Thursday, 25 March 2010

March 2010 - Translating Science

Earlier this year the Centre for Research on Environmental Decisions at Columbia University published a guide to The Psychology of Climate Change Communication. My favourite bit is a table of 'words with different meanings to scientists and the general public'. Here are some of them (science term first, followed by non-science interpretation):

Uncertainty = Not knowing

Error = Wrong, Incorrect

Bias = Unfair and deliberate distortion

Positive Trend = A good trend

Positive Feedback = Constructive criticism

Theory = A hunch, opinion, speculation

Manipulation = Exploitation

Values = Ethics, money

Scheme = Conspiracy

While this is probably something of a caricature of how people interpret these words, there's an important message in here for climate change communication - don't assume that people interpret specialist terminology in the same way you do!