For the past decade, debates have ensued about how scientists generally can better participate in the establishment of good communication and public policy. At the 2012 annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a group of European scientists sounded a call to action—for scientists to more actively engage in policy discussions on “difficult to communicate issues of global significance.” This article lays out and analyzes, in some detail, that group’s discussion and strategic recommendations for accomplishing a more effective scientific engagement in policymaking affecting public health. Among these recommendations is a call for the scientific community to embrace a more holistic and inclusive approach to connecting with the public and with policymakers on critical issues of science—utilizing, for example, sociology and psychology in appreciating how the public and policymakers hear and understand science. It is a clarion call that has significant implications for nutrition and health science. A further recommendation of the group is that scientists target messages to all stakeholders in a given issue—from policymakers to government agencies to public activists and to industry.
A look at navigating the path between the “talk and the walk”
Sylvia Rowe, MA, is an adjunct professor at Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy and at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She is also the president of SR Strategy, a health, nutrition, food safety, and risk communications and issue management consultancy located at Washington, DC. Previously, Ms Rowe served as president and chief executive officer of the International Food Information Council (IFIC) and IFIC Foundation, nonprofit organizations that communicate science-based information of food safety and nutrition issues to health professionals, journalists, government officials, educators, and consumers.
Nick Alexander, BA, is former senior media counselor for the IFIC Foundation, Washington, DC. He holds a bachelor of arts degree from Harvard University. A former network correspondent with ABC News, he has been tracking and writing about science communications issues and the evolving challenge to public acceptance of credible science for the past decade.
The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose.
Correspondence: Sylvia Rowe, MA, 1100 Connecticut Ave NW, #1000, Washington, DC 20036 (firstname.lastname@example.org).