On issues ranging from climate change and energy to food production and conservation, experts and their institutions are increasingly called up on to communicate with the public, advise policymakers, and/or to advocate on behalf of causes. In this regard, for scientists and other experts, navigating the often polarized terrain of sustainability controversies requires a careful understanding of the factors that seed disagreement; and the strategies available for restoring cooperation, for identifying and promoting innovative and effective solutions, and for building broader consensus in support of proposed actions. In this presentation, drawing on findings and insights from several recent studies and related areas of research, I analyze current strategies employed by scientists and expert organizations to effectively communicate with the public and policymakers about sustainability-related issues. In doing so, I discuss the role that universities in partnership with experts, philanthropists, journalists, and other civil society professionals can play in supporting communities, states, and regions as they consider actions to make to make themselves more resilient, sustainable, and innovative places to live.
Matthew C. Nisbet is Associate Professor of Communication at Northeastern University and an affiliate faculty member with the Climate Change Institute at the University of Maine. He is currently Editor-in-Chief of The Oxford Encyclopedia of Climate Change Communication, incoming editor of the journal Environmental Communication, a consulting communication researcher to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and a member of the U.S. National Academies consensus study committee on “The Science of Science Communication: A Research Agenda.” Nisbet holds a Ph.D. and M.S. in Communication from Cornell University and a BA in Government from Dartmouth College.