In advance of our media training and messaging workshops we send out surveys to get a sense of what our participants want and need. We always ask: “What is the question you’d least like to be asked by a reporter or policymaker?” We get some really great, tough questions that we often use in workshops. However, for a session we have coming up this week, a participant wrote in their survey that the biggest challenge she has is responding to non-scientists who are skeptics of science all together. She referred us to an episode of The Daily Show that aired last week on Comedy Central.
We all found this clip as frustrating as it was funny. The reality is many scientists are concerned about being a political talking point or a pawn in a larger cultural or political debate. The tragic outcome is that too many scientists use this as a reason to avoid engaging all together.
Sadly, science doesn’t speak for itself. When scientists don’t lead the discussion of their work, others step in to fill the vacuum and misappropriate their science. We see this time and again, whether it’s stem cells, vaccines and autism, or global warming.
The best advice is to carefully prepare messaging about your work to put it in context, step forward and explain your science.
And remember, you always have The Daily Show there to make your opponent look ridiculous.