Tuesday, September 30, 2014

California drought and climate change: a science communication challenge

This week, a new report focused on extreme weather events and climate change came out in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. Since so much of my job involves filtering and sorting through this kind of information, particularly as it relates to California water issues, which right now are all drought all the time, I spent Monday watching a series of articles and tweets attempting to summarize that report come out. First was a link to the report itself. There was a lot of traffic (I'm assuming), so the report wouldn't load for me. At the same time, I started to see a lot of tweets about how we basically now know that the California drought is caused by climate change. Then as the afternoon went on came a series of tweets about how there is absolutely no measurable way that climate change caused the drought. Literally, two totally different headlines on the same topic within hours of each other. It was hard, even as somebody who is pretty well immersed in this stuff, to interpret the findings and figure out why the stories were so totally different.

Reconciling science research and practice

There is a lot of conversation these days around "bridging" research and practice in various fields - as a science and conservation type I tend to pay more attention to that piece, but I also see it in active conversation in the humanities and other fields as well. There are two main threads here that I think are helpful to break apart - one is how to better connect the results of research (and, not often enough, the process of research) with practice. The other related, but somewhat separate, piece is how to better train graduate students for practice-based careers in the sciences.