published April 24, 2014

2014 Public Policy Symposium at SENCER Summer Institute Will Address the Public Understanding of Science

Why is it that findings of science are not always readily accepted and included in the process of forming public policy? Why don't conclusions based on overwhelming scientific evidence speak for themselves or provide clarity in policy debates? What are we to make of conflicts over whether or not climate change is real, some vaccines ought to be administered, or evolution ought to be taught in public schools?

Since scientific consensus alone does not seem to be either persuasive to the public or dispositive to policy makers, how science and scientific evidence are communicated must be re-strategized, especially in light of what we know about the beliefs and dispositions of specific audiences. Given the central role that public issues—and the development of public policies designed to address them—play in the civic engagement aspirations of the SENCER enterprise, a focused exploration of science and public policy seems essential. We offer two ways for you to engage this critical challenge; at this year's SENCER Summer Institute and, more immediately, by following a link to an article we will provide below.

Following on last year's inaugural effort, Janice Ballou, Dan Kahan, Joe Karlesky, Danielle Kraus Tarka and other leaders will facilitate a Pre-Institute Symposium on Science and Public Policy on July 30th and 31st. SSI invitees may select this option during registration. Attendance at the Symposium is by invitation only and space is limited. Invitations to Symposium participants will be extended on June 11, 2014. The Symposium will begin at 12:00 p.m. on Wednesday, July 30 and continue through 8:00 p.m. that evening with lunch and dinner included. The Symposium will continue with a morning session through 12:00 p.m. on Thursday, July 31st, just before the new participant orientation. There is no additional charge for this Symposium though participants are reminded that they will be responsible for an additional day of lodging.

You don't have to attend the SENCER Summer Institute to know that the issues we explore in the Symposium are gaining attention in the press and elsewhere. In the article in the link below, Stephan Lewandowsky, an Australian psychologist, and Dan Kahan, who will also be a plenary speaker at SSI 2014, lay out contrasting views on the appropriate communication strategies in the high stakes battle over science findings and public policy. Click here to read 'Why Climate Deniers are Winning: The Twisted Psychology that Overwhelms Scientific Consensus' by Paul Rosenberg.