Posted by: egutoday | May 4, 2010

Science under Fire 2

From science to understanding

In principle, it’s the same: It doesn’t really matter if we say “It’s probably getting a few degrees warmer over the next century”. Or if we tell a person overlooking an Arctic fjord “This kind of view will most likely disappear from our planet. This glistening whiteness of sea ice and snow and glaciers will soon no longer exist in the way you see it now. If you want, you could start saying farewell to this landscape.”

In principle, it’s the same. Both statements are backed up by the best science we know today. Both statements are true with the same likelihood. Both statements are objective and hence, by definition, free of any political agenda. And yet, the second one feels so very different. It feels different because it’s a translation of the first statement into something that people really can understand. It’s a translation that allows the listener to make a more informed decision, because its wording is more accessible to the non-specialist.

Such objective, unbiased translation is more than ever needed to maintain (or to rebuild) the credibility of our scientific findings for the general public. And it’s needed if we expect our findings to have just the impact that they realistically deserve. It’s that easy. And yet so very, very difficult.

Dirk Notz, Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, Hamburg, Germany



  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Dick van der Wateren. Dick van der Wateren said: More than ever, objective, unbiased translation is required to maintain (or to rebuild) the credibility of our scient… […]

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