Room 42

Humanities Improve Science Communication

May 04, 2022 Marybeth Shea Season 2 Episode 21
Room 42
Humanities Improve Science Communication
Show Notes

In this episode of Room 42 we discuss how an English Professor ended up in a chicken coop. A humanist, a social scientist, and a nitrogen/ammonia scientist specializing in flow across air, soil, and water systems walk into a poultry house... What happens next?

Marybeth Shea teaches advanced composition at the University of Maryland. These courses include professional and technical writing where she typically instructs scientists and engineers in science writing, writing about the environment, and special sections under design for data analysis and computer science students. She has also co-taught special courses on big data and visualization. Recently, Shea developed a gateway course for medical humanities with colleagues in history, languages and literatures, and philosophy. She also consults with scientists – particularly environmental science teams – about communicating their findings for policy.

What can an environmental humanist offer to specialized interdisciplinary environmental science for policy deliberation? Scientists use scientific methods; many humanists use stasis theory, a method used by scholars to work on the human dimensions of wicked problems, such as the environmentally destructive ammonia pollution from poultry production on the Delmarva Peninsula. The choices that poultry farmers make can be a large part of the solution to reducing the ammonia pollution in the Chesapeake Bay. But how do you convey the science and the choices in the most effective way? 

Human values and viewpoints are central to decision making and those are best understood with humanities and social science tools, like Q-Methodology (Q). Using Q, you can probe human subjectivity and gain a deeper insight into priorities and decision making of your audience. In this session, we’ll talk about how humanistic cartoons on cards helped make clear these farmer’s attitudes to themselves, to scientists, and others. Learn how to communicate effectively to the people who hold the power of change; how to craft information that helps them understand the science behind the results of their choices; and how changes can help solve environmental challenges while maintaining their priorities. 

For transcript, links, and show notes: https://tccamp.org/episodes/how-humanities-studies-can-help-scientists-communicate-their-findings/