the public shakes out on this issue. So, scientists are human first and scientists second when it comes to that one question. It’s just one question. Another really interesting thing and this is something we uncovered, and that…
Alan: 00:16:46 Can we go on? Okay, start it with the beginning of the sentence.
Chris: 00:16:59 One of the things that we discovered was that it seems that scientists, there’s two camps when it comes to how they connect personally with science. There are scientists who are comfortable… about a third of the scientists were comfortable with using the word hope. And we asked them point blank in this survey. We said, pick one of the words that best describes how you feel about hope? And if that word isn’t there, we gave them the option to fill it in. And being scientists, the third of them filled it in, they thought they had a better answer than we chose and that… So a third said hope, and then about a third of the scientists said joy and excitement.
Alan: 00:17:37 Yeah, well, I can understand that because they’re doing something that they love.

CUTTING THIS
Chris: 00:17:41 Exactly.
Alan: 00:17:43 Transmitting that sense of joy and excitement from the scientists to the public, seems to me to be a really important thing. Because if they can be excited by the work that’s done for them and understanding nature, by proxy, by the efforts of the scientists. And if they can get as excited as the scientists get, and when do they do, things seem to move more easily.
Chris: 00:18:11 Yeah, that’s right. The question though is, if the public gathers around hope, if the public is more payoff, I’ll call it payoff oriented. And a large fraction of scientists are more process oriented, which is what I would say, “They love what they do.”
Alan: 00:18:32 Yeah. Well, they’re doing it.
Chris: 00:18:33 Exactly. Because they’re a self-selected group right?
Alan: 00:18:36 Yeah.
Chris: 00:18:36 But about a third of them, then for those of us who want to bridge that gap and have those scientists communicate, the passion, the excitement is a valuable, that’s raw materials. But is there… do we have to help scientists listen better, and be more empathetic to their audience.
Alan: 00:18:53 To what excites the public.
Chris: 00:18:56 And to the fact that there may be more payoff oriented. They’re more interested in the destination than the journey. Or at least starting by talking about, here’s the benefit, here’s the destination, here’s what we’re trying to do, and then following with the details along the way.
Alan: 00:19:11 But in terms of the… I said a “but” I really mean yes. And in terms of what that study I was talking about where an enormous number of people are really interested in exploring the mysteries of nature. That’s one of the aspects of the public that probably shouldn’t be ignored. It’s not only the payoff segment, there’s another segment, who are probably as excited as the scientists are to hear about unknown discovery and exploration. It really has to do with all over again, what I know you propose all the time and we do too, knowing your audience, knowing what they care about. Whatever it is, and finding how what we do fits in with what they care about.
But there’s a very interesting, one of the most startling things I’ve heard come out of your research is the opposite of what we all… I think an awful lot of us tend to believe, which is the more people know about science, the more willing they are to accept some of the findings of science. I may not be putting it the way you put it. How would you say it?
Chris: 00:20:36 Yeah, that’s an absolute phenomenon. And we’ve touched on it, and then there’s some other work that’s been done by others, I think really drove it home. One researcher in particular at Yale, Dan Kahn, and his and his group, they found something really fascinating and it really turned everything on its head in the scientific community. That was, there was the idea of what we call the science deficit model. In other words, take climate change for example, the reason that 40% or so of the population is having a hard time acknowledging that climate change, anthropogenic climate change is happening is because they just don’t know enough about the science. And so the solution would be if we could only teach them more science, if we could only turn them into us, they would reach the same conclusion.
Dan and his team did a really neat survey, and they tested this. Not just climate change, they looked at multiple issues. In a nutshell what they found was that when you’re talking about non-controversial issues, like for example, if there’s more sunlight trees will grow taller, than it is true. The more you know about the science, the more you will agree with that statement. When it comes to these issues that we call controversial climate change GMOs, vaccinations. In fact, it doesn’t work that way at all. It seems that people reach a conclusion first, and then they use their science knowledge to defend that position. To the point of which those who knew the most science were most polarized.
So by knowing more science you had people on each end of the issue, not agreeing more, but actually diverging more.
Alan: 00:22:15 It sounds like they were using their knowledge of science to defend a position that they knew was correct. Now implicit in this, because it’s conducted by scientists, I’m just trying to poke my finger at this question, because it was conducted by scientists, I imagine that the idea was underlying this, that the people who agreed more with science’s approach to these controversial issues were more correct than the people who didn’t. That they were not misusing the knowledge of science to support their position, whereas the people on the other were in a way misusing their knowledge to support their position. What’s a way around that? Because that sounds to me like it’s a way for them to say, “See, I told you, you’re accusing us of bias, but you’re the ones with bias.” Which is what they do with all political issues, everybody, we all do that.
Chris: 00:23:21 That’s right. And you said it, we all do that. And that’s one of the humbling realizations that we all have to have is, I often hear the word objectivity and truth thrown around sometimes in conversations with scientists, and I’m not sure those two things exactly exist. Everybody brings a frame of reference. And that’s why empathy is so important, is understanding where the other person is. It’s a challenge. I think the first step in solving any problem is acknowledging that you have one. I think the problem we have is we don’t recognize with issues like climate change, that it may not have anything to do with science. For example, I’m a global climate trained scientist. I live-
Alan: 00:24:03 What did you study?
Chris: 00:24:04 I studied atmospheric and geo chemistry at a place called Scrips Institution of Oceanography, wonderful, wonderful institution in California. I have for the last 19 years, I live in North Texas, and I listened to my neighbors, and they teach me all sorts of wonderful things. I don’t agree with them on many things, but it’s wonderful to hear. With the issue of climate change, I can tell you from my own testimony, it’s anecdotal information, that the issue of climate change has nothing to do with science. It has to do with liberty. What’s driving the question in their minds is there’s a fear that if they acknowledge that climate change is happening, and again anthropogenic climate change.
Alan: 00:24:48 Human-
Chris: 00:24:49 Human caused exactly thank you, that they’ve given a blank check in essence to, and you can name the cast of characters Al Gore, Nancy Pelosi, and heaven forbid the United Nations to march down to Texas and completely change the lives of people that they don’t understand. Take away their pickup truck.
Alan: 00:25:10 Take away their oil fields and their hamburgers.
Chris: 00:25:13 There you go. Because what’s driving it is they feel like the folks who are driving that other agenda don’t understand what’s their value set.
Alan: 00:25:24 It’s easy for me to smile at that, because I can hear people who run restaurants now say we have food that’s locally produced, we concentrate on vegetables, because that takes less fewer resources gives us less methane than meat products. I can hear all that talk and not feel threatened by it, but I can understand given a certain cultural support how people can in all good conscience believe that and it’s not funny to them. So how do you handle that in a conversation? That’s a difficult conversation to have. You have one set of ideas, they have a whole other set. How do you not sound like you’re threatening their lives?
Chris: 00:26:17 You have to try to not threaten their life. You have to try to find common ground, even if it’s teeny and minuscule. Climate change communication is not my area of expertise. It’s not ScienceCounts area of expertise, per se. We’re looking at pan science across the board. Climate change communication is a very specific unique challenge, and one that’s 30 years down the line in terms of its evolved or devolved.
Alan: 00:26:47 Yet you’ve studied some of the basic issues with regard to climate change. When you get into a conversation with them, the chances are, you’re going to know more science about it than they are because you’ve spent a lot of time studying it. So now you’re armed with something that they don’t have but I would imagine it’s not your role to exercise your authority over them because you’ve studied it and you know how do you get them to consider these ideas if they haven’t studied what you have?
Chris: 00:27:20 Telling people what to do and think usually doesn’t work as you say, you’ve got it, you hit it on the head. You’ve got to find something you have in common with to have the conversation. We know that health is important to everybody, regardless of old, young. Regardless of your politics, regardless of your education. And so that’s a place to start. One has to walk… Again, I want to emphasize the importance of the listening and the empathy, because in their lies clues to how to have a conversation and build a relationship. I don’t think there’s a … This is my own personal feeling, I don’t think there’s a magic bullet to turn people around on one of these issues, and I think it takes time.
I think it takes time and I think it happens at a very organic person to person level. I think it’s not the kind of thing you can legislate. I don’t think it’s the thing you can pass the law and make you need to change your mind on this. I think it involves… I think scientists have a very important role. Because as we said, scientists are viewed as people, Harbinger’s of hope. To go in communities not to lecture but to listen. If you can get someone by dinnertime tonight to maybe soften on a particular position, show common interest, people don’t want to leave a dead planet to their children or grandchildren. I think that’s pretty universal. But you’ve got to try to find that common ground, and then work that on an individual level.
I know people get frustrated with not being able to have a bumper sticker that can turn minds on this. But an analogy I would use is, I think medical professions deal with this all the time. They’re constantly dealing with people, for example diabetics who need to take care of themselves, and many diabetics don’t take care of themselves as well as they should. So how do you get them to do it? You could give everyone the same speech, and it’s probably not going to work. You’ve got to form a relationship with that particular patient. You’ve got to have common ground, and you’ve got to… It’s a team effort, and it’s a lot of work, and it’s going to take time. I think there are people who are actually doing that, have been doing that. But You’ve got to do it on a personal level, that’s the take home point.
Alan: 00:29:46 Can you remember one conversation where you started far apart and got a little closer? Can you track that for me?
Chris: 00:29:55 Sure. I’ll pick on climate. Let me see if… I have a neighbor who is wonderful at articulating his point, I wish I had his gifts for communication. And his talking about sea level rise, and he summed it up his position by saying, “I will believe in sea level rise when all those rich liberals start selling their beachfront property.” I was stumped. How do you respond to that? The only way to respond is to sit back and say, “Well, let’s just wait and see.”
Alan: 00:30:34 There’s a lot of those rich liberals already have a house up on a hill.
Chris: 00:30:39 There you go, those too, that’s why Colorado’s getting expensive. I think part of it was not slapping back right away when he said that and letting that get out there, and then beginning to talk about it and identifying that the fact that there are a lot of people who aren’t rich liberals on coastal areas who are threatened in southern Florida, coastal Virginia, Maryland. At least with this one individual, where I think we started getting a little bit of modification, both of us was the idea of prudence. Maybe we’re sure, maybe we’re not sure. Maybe we can agree that we’re not 100% sure. But isn’t the prudent thing to do to keep studying and learning but to the extent that we can begin to prepare, begin to scale back, be more careful.
When we come back, Chris Volpe tells me some good news about what Science Counts’ research has discovered about the public’s trust in science… and the growing eagerness of a younger generation of scientists to share their work with the rest of us.
MIDROLL
This is C+V. Now back to my conversation with Chris Volpe and what he calls my trillion dollar question.
Alan: 00:31:35 What would it hurt, if you can do it at a… either at a low cost or some way that it also becomes profitable to be prudent, which is an option in some areas.
Chris: 00:31:51 That’s right. I was sitting there and I was watching, just listening and thinking. I think part of it was once that conversation was about stewardship to some degree, it made it personal and it made it something that that he could own. He could say, “Okay, I could do this.” Some of the things… He recycles like a madman. He picks up cans on the streets and make sure they end up in the bin. I mean he does more than I do in that regard.
Alan: 00:32:20 But did he do this after the conversation?
Chris: 00:32:22 No, well he was doing it a little bit before but maybe was doing after. But yeah…
Alan: 00:32:26 But you connected with him where it counted, where he was.
Chris: 00:32:30 I’d like to think… This was a relatively recent conversation, so we’ll see what happens, but I’d like to think we could pick up on that. We don’t have to necessarily refresh that conversation, which is always a problem with communication on this, is you have a conversation, you get somewhere and then next time you’re back at the beginning, again. Everybody’s retrenched.
Alan: 00:32:51 That really brings up an overarching question I have based on what you’ve been telling me, which is that we’re more influenced these days by our political position on an issue than we are by the facts. And we can’t even agree on the facts these days because even facts tend to have been politicized, and monetized, and turned into arms and that kind of thing. Is this a political problem therefore, or a communication problem? How do you communicate with people who are so far apart from where you might be, in terms of the political [inaudible 00:33:48]? If you say something that threatens their view of liberty or their view of what it means to be a citizen in this country, you’re hitting them at home, not even close to home. It’s part of their identity. When you attack somebody’s identity, I think it’s very hard to for them to trust you. What do you do about that?
Chris: 00:34:12 That’s the trillion dollar question. That’s what the field is trying to grapple with. No one’s come up with an exact answer yet. That’s what we’re trying to do on multiple issues, on both controversial and not controversial. There’s no doubt that one’s worldview, the things that you care most about, where you want to see us in 10 years is what drives contextually your view on science. Science is a chameleon okay? We just came out of the… Two years ago there was the march for science. March for science was the largest organic groundswell engagement, visible support for science. It didn’t happen this year for the most part, it happened in some cities, but it’s largely gone away. What happened? How did we go from millions of people in the street to just 24 months later kind of went away?
Some of us think it’s because science isn’t a thing. Again, science is the path it’s not the destination. What science takes on… Your view of science takes on whatever the desired outcome is that’s important to you. So do you Alan, do you… How do you feel about climate science? You probably say, “I think it’s important. I think it’s really important. It’s one of the most important things,” and it’s because you’re attaching the fact that it’s important to you that the environment, the planet we maintain good stewardship. We don’t have all of these disastrous effects happen. What you have to do is you have to understand what is it that people at the end of the day are hoping for. And that is, like it or not deeply tied to politics, to political ideological view.
Conservatives have a not an entirely different but different value set than liberals. Science is but a victim of that in some sense because it’s contextual, it takes on those differences. Conservatives and liberals agree on 99% of scientific issues, it’s only a small number that run orthogonal to certain intrinsic values that are problematic, which is why we somewhat handle those on a case by case basis. You’re right in that what do you do? No one’s advocating you change someone’s view of the world per se, and I think… I’m going to give you a short, just a short answer, because I don’t have a good answer. It’s part of why I have a day job is to try to figure this out. But a word that I think is missing from our field is the word grace.
We sometimes as scientists and maybe some science communicators, but I think science communicators do a better job. We don’t proceed as gracefully and as sensitively as we should, because we don’t recognize that we’re really, as you said, potentially attacking people’s core values, their reasons for being. If I say you’re wrong about this issue, I’m not really saying you’re wrong about that scientific issue. What I’m really saying is you’re wrong about caring about that thing. That is not really about science.
Alan: 00:37:37 Your view is wrong, your entire outlook is wrong, when in fact, the essence of an empathic approach is what you were describing, find out where they really are. What really matters to them, and can you agree with what really matters to them? This whole notion of trust seems to me to be really important. When you describe the public’s reaction to science as being one constant, it was hope. I think of how often I hear from people who are impatient with science, because science can’t make up its mind they say. First they tell you wine is good for you, then they tell you it’s bad for you, then they tell you a year later, it’s good for you again. Coffee, same thing. Coffee will cure all kinds of diseases. Caffeine is good. No, wait a minute, there’s stuff that’s not so good in coffee, don’t take it so much.
If they think science can’t make up its mind because they don’t practice science, they don’t realize science is not the job of giving you the absolute answer about anything, but to keep making progress and understanding how the complexity of nature fits all its parts together. My guess is you’ll never get the total final answer to that. But that adventure spins off so much good to the rest of us that we can call it hopeful. But there’s this impatience and lack of trust that comes with unfamiliarity with the scientific process. What can we do about that?
ALAN: First of all, am I right about that?
Chris: 00:39:17 I think so. I think what… There’s actually, above that… I mean what you said is absolutely true. We can think, to some degree, I guess, personally, I’m not a huge fan of what nutritional scientists have done to us in the last 20 years as you just eloquently summed up. Eat red meat, only eat red meat, don’t eat red meat, et cetera. Make your…Give your-
Alan: 00:39:39 We eat like the paleolithic people.
Chris: 00:39:42 Exactly. We studied that, we looked at trust. Not just trusted institutions, but in scientific.
Alan: 00:39:47 What did come up with on trust, that’s interesting?
Chris: 00:39:49 Yeah. So the great news is that the public broadly really trusts scientists, in fact they’re one of the few groups of professionals that trust hasn’t eroded over the last 30 years. And over 30 years is not my organization, there’s Pew Research and the National Research Board have studied that for 30 years. So that’s great news. In our work, we did talk a little bit about climate change in our first study. And people… This is when we had people in the room so we could actually have conversations. To the extent that there were some folks who weren’t sure about manmade climate change, they didn’t blame the scientists.
Alan: 00:40:31 Who did they blame?
Chris: 00:40:32 They blamed the people who were the keepers of the scientists to say, they blamed the politicians for manipulating the scientists and their data. They immediately went to, “Well, you have to go upstream and see who funded that work.” Where the trust broke down wasn’t that I think that the scientists are wrong or they’re disingenuous in terms of what they’re reporting. The breakdown was well, scientists don’t exist in a vacuum, they work for somebody. Whether it’s an organization, a company. And it’s at that level as we talked about before, where there’s deep cynicism and skepticism about the motive, whether it’s government or private company or academia. But the good news is scientists remains somewhat untouched. People like talking about scientists, and they like to hear what scientists have to say.
Alan: 00:41:26 That is good news. But it reminds me of the idea that I’ve heard from some scientists not an awful lot. I think a lot of scientists see the advantage in communicating well, with the public. But I’ve heard from some scientists, “That’s not my job.” I’ve heard, “My job is to do the science, to get results, not sell the results to anybody just let everybody know what the results were.” Let them make up their own minds, let science take… It could take it to the next step. Do you see much resistance? Do you see scientists resisting the idea that they’re being asked to convince people of their science when they feel in fact their job is to present the data, which ought to convince people on its own.
There is a valid idea that if you add selling pressures to your data, you might be doing science a disservice, because if, if you’re presentable and cute, and you get people to believe something turns out not to be true that’s not good for anybody.
Chris: 00:42:43 Certainly the word sell is a sensitive word. But in the survey we just did with the Alda Center it was clear that scientists want to share their work. To the point in which I would say the scientists want the door shut. Curmudgeon, “Let me do my work. That’s what I’m doing. And I published the paper and let other people read it.” They’re in the minority, and it’s certainly in the minority. The younger generation students and postdoctoral researchers and assistant professors is tremendous energy for wanting to get out there and share the results. That’s great news. I would say personally, that if a scientist doesn’t want to engage with the public, if they’re independently wealthy and funding their own research that’s their prerogative. But if there’s a social contract here, if you are receiving federal funds, and the vast majority of scientists do and in part or in whole, I really do think that one of the culture changes that has to happen within the scientific community and I’m not alone, I’m not the originator of this but I’m on the bandwagon, is that there’s a social contract, we have an obligation to talk to the public.
Not necessarily to sell them on anything per se, or to get them to change their minds on anything, but to just share what’s going on where… This is a valuable exercise, this is a valuable endeavor.
Alan: 00:44:14 When you include listening in that. Having a conversation with the public, not just telling them in a one way street way, but actually hearing their reaction that can actually be beneficial not only to the public, but to science itself it seems to me. There are efforts now that I’m aware of that I think are really interesting and really doing something along those lines, where research scientists are in contact with people in the doctor’s office, that makes use of the research that’s done and the products it produces. And then they get together with the community, and all three of them talk about what the real effect on humans is of all this work, and what their response to it is, what they need, what they were hoping for, whether they’re satisfied or dissatisfied.
And even just giving them data that they wouldn’t get if they just stayed in their own imaginations, but get real human responses. That’s an example I think of listening to the public. And there are I’m sure many other examples.
Chris: 00:45:29 I think it’s critical. And one of the worst insults I was ever handed when I was graduating, and I was a scientist was, I had an entrepreneur tell me that he thought I was a natural marketer. And I was deeply offended by that.
Alan: 00:45:44 But that marketing is like selling, it’s a loaded word.
Chris: 00:45:48 Well, that’s how I interpreted it. The whole point of being a scientist was I didn’t want to at the time soil myself which such trivial and…
Alan: 00:45:55 How do you see marketing now, now that you don’t feel soiled anymore?
Chris: 00:45:59 It took me about five years to figure it out, because after I graduated, I went into it… I became a little bit of an entrepreneur so I had the school of hard knocks. And I realized what he was saying. For most people marketing is synonymous with advertising. And that’s only a thin little sliver of marketing. Marketing is a life cycle, and it goes like this. The first step one, observe and listen. Step two, assess a need. Step three, come up with a service or a product to address that need. Create it. Step four, deliver it, and step five, see how it went and go back to the beginning. Now as a scientist that sounds really familiar to me, observe, come up with an idea, do an experiment, and then go back to the beginning. It sounds like the scientific method.
And so the full marketing lifecycle, and most marketers don’t have the benefit of doing that. Usually have to be your own shop, so you have to worry about everything. But it’s very synonymous, and I think to your point, that first step is not thinking or doing it’s listening and observing. And that’s something I think we could capture. I know the word marketing is a loaded word certainly in science, and it’s okay we-
Alan: 00:47:21 [crosstalk 00:47:21] Have you ever thought of changing the word into something else?
Chris: 00:47:22 Yeah, it might be a smart idea. I think listen and observe and assess is probably good enough.
Alan: 00:47:29 So now, let me get back to my question I asked you a while back. After you’ve completed the research that you’ve embarked on, where you’re figuring out how the public regard science and how science regards to the public and so on, do you have an endgame in mind. Do you have a plan to do something to help remedy the disproportionate relationship, the poor relationship that still exists in terms of science and the public?
Chris: 00:59:44 We have a sense that it’s going to take a lot of hands to make light work. And one of the areas where there’s some low hanging fruit, where there are people ready to jump in is with regards to science communication, both scientists and the organizations that helps scientist communicate better. And so the research that we’re learning now really can help scientists know thy audience if you will, and make the connections there on an individual level. It’s clear that a one size fits all approach both for scientists communicating to the public, and frankly the public relating to scientists won’t work. It’s more complicated than that. It’s much more textured and nuanced than that. So it’s important to get this information and these learnings in the hands of I think individual scientists and science communicators, and let them run with it. See what they can do.
Alan: 01:02:00 Okay, so if the public puts a lot of attention on the benefit of science to them, and that’s why they feel hopeful about science. And if scientists put more attention on how exciting it is to do the science, how do we bring them together? How do we get them to share a common view of science that benefits science and benefits the people both?
Chris: 01:02:27 I’m going to put the burden on scientists first, just as the experts in that relationship. And that is, as much as one wants to talk about the details, and the process as I said, you’ve got to start with the benefit. You’ve got to start with the outcome. You’ve got to give some contextual explanation of why should this matter to me. This isn’t just true for scientists. This is true for any expert who’s speaking to a lay audience. And so well his first couple of sentences need to be, “Here’s why this matters to you” or, “Here’s why you should care.” Very often if you do that well, it’s been my observation that the person you’re talking to is actually going to ask you to get into more details. They’ll prompt you to have that conversation, so it’s not as much one way, it’s more of a dialogue and a conversation.
To start there’s an old… We don’t like sales, but there’s an old sales adage, which is, you always talk benefits not features. You don’t sell a red convertible by teaching someone about a combustion engine. You sell a red convertible by saying, “Boy, you’re going to look good in this red convertible Alan. You’re going to look great.”
Alan: 01:03:35 There’s something else that occurs to me that I wonder if you take into account. There’s something communicated by the way the scientist is lit up, illuminated by the excitement of the work. “This amazing thing I discovered about this little worm. It’s so tiny, you can’t see it without a microscope and yet some of the stuff secret of longevity is in this worm, that’s fascinating.” That affect, that attitude that can be expressed, sometimes better by some people than by others. But all of us can learn to express what we feel about the things that mean a lot to us, like the thrill of discovery. That is not an argument, it’s not words. It’s you being able to observe in me what gets me going, and it might be contagious to you. Is there a way to discover how effective that is? Can you research that?
Chris: 01:04:43 You can. I’m willing to take it for granted. I think enthusiasm is infectious. I think it’s… I certainly haven’t been a victim. I’ve watched plenty of TV shows about quilting, and painting, and other things that I’m lousy at and probably really don’t care about but boy, the person seems so excited, I just had to… I had to walk with them down that journey, and I think you’ve captured it. That that is a big, big part… A big advantage frankly that the scientists have, because most scientists are very excited about what they do, and they’re excited to share, and that’s the key. There’s an old saying, this is going back to that dirty word marketing again, but it’s I think so fundamental, and I know it’s the core to what the Alda Center does.
Human beings, we’re not thinking beings that feel. We are feeling beings that think. And too often the word emotion is a sacrilege word among scientists, certainly physical science and natural sciences. The social scientists are much more comfortable with that. In a way they have a leg up in terms of bridging the gap between themselves and the public. I think we have to recognize the emotional content of any conversation, and to the extent that it’s positive, ride it. That’s how you connect with people.
Chris: 00:47:56 Our next step is… I’m a bit of a World War Two history buff, so I am going back predating myself. The last 75 years science has done remarkable things for our society. It’s not a moral good, but it has a tremendous and immense potential to do good. And it is clear that we as a society, are losing touch with that. We’re taking for granted the benefits that science give us, just assume that it’s just going to happen. What ScienceCounts is trying to do and others as well, is to try to stitch back together what feels like this shredding tapestry between science and society, to reinvigorate, to re-prioritize, to ensure that we’re investing not just money. Money helps, but it’s never a complete solution.
Invest in people, invest in communities, to ensure that we are really fully harnessing what science can do. I mean, science is one of our greatest tools to solve problems. And there’s no doubt that the problems we face as a society are becoming bigger, and they’re becoming more complex. To me anyway, it seems foolish if we lose one of our greatest tools, take it for granted. And so what we’re trying to do is we want to find a way to engage the public, various public’s in really constructive ways. To channel… What is the energy, as you said. People love consuming science. They love reading about science in the media, they love going to museums and science centers. Attendance is at an all time high. But a lot of that energy isn’t going to the places where we need it to go.
Alan: 00:49:42 You’re figuring out what those places are.
Chris: 00:49:44 Exactly. And then the other side of the coin which is a lot harder because it can sound a bit parochial and authoritarianist. I’m guilty of this too, I should be more scientific in my personal life. I don’t sometimes use the evidence like should I make decisions first.
Alan: 00:50:01 What kind of unscientific behavior [inaudible 00:50:04].
Chris: 00:50:04 Oh, if you saw some of the things I ate Alan you would be…
Alan: 00:50:10 Oh, right.
Chris: 00:50:11 Some of that trans-fat taste so good. I know better. We’re not perfect beings. And so I think all of us to various degrees, if there’s a way… This is a problem bigger than ScienceCounts is one of the organizations just like the Alda Center that’s trying to make some inroads in this, and bring people. It’d be wonderful if we could find ways so that we could strengthen our democracy by making sound judgments, by leveraging the evidence that science gives us. I mean, that’s pretty much in a nutshell what we’re trying to do.
Alan: 00:50:47 Well, to that I would say, amen. Let me close our conversation by asking you our seven quick questions. You know about this? We ask everybody these seven questions and they’re not threatening, so don’t look so scared, but they invite seven quick answers, and they’re roughly about communicating and relating. Okay, first one. What do you wish you really understood?
Chris: 00:51:15 Leaving my day job aside, because I think I’ve indicated there’s a lot of things I don’t know and I wish I knew. I wish I knew more about mathematics, and I wish I appreciated mathematics, not arithmetic, but the higher mathematics from a language point of view.
Alan: 00:51:33 I share that with you. What do you wish other people understood about you?
Chris: 00:51:41 I struggle with the English language, and the tragedy is it’s the only language I speak. And that’s a genetic thing, it runs on my father’s side of the family, and we’re hoping that gene eventually dilutes out in a couple more generations but sometimes words, the right word doesn’t quite come out, and so sometimes I…
Alan: 00:52:03 So wish people understood you have this genetic thing. I haven’t noticed it. What is it? What’s the…
Chris: 00:52:10 I have an active buffer of vocabulary for about 12 word words at any given time.
Alan: 00:52:17 You can store up 12 words that you’re about to say, is that what you mean?
Chris: 00:52:21 Well, and my vocabulary that’s about the breath of my vocabulary in real time. So it’s words like the, it that, pretty one syllable words. I really have to work hard to… I have about a third I think of the brain capacity as a normal person when it comes to language and speaking in real time.
Alan: 00:52:40 Is this a condition with a name? I have face blindness. Do you have a name for what you’ve got there?
Chris: 00:52:46 I don’t, I haven’t had a diagnosis. I figured one way or another I’m stuck with it, so why pay a doctor.
Alan: 00:52:52 I think I interviewed on the science program a family in Europe that had a mutation in a gene that I can’t remember which one, but that was responsible for something like… very interesting. Well, that’s not a short answer, but it was an interesting one thank you. Next question. What’s the strangest question anyone has ever asked you?
Chris: 00:53:18 All right, so this one’s a guilty pleasure. The strangest question was, “Son are you making chlorine again?
Alan: 00:53:31 What.
Chris: 00:53:32 I feel like I’m obliged to provide some background. I was a chemist and I learned a lot in high school in my parents basement fiddling around, and for a reason I can’t remember I wanted to make chlorine gas, which is not a particularly good substance I had be careful, and I accidentally made too much, and ended up with a face full of chlorine gas which I can tell you is not very pleasant, I don’t recommend it.
Alan: 00:53:57 Does it do something to your skin or what…?
Chris: 00:53:59 Well, yeah. So, chlorine…
Alan: 00:54:01 That was one of the gases they used in World War One.
Chris: 00:54:03 That’s right. It’s a strong oxidizer, it produces hydrochloric acid when [inaudible 00:54:07]. It basically burns your skin, it’s very corrosive.
Alan: 00:54:10 And you were asked, “Are you producing this again?” Why would you make it a second time?
Chris: 00:54:15 Yeah, well, so I guess I filled the ventilation system of my parents house with this, and so after getting hit in the face with it, which is… I’ll just share one thing. You read in the books that they say chlorine, asphyxiates that’s one of the bad things. I thought that meant you can’t… You breathe in chlorine, you’re not breathing in oxygen. That’s not what happens at all. When you inhale, enough chlorine, your diaphragm paralyzes. It’s like getting the wind knocked out of you if you’ve ever done to. So for about six seconds, I just couldn’t breathe mechanically, nothing came in, and I was hoping it would end eventually and it did and I started breathing.
But the chlorine vapors ended up working through the house and my father who was a chemist also was watching I think the A Team and instead of getting up and seeing what he just yelled, “Are you making chlorine again?” And I grew up with The Addams Family so I felt that that was our Addams Family moment. I felt like all right we…
Alan: 00:55:08 Well, I hope we haven’t just put a spike in the heart of science with this fabulous, anecdote. Next question. How do you stop a compulsive talker?
Chris: 00:55:26 I would say… I don’t have a proven method, but I would say if you’re in a room where you’ve identified another compulsive talker, maybe try to match them.
Alan: 00:55:37 That’s good. I haven’t heard that one before, that’s a good one.
Chris: 00:55:40 I’ll stop with that one. I think that’s probably the best shot.
Alan: 00:55:42 Is there anyone for whom you just can’t feel empathy?
Chris: 00:55:47 Yes, absolutely. It is a human weakness. Boy, people who cut line that just gets under my skin. I just…
Alan: 00:55:56 You don’t care what’s going through their mind.
Chris: 00:55:58 No, I mean you can usually tell if it’s a genuine emergency and for that I’m forgiving. But there’s just some folks who just play by a different set of rules. And that just, that bothers my sense of civilization and order.
Alan: 00:56:09 How do you like to deliver bad news in person, on the phone, or by carrier pigeon?
Chris: 00:56:16 Well, like would be as far away as possible I think, but this is one of those questions where the right thing to do is usually the hard thing to do. A lesson I learned as a child. I wouldn’t like but I would probably do it in person just because being the hardest thing to do, it probably is the right thing to do.
Alan: 00:56:35 Okay. Last question. What if anything would make you end a friendship?
Chris: 00:56:44 I would… Yeah. I was thinking words dishonesty and selfishness. But I think the combination is, if I feel that if there really isn’t a friendship there. If you determine, if you find out that you’re being taken advantage of, and you realize there’s no friendship then there’s nothing to end, you just walk away.
Alan: 00:57:10 Well, don’t walk away from our conversation without my thanking you. I hope that we continue along the path of this friendship that’s starting. Thanks for coming in and talking with me.
Chris: 00:57:21 Thank you, Alan.
Alan: 00:57:23 Graham, do you have any thoughts?
Graham: 00:57:25 No it was good. My internet kept dropping out so I’m just [inaudible 00:57:33].
Alan: 00:57:34 Oh, you have, you-
Graham: 00:57:37 [inaudible 00:57:37].
Alan: 00:57:37 Yeah, you probably missed a brilliant part too.
Graham: 00:57:39 Yeah, the one thing that I was concerned about I think that you address [inaudible 00:57:39] I still didn’t quite get a sense of what… There must be some scenario.
Alan: 00:57:51 Do you have a scenario by the way?
Graham: 00:57:52 [inaudible 00:57:52].
Alan: 00:57:54 Yeah.
Graham: 00:57:55 [inaudible 00:57:55] so how is that going to [inaudible 00:58:01].
Alan: 00:58:05 Yeah, and by the way, if you’re going to arrive at that final step by sorting through the research itself and figuring it out before you get to a… that’s okay too. But I didn’t want to press you on it, but I felt it could be more specific, if you’ve got a specific answer, but if not…
Chris: 00:58:28 Yeah, we don’t we’re trying to work that out right now. I didn’t want to come across too… I didn’t want to sound like we were the elite trying to manipulate the masses, which is why I evaded… Which is not what we’re trying to do, But I didn’t want to-
Alan: 00:58:44 [crosstalk 00:58:44] program, communications project and by that I mean, not the theory so much as what practical action do you think you’ll take. Do you have anything like that worked out? And if not, it can be something that you’re figuring out now.
Chris: 00:59:04 Well, yeah, so we don’t, that’s something we’re figuring out now, but one thing I could say…
Alan: 00:59:09 But why did you… Let me ask you again. After you’ve completed the research that you’ve embarked on, where you’re figuring out how the public regard science and how science regards to the public and so on, do you have an endgame in mind? Do you have a plan to do something to help remedy the disproportionate relationship, the poor relationship that still exists in terms of science and the public?
Chris: 00:59:44 We have a sense that it’s going to take a lot of hands to make light work. And one of the areas where there’s some low hanging fruit, where there are people ready to jump in is with regards to science communication, both scientists and the organizations that helps scientist communicate better. And so the research that we’re learning now really can help scientists know thy audience if you will, and make the connections there on an individual level. It’s clear that a one size fits all approach both for scientists communicating to the public, and frankly the public relating to scientists won’t work. It’s more complicated than that. It’s much more textured and nuanced than that. So it’s important to get this information and these learnings in the hands of I think individual scientists and science communicators, and let them run with it. See what they can do.
Alan: 01:00:43 Great. And Graham, do you have anything else?
Graham: 01:00:46 Yeah, no that was it, thank you.
Alan: 01:00:47 Yeah, thank you. So…
(silence)
Chris: 01:01:17 I want to make sure I understand.
Alan: 01:01:18 Yeah, I don’t understand either Sarah. Say it again. Say it differently.
(silence)
Oh, the scientists enjoy doing science and the public doesn’t have… put the enjoyment on the outcome. What’s the question? Does that excite you?
Chris: 01:01:59 Yeah.
Alan: 01:02:00 Okay, so if the public puts a lot of attention on the benefit of science to them, and that’s why they feel hopeful about science. And if scientists put more attention on how exciting it is to do the science, how do we bring them together? How do we get them to share a common view of science that benefits science and benefits the people both?
Chris: 01:02:27 I’m going to put the burden on scientists first, just as the experts in that relationship. And that is, as much as one wants to talk about the details, and the process as I said, you’ve got to start with the benefit. You’ve got to start with the outcome. You’ve got to give some contextual explanation of why should this matter to me. This isn’t just true for scientists. This is true for any expert who’s speaking to a lay audience. And so well his first couple of sentences need to be, “Here’s why this matters to you” or, “Here’s why you should care.” Very often if you do that well, it’s been my observation that the person you’re talking to is actually going to ask you to get into more details. They’ll prompt you to have that conversation, so it’s not as much one way, it’s more of a dialogue and a conversation.
To start there’s an old… We don’t like sales, but there’s an old sales adage, which is, you always talk benefits not features. You don’t sell a red convertible by teaching someone about a combustion engine. You sell a red convertible by saying, “Boy, you’re going to look good in this red convertible Alan. You’re going to look great.”
Alan: 01:03:35 There’s something else that occurs to me that I wonder if you take into account. There’s something communicated by the way the scientist is lit up, illuminated by the excitement of the work. “This amazing thing I discovered about this little worm. It’s so tiny, you can’t see it without a microscope and yet some of the stuff secret of longevity is in this worm, that’s fascinating.” That affect, that attitude that can be expressed, sometimes better by some people than by others. But all of us can learn to express what we feel about the things that mean a lot to us, like the thrill of discovery. That is not an argument, it’s not words. It’s you being able to observe in me what gets me going, and it might be contagious to you. Is there a way to discover how effective that is? Can you research that?
Chris: 01:04:43 You can. I’m willing to take it for granted. I think enthusiasm is infectious. I think it’s… I certainly haven’t been a victim. I’ve watched plenty of TV shows about quilting, and painting, and other things that I’m lousy at and probably really don’t care about but boy, the person seems so excited, I just had to… I had to walk with them down that journey, and I think you’ve captured it. That that is a big, big part… A big advantage frankly that the scientists have, because most scientists are very excited about what they do, and they’re excited to share, and that’s the key. There’s an old saying, this is going back to that dirty word marketing again, but it’s I think so fundamental, and I know it’s the core to what the Alda Center does.
Human beings, we’re not thinking beings that feel. We are feeling beings that think. And too often the word emotion is a sacrilege word among scientists, certainly physical science and natural sciences. The social scientists are much more comfortable with that. In a way they have a leg up in terms of bridging the gap between themselves and the public. I think we have to recognize the emotional content of any conversation, and to the extent that it’s positive, ride it. That’s how you connect with people.
Alan: 01:06:10 That’s great. Good stuff. I think we can end our fabulous conversation. Thank you Chris, that was really good.
Chris: 01:06:19 Thanks, Alan.

This has been Clear + Vivid, at least I hope so.

My thanks the sponsors of this episode. All the income from the ads you hear go to the Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University. Just by listening to this podcast, you’re contributing to the better communication of science. So, thank you.

For more information about the Alda Center, please visit AldaCenter.org

Chris Volpe is the Executive Director and a Founding Board Member at Science-Counts, which is non-profit organization that works to strengthen our nation’s, and our personal, commitment to science. Science Counts provides resources and research that helps to promote the immense good that scientists do for us — after all, behind the word science you’ll always find real people – people who are working hard each day to find solutions and answers to some of the most complex problems imaginable. They give me hope every day and I’m in constant awe of the wonder, the value, and the good of science and the dedicated people who keep searching.

To find out more about Science Counts and their recent initiatives, or to get involved, please visit: sciencecounts.org

This episode was produced by Graham Chedd with help from our associate producer, Sarah Chase. Our sound engineer is Dan Dzula, our Tech Guru is Allison Coston, our publicist is Sarah Hill.

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Thanks for listening. Bye bye!