Being a brilliant scientist doesn’t always translate into being a good talking head on television or even a good source for a science reporter. So the Aldo Leopold Leadership Program at Stanford University was created to give scientists a better understanding of how to deal with the media. Program director Pam Matson explains what goes on at their training camp.
Reporters could do better, but isn’t it also the scientists’ responsibility to help distill complex scientific issues for the rest of us? Ten years ago, Jane Lubchenco, Obama’s pick to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, created the Leopold Leadership Program at Stanford University to sharpen scientists’ communication skills. Pam Matson is the current director. She says scientists have a lot to learn about getting their message across.
PAM MATSON: Well, I think it’s a special problem of scientists because we are taught how to communicate with one audience, and that is our audience, other scientists. We’re taught to provide lots of background information. We focus on the details of how we do the research, the uncertainty around our results, and then only at the very end do we talk about the conclusions, the bottom line. And so, I think most of us have to be taught to turn that around if we’re talking to the public, talking to decision makers of any sort, to put the bottom line up front.
On The Media: Transcript of “The Science of Media Relations” February 13, 2009