There are more than 2.5 million scientific papers published each year. But only a small portion of the information is accessible to scientists. Knowing how to translate environmental data to the public is crucial as scientists work to address climate change, and other urgent environmental problems. Chris Mooney, Pulitzer-Prize-winning Washington Post reporter has been focused on the analysis of this data in relation to the environment and getting it to the public. Mooney 99 BA is a guest lecturer at Yale School of the Environment teaching A Toolkit to Communicate Environmental Science.
Mooney has written four books about the environment. He has also worked with the National Science Foundation in training scientists on communication strategies. Mooney has been a reporter for the Washington Post for seven year, leading its coverage of energy and environmental issues. Mooney was part the 2020 Washington Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize for explanation journalism For more information, click hereThis analysis of county-level data revealed which parts of the country have exceeded the 2-degree Celsius warming scientists believe is the tipping point for global climate change.
His most Recent investigation revealed that the Post was under investigationMany countries are underreporting greenhouse gas emissions in United Nations filings. The data set Mooney and his team from the Post compiled from emissions figures submitted to UN in a variety formats.
Mooney, who was a Poynter Fellow in the fall, spoke on environmental data science, journalism and journalism. He said that communicating environmental topics presents two challenges. First, readers may be so far from an issue that they are unable to relate. The second is that environmental issues are often tied to complex regulation, which can be difficult to break down and can also spark partisan responses.
Mooney states that translating science from academic papers into journals and getting it to policymakers in a format they can understand and use is very difficult.
He points out the whiplash effect and windshield wiper effect that people often experience when the media reports heavily on one study’s findings and then later reports on another study which contradicts those findings. Many important studies, which reveal significant new findings but are too complex and difficult to translate into a news story in a single-segment format, do not receive any media attention.
Mooney says that while the media reports a large portion of science being learned, it only focuses on a select slice. This is because some scientists are better at communicating than others.
Mooney points out that there are many data sets that governments publish. He suggests that it is important to focus on the ones that can tell a hidden story and use them as a basis for your own data sets.
There are many data sets available that have not been examined as closely as possible. Data can help you ask questions you didn’t know you should be asking, he states.
He says that advances in data visualizations have made it possible to communicate complex information and research findings more easily. Online articles can include animated numbers and short videos, which pop up as the reader scrolls through certain parts of the story.
Mooney covers the history, evolution, and challenges of media reporting on environmental issues. He also discusses how the public processes information regarding science communication. Students choose an environmental topic to present as part of their class studies. They create messages about the topic and communicate them using a variety of formats including videos and talks of five minutes.
Uthara Vengrai 22 MESc Mooneys course taught her how to write a concise message about her scientific findings, and how to guide the reader through data using figures that are revealed at specific points.
Vengrai states that the lessons he shared have been very helpful in formulating more impactful presentations of my own research. There’s so much bad information out there, it’s important to emphasize messages that offer answers.
Photo:Chris Mooney gives an overview during his spring course A Toolkit for Communicating Environment Science. Credit: Cloe Poisson