Claiming Kin Symposium 2013

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Decoding Science symposium speaker videos now available!

Decoding Science

What we understand of the world around us, its history, and its future comes to us largely through science. It’s hard to imagine a world without the products of science, be they convenience, health, food, or inspiration. But it’s also hard to imagine a topic that has had more difficulty being understood by the public that supports and pays for it. Why is this?

Commercial, political, and social messages seem to penetrate the public consciousness successfully while science struggles to get its messages across. Do scientists ignore rules of successful communication? Is science communication a lecture, or a conversation? How do the current media, social, political, and economic landscapes shape science communication and understanding? How can we improve the understanding, discussion and utility of science?

“Decoding Science” and its allied events will focus on how the scientist-public dialog can be improved. We will feature speakers who have something unique to say about crafting effective messages, understanding audiences, and establishing useful interactions to reconnect and rekindle the conversation between scientists and the public. Events are designed to stimulate thought about novel ways of generating science engagement, including comics, motion pictures and art. We will also examine what the public sees as credible information and sources and how cultural and cognitive barriers make communication difficult.

Now more than ever, scientists and others need to work together to address serious issues in human health, food security, and the environment. Come help us explore ways to get everyone on the same, understandable page so we can solve these problems together, as a team.


Dominique Brossard a professor in the Department of Life Sciences Communication, and the Holtz Center for Science and Technology Studies at the University of Wisconsin. She teaches courses in strategic communication theory and research with a special emphasis on science and risk communication. Her research focuses on the intersection between science, media and policy. She studies public opinion about controversial scientific innovations, and will explain how we decide who and what we believe, and where.

Randy Olson, a recovering marine biologist, is an independent filmmaker and author of Don’t Be Such a Scientist and Connection: Hollywood Storytelling Meets Critical Thinking. Randy is a leading proponent of storytelling in science communication, about which he leads workshops for scientists. His films include “Flock of Dodos” and “Sizzle,” about evolution and climate change, respectively.

Barbara Kline Pope is Executive Director for Communications for The National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, National Research Council, and Executive Director of The National Academies. She has helped shape online publishing for more than a decade. Barbara currently leads the development of programs to enhance the public’s engagement in and appreciation of science. These programs include The Science & Entertainment Exchange, of which she is Director. The SE Exchange connects entertainment industry professionals with top scientists and engineers to create a synergy between accurate science and engaging storylines in both film and TV programming. Barbara will discuss communicating science in mega-entertainment media.

Chris Mooney is a science journalist, blogger, podcaster, and experienced trainer of scientists in the art of communication. He is the author of four books including Storm World: Hurricanes, Politics, and the Battle over Global Warming, Unscientific America (with Kirshenbaum), The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science and Reality, and the New York Times bestselling The Republican War on Science. He blogs at Mother Jones. Chris will tell us about how science needs to cope with peoples’ beliefs.

Liz Neeley is Assistant Director of Science Outreach for COMPASS, an organization of science communication professionals that help scientists to develop the skills they need to engage journalists, policymakers and other non-scientist audiences. Liz develops and leads communications training for scientists, specializing in social media and multimedia components communication and outreach. Previously, Liz studied the evolution and visual systems of tropical reef fish. Liz will help us understand the role “new” and “social” media play in making science clear and fun.

Bill Nye, scientist, engineer, comedian, author, and inventor, is a man with a mission: to help foster a scientifically literate society, to help people everywhere understand and appreciate the science that makes our world work. Making science entertaining and accessible had made Bill America’s favorite “standup scientist.” He’ll tell us how he does it!

Rebecca Skloot is the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Her award winning science writing has appeared in The New York Times Magazine; O, The Oprah Magazine; Discover; and many other publications. She specializes in narrative science writing and has explored a wide range of topics, from goldfish surgery to packs of wild dogs in Manhattan. She was a correspondent for WNYC’s Radiolab and PBS’s Nova ScienceNOW and co-edited The Best American Science Writing 2011. Rebecca will talk about the complicated scientific issues that The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks brings to light and the way these issues affect public policy and private lives.

James Surowiecki has been reporting on finance and human behavior since the days of the Motley Fool on AOL. In 2004, he published The Wisdom of Crowds, an exploration of the hive mind as it plays out in business and in other arenas of life. Surowiecki is the finance writer for the New Yorker, and blogs for, The Balance Sheet. What’s the secret to explaining complex topics to the public every single week?


Karla Carter
Executive Staff Asst to the Director
105 Christopher S. Bond Life Sciences Center
University of Missouri
1201 Rollins Street
Columbia, MO 65211-7310
Tel: 573-882-7957
Fax: 573-884-9395

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