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When explaining science is a matter of life and death

Source(s):  Chronicle of Higher Education, the

While the trial of scientists charged with making a "generic and ineffective" assessment of the danger prior to L'Aquila earthquake has been adjourned until October 15 to allow defense attorneys to examine new evidence, the Chronicle of Higher Education illustrates the challenges—also highlighted by other recent disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina and the earthquake and tsunami in Japan—that scientists increasingly face as they take part in advising the public about potential emergencies.

The article says that the fundamental task in disaster management is to translate the specialized language of science into laymen's terms and that the crucial element of crisis communication is to give practical advice, to tell people what to do in case of a serious earthquake. It also demonstrates the risk of letting nonscientists speak for their expert advisers, "You get experts to talk about the technical aspects, and you get elected or appointed officials ... talking about what the recommendations are for people's actions."

  • Publication date 04 Oct 2011

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