The professionals charged with delivering important food and nutrition science information to a public ever more hungry for science-based guidance have faced increasing challenges in an increasingly complex communications environment. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, in December 2016, issued a report assembling what has been published about science communication, both of emerging and contentious scientific issues such as vaccine and global climate science. The report outlines “Science of Science Communication” research gaps and urges a systems approach toward understanding the many factors that influence how both communicators and their intended audiences perceive and process science information. Although the Academies' report deals with a broad range of scientific issues, the authors here focus on communication of health and nutrition science, in the context of the report. Discussed are such influences on perception and understanding as preexisting individual and group psychological, economic, political, social, cultural, and media- or value-related mind-sets. Noting the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine report's repeated call for researchers to work more closely with communication practitioners, the authors of this article offer some insight into the effect that rapidly evolving social and other digital media may have on the various perceptual influences.
Sylvia B. Rowe, MA, is currently the president of SR Strategy, which addresses the science to communications to policy continuum on a broad range of global health, nutrition, food safety, and risk issues. She is also an adjunct professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy.
Previously, Rowe served as president and chief executive officer of the International Food Information Council (IFIC) and IFIC Foundation, in Washington, DC.
Nick Alexander, BA, is former senior media counselor for the IFIC Foundation located in Washington, DC. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics from Harvard University and is a former network correspondent with ABC News in New York.
For the past 10 years, Mr Alexander and Rowe have collaborated on a series of published journal articles on science communications issues and the evolving challenge to public acceptance of credible science.
The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose.
Correspondence: Sylvia B. Rowe, MA, SR Strategy, 1100 Connecticut Ave, NW Ste 430, Washington, DC 20036-4120 (email@example.com).