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Among self-identified conservative Republicans, knowl- edge of scientific facts is negatively correlated with the acceptance of human-caused climate change, whereas liberal Democrats with scientific knowledge are more likely to agree that human activity causes climate change. However, the pattern shifts when researchers examined scientific curiosity. In this case, more scientific curiosity equated to greater acceptance of climate change regard- less of political affiliation. Low-stakes topics like acoustic properties of unusual materials or the cocktail party effect are a great way to stimulate curiosity without bumping up against emotionally charged issues. In turn, this curiosity can increase receptivity to high-stakes scientific informa- tion in the future.
How to Communicate: A Few Basics
If we start from the assumptions that our audience is not dumb and that our job isn’t to fill the hole in their brains labeled “scientific knowledge,” how do we communicate? Here I briefly highlight a few points and tools. This is not an exhaustive list!
• Be engaging. Scientists are often seen as highly intelli- gent but cold. Show your human side, including your enthusiasm about your work. Talk not just about facts but about those “ah-hah” moments when your data suddenly made sense. Share the fascinating obser- vation that reinspired you or the conversation that helped you think differently about your work.
• Use metaphors to illustrate complex topics. The con- cept of DNA as the genetic code is not completely accurate, but it is so useful that it is now part of the common vernacular. We commonly talk about sound as a wave. Use metaphors to bring that wave to life.
• Favor concepts over details. Most audiences won’t appreciate the nuance of your acoustics equations. However, they can enjoy learning how you use those equations to solve everyday problems.
• Lead with the “why?” In scientific papers, we save the best part for last, the conclusion. Flip that model around and start with the take-home message and why it matters. Your audience wants to know WIIFM, What’s In It For Me?
• Respect your audience. As I mentioned in Audience and Goals, our audience is intelligent, just unfamiliar with our jargon. Use positive and affirming language to demonstrate respect and help people lean into our message rather than tuning out.
• Use audience-appropriate examples. Pop-culture refer- ences are a great way to grab attention. Just be sure the reference fits the demographic; teens may not know classic rock songs or 1980s TV shows, whereas older audiences might miss a reference to Megan Thee Stallion.
The Message Box is a great tool designed specifically to help us prepare for science communication opportunities. Created by Nancy Baron at COMPASS, each Message Box begins with a specific audience in mind and centers on a single issue (see (see Figure 1). The Message Box starts by asking us to iden- tify our audience for a specific communication situation (K-6 school group? Radio interview? City Council?).
Then, we identify the general issue our work addresses and the specific problem we want to discuss with that exact audience. The Message Box then helps us define our solution to that problem, showcase the benefits of our solution, and highlight why our topic matters (the So What?). For example, the issue might be acoustic reso- nance of a building material used for bridge construction,
  Figure 1. The Message Box tool for planning science communication engagements. Each Message Box is tailored for a specific audience and communication scenario. The cue words in each part of the Box ask us to consider specific aspects of our message: problem, solution, immediate benefits, and the big picture “So What?” that lies at the heart of successful communication. The Message Box was developed by Nancy Baron. Visit the COMPASS website ( to learn more about the Message Box and see examples of how to apply this useful tool.
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