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Department of Communications/
News Bureau
22 Davis Hall, 10 Lippitt Road, Kingston, RI 0288
Phone: 401-874-2116 Fax: 401-874-7872

Lisa Cugini, (401) 874-6642
lcugini@gso.uri.edu

Leading Journalists and Scientists Address
Differences in Science Communication

Narragansett, R.I. -- October 24, 2003 -- Leading climate scientists and science journalists will meet in an innovative project aimed at knocking down barriers to responsible science communication. Sponsored by the Metcalf Institute for Marine and Environmental Reporting and funded in part by a $36,410 grant from the National Science Foundation, the two-day program at the University of Rhode Island will be the first of several workshops around the country that will address public understanding of environmental issues, focusing on climate and marine science.

On November 9-11, invited journalists from CNN News, National Public Radio, The New York Times, and other news organizations will meet at the University of Rhode Island with internationally known climate and marine scientists from institutions including The Naval Research Laboratory, Harvard University, and Environment Canada. Andrew C. Revkin, science writer, New York Times, and Jerry Mahlman, National Center for Atmospheric Research, will lead the plenary presentations. The workshop will focus on communications on atmospheric and climate science rather than emphasize the "hard news" aspects of these topics. Workshop participants will discuss how scientists and journalists interact and how better communication can bring more accurate and vital science to the public.

Participating journalists are Steve Curwood, Living on Earth, NPR; Camille Feanny, CNN; Richard Kerr, Science; Boyce Rensberger, Knight Fellowship, MIT; Andy Revkin and Cornelia Dean, New York Times; Randy Showstack, EOS; Peter Lord, Providence Journal, and Jon Palfreman, The Palfreman Film Group. Sarah Webb, a Ph.D. candidate, Indiana University, has been awarded a journalism workshop fellowship.

Participating scientists are Susan Avery, University of Colorado; Elbert W. Friday, University of Oklahoma; Judith L. Lean, Naval Research Laboratory; Jerry D. Mahlman, National Center for Atmospheric Research; Michael E. Mann, University of Virginia; James J. McCarthy, Harvard University; Ellen Prager, Earth2Ocean, Inc; Roger Street, Environment Canada.

"It's critical that the scientific community understand the principles under which the American media operate in our democratic system," said workshop coordinator, Bud Ward, who is also editor of Environment Writer, a publication of the Metcalf Institute, based at the URI Graduate School of Oceanography. "At the same time, it's essential that the media understand and appreciate the practices, mores, standards, and ethics underlying sound science. With a mutual understanding of both disciplines' principles, this effort will work to identify 'common enemies' that serve neither science, the responsible practice of journalism, nor an informed citizenry."

The workshops are part of a multi-year international effort to improve the public understanding of science-based climate and marine environmental issues. A second workshop in the planned three-year effort is scheduled for Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California, in March 2004, and additional journalist/scientist workshops are planned for late 2004 and into 2005.

Additional funding for this program is provided by the Environmental Law Institute through a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency; the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), through funding provided to the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, a partner group that will host the second in the planned series of workshops.

The Metcalf Institute was established in 1997 with funding from the Belo, The Providence Journal Foundation, the Philip L. Graham Fund, and the Telaka Foundation. Based at the URI Graduate School of Oceanography, the Institute was created to provide journalists with the tools to understand science so they are better equipped to report on marine and environmental issues with clarity and accuracy.


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Page last revised Friday, October 24, 2003 .