As Climate Change debate wages on, scientists turn to Hollywood for help
Politicians and the public question global climate change evidence, so scientists look to Hollywood and websites for a new voice. Lights, camera, science!
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“Professional journalism has been cut to the bone. And the first people to go are science journalists,” says Bora Zivkovic, who writes the science blog “A Blog Around the Clock” from Chapel Hill, N.C., and serves as online community manager for PLoS One, a peer-reviewed science journal. With fewer authorities in the media, “scientists have to take that over,” he says. Mr. Zivkovic spoke as part of a panel on how to better communicate science at the annual convention of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Diego last month.Skip to next paragraph
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One effort, announced at the meeting, will recruit Hollywood to help scientists tell their stories. NSF and the University of Southern California will team up to draw on USC’s expertise in film, TV, websites, and video games. The partnership will be the first between a federal agency and a film school.
“Entertainment media has been pretty much untapped as far as science literacy goes,” Dr. Fink says. A huge portion of the public doesn’t go to science museums or watch science programming on TV, she says. “Those are the eyeballs we’re trying to capture.”
Feature films such as “Apollo 13” and “Contact” show that movies can be both box-office successes and inspire careers in science, says Elizabeth Daley, dean of USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, whose graduates are used to winning Oscars, not Nobel Prizes. She hopes the program will provide screenwriters, producers, and directors with knowledgeable science sources to advise them.
The short cartoon within the 1993 film “Jurassic Park” that showed how one might clone dinosaurs provides a terrific example of what could be produced, Dr. Daley says. “It’s a very clear, simple explanation of DNA that people can understand.”
As news outlets scale back science coverage, the Exploratorium’s Dr. Semper says that “nonprofits are actually becoming the intermediary between science and the public more than in the past.”
Semper’s center has reached out directly to scientists to help them tell their stories online. For example, the Exploratorium’s online feature “Ice Stories” was the result of giving polar scientists cameras and blogs to report back on what they learned in the field. Young scientists in particular are “very excited about talking about their work to the public,” he says.