How to communicate science


What makes influential science? Telling a good story


It turns out that even in the world of scientific writing, your eighth-grade teacher was right: how you write can matter as much as what you write.

In a study published Dec. 15 in the journal PLOS ONE, researchers from the University of Washington looked at the abstracts from more than 700 scientific papers about climate change to find out what makes a paper influential in its field. But instead of focusing on content, they looked at writing style, which is normally more the province of humanities professors rather than scientists.

Their idea was that papers written in a more narrative style — those that tell a story — might be more influential than those with a drier, more expository style. Psychology and literary theory have long held that if you want someone to remember something, you should communicate it in the form of a story. The UW researchers — led by Annie Hillier, a recent graduate from the UW’s School of Marine and Environmental Affairs, and professors Ryan Kelly and Terrie Klinger — wondered whether this theory would hold up in the realm of peer-reviewed scientific literature.

Remarkably, it did. The most highly cited papers tended to include elements like sensory language, a greater degree of language indicating cause-and-effect and a direct appeal to the reader for a particular follow-up action.

“The results were especially surprising given that we often think of scientific influence as being driven by science itself, rather than the form in which it is presented,” Hillier said.

Perhaps even more surprising, the researchers noted, was the finding that the highest-rated journals tended to feature articles that had more narrative content.

“We don’t know if the really top journals pick the most readable articles, and that’s why those articles are more influential, or if the more narrative papers would be influential no matter what journal they are in,” Kelly said.

The researchers used a crowdsourcing website to evaluate the narrative content of the journal articles. Online contributors were asked a series of questions about each abstract to measure whether papers had a narrative style, including elements like language that appeals to one’s senses and emotions.

The researchers hope this work might lead to advances in scientific communication, improving the odds that science might lead the way to better decisions in the policy realm.


152 thoughts on “How to communicate science

  1. Another huge waste of taxpayer money.
    The earth will never be flat, no matter how well written their “journal” articles are.

      • Hey fellas when google statistics show completion suggestions based on what people have recently searched for and it does not fit you soft-left bourgois sensibilities, what this is telling you is that you are out of touch and that YOU HAVE A POLITICAL BIAS.
        Get over it. We don’t need or want your though police filtering everything that google returns to us.

      • Google suggestions are based on what you searched for recently. I can change the outcome of a search by looking for pro-gay articles and then typing in “is homosexuality” and change the outcome. I get the following suggestions “natural, genetic, a choice” after looking at “is homosexuality natural, something we should celebrate, just an alternative lifestyle”. If more people or yourself searched for anti-gay information, that’s what comes up. If more people searched for pro-gay, that comes up. What Google is actually saying is people are asking questions that lead to right-wing ideas, not left. Plus, they can set up a screenshot and show whatever they want based on their recent searches. In otherwords, the article does not represent the truth in any way.

      • Good point, I set my google options NOT to take into account what I have previously looked at otherwise it always gives me the same damned thing when I want new info.
        I doubt their dumb journos even realise that and the “climate change is a hoax” comes from everyone at their office searching that and writing about it as though it is the only thing Trump ever said on the subject.

    • Moutainape 5: Another huge waste of taxpayer money:
      700 climate papers reviewed. Just how much of our money was wasted to produce all those, not just this one

  2. As an example, the best commercials tell a story while selling their product. But like “where’s the beef”, the story shouldn’t be so entertaining that you forget the product being sold (was it McDonalds, Wendy’s, or Burger King)? Stories connect to people and if you want to connect your science to people so it becomes important to them, use a story. Polar bears on ice flows could be improved upon.

    • This is true. My father was in the ad biz, and would share his commentary on various spots. While it’s amusing to finish up with the communications equivalent of a “rim shot”, if it blanks out your product it’s just a very expensive stand-up routine, not a marketing tool.

    • Wendy’s. I didn’t have to look it up. It was an effective commercial.
      The job of the commercial is to get people in the door to try the product. It is the quality and the price of the product that keeps them as customers. Clara Peller got people in the door. Wendy’s big burgers (ever tried a triple?) keeps them.
      What brings people to the Church of Global Warming? Is it a paper in the Journal of Climate or a story in National Geographic/New Yorker/New York Times/Nova/BBC? It’s the story and the story after that and the story after that and on and on.

      • “It’s the story and the story after that and the story after that and on and on.”
        Isn’t that otherwise known as propaganda?

  3. We are talking about papers regarding climate “science”. So I don’t know how well any conclusion can be extrapolated to actual science.

      • “Their idea was that papers written in a more narrative style — those that tell a story — might be more influential than … ”
        Well climate science has been influential and most of that is based on telling stories , so I guess they are correct.

    • No, it’s very much the same in regular science. If you want to communicate your points well in a paper, you write it as a story. Even if that’s just “here’s why we were interested, here’s what we thought of, here’s what we tried, here’s how it turned out”. It still has a narrative flow.
      This doesn’t mean cutting out useful info or making stuff up, it just refers to how you structure your presentation.

      • The claim is that papers written as narrative get cited more often. Does that matter in a specialty where science valued above narrative?

      • Seconded. A well written paper makes you want to carry on reading, just as one might ‘devour a novel’. Obviously it has to be technically competent and relevant to your discipline, but it does occur.

      • I rapidly get tired of papers that are too discursive, I read too many to beat about the bush, get to the point.

      • Just because a paper is an “easy read” is not evidence that there is anything in the paper that is worth citing in other papers.

      • Dear Windy, I fully agree. The problem is the subject matter and its simplicity or complexity; some things (I imagine) just don’t lend themselves to an action-driven story line. However, for many subjects, it is quite possible to narrate how the topic was found, investigated, and verified; what results were gained, how significant they are, and how they were checked. I think that some writers think that any reader ought to have the background information to be able to read the article and understand it right away. They think it is a waste of effort and space to try to set things up with the surrounding circumstances and the expectations for the research. That view encourages a certain dryness (aridity?) of style and doesn’t actually add to the scientific quality; it further assumes a fact not in evidence. I have no problem with the author supplying context and a certain narrative flow to the article; as a sometime writer myself, I try to lay that groundwork. I think the researchers may be onto something, as long as they don’t politicize it.

      • Narrative flow is one thing, telling stories another. Storytelling is for lectures, and maybe fore review papers, where you have a bit more space; it is not a good fit for a research paper, which typically imposes pretty tight space constraints.

    • Mark…exactly…it’s easier to spin a story….than just the facts
      …and a well told story can convince you of facts that are not true…or even that there are facts when they are none

      • Isn’t this exactly why we are not winning this game? Algore came out a few years ago with a very scary story, and we’ve been reading variations on it ever since. We counter with simple and easily understood facts and nobody listens. How many of us faithful WUWTers started out believing the well-told story, and only later realized we were being had, big time? Somebody (Mark Twain?) said, “It is easier to fool someone that to convince him he has been fooled.”

  4. Sounds more like how to write good propaganda rather than writing a good explanation of a scientific principle or finding.

    • Mark from the Midwest ==> You, sir, have nailed it.
      This study is precisely and only about how to turn what should be a journal article about the findings of a study into a not-so-subtle propaganda piece — “sensory language, a greater degree of language indicating cause-and-effect and a direct appeal to the reader for a particular follow-up action.”
      The study confirms that the “most influential” Climate Science pieces are influential not because they are good science, but because they are good propaganda.
      Andrew Revkin, ex-NY Times journalist, ex-NY Times Environmental Opinion Page columnist, taught courses at Pace that, from examples he highlighted at DotEarth, churned out Science propagandists instead of journalists.

      • Kip, the thought occurs that most ‘climate science’ papers aren’t science in the first place. Model speculations are just computer game reports. Most WG2 type papers start from an unproven AGW model sensitivity that is observationally high by a factor of 2. Much of the ecological impacts stuff is just wrong, a point Jim Steele makes repeatedly, most recently concerning coral bleaching. Dr Crockford makes an equivalent point concerning polar bear ‘science’.
        Most of the actual sciency stuff tamps down CAGW alarm, so cannot appeal to warmunist emotions or support actions. Stephen’s aerosol forcing estimate, Zwally’s IceSat Antarctica analysis, Lweis and Curry 2014 on observational ECS being amongst recent examples.

      • The key to this piece is the term “Influential science”, the word propaganda is a perfect synonym. Thanks for the perspective Mark.

    • Agreed, Mark.
      And this conclusion will be interpreted by alarmists as a failure of “science communication”, rather than as a rampart in human nature which must be overcome by logic, and as a potential failing of the peer-review process and consensus “science” in general. Certainly most will not look in the mirror and find fault in their own naivety and childish excitability. It would be an existential/psychological hurdle too high for most of these hysterical “scientists” to admit to themselves that they are actually charlatans and authors of chicken little folk science tales.

    • Penelope the Polar Bear
      (A scientific children’s story circa 2017)
      The winter was late in arriving again and Penelope the polar bear was having a difficult time trying to find food for her starving cubs Pinky and Snowflake. Their little tummies growled so loud that they could barely hear their little seal friends Sammy and Suzy crying because the water was too warm for them to play in.
      The sea had not frozen over this year for them to play on because hot water water from the ocean depths had finally, after many years, come to the surface like a Frankenstein to take it’s revenge on it’s creator, a sociopathic and psychopathic species of animals known as Homo sapiens.
      (Will write more climate science like this for $$$. Call me.)

      • Very nice beginning; however, it’s means it is; the word you want is its (no apostrophe). Example: It’s [It is] so cold out that the bird fluffed out its [belonging to it] feathers. The rule is that possessive pronouns (his, her, its, their, our, my, your) have no punctuation, but contractions do (he’s = he is; she’s = she is or she has; etc.). Here in Virginia yesterday was cold, 21 degrees lower than the long-term average for the day.

      • Mister. Ware. I often make the TYPO of “it’s” for “its.” SC, like I, no doubt knows the difference. It was mostly likely a slip of the fingers. A scrivener’s error. And Charity would overlook it.
        There are also “smart” phones….

  5. That is a study that may show how much more con instead of proper challenges towards learning can be introduced in the scientific research and studies……in a quest to persuade the support from the masses, regardless

    • Which is why I wondered how applicable this study of Climate Change papers will be in regards to papers about actual science.

    • Unfortunately, the value of a scientific piece of research should not depend upon whether the researcher’s narrative is whiz bang.

      Yeah, but you still need to be able to communicate your research well.

  6. Touching. More effective science communication when (1) emotions get stirred up and (2) there is an appeal to follow up action (policy). That isn’t science communication; its policy advocacy. And we already knew that the two most prestigious journals, Nature and Science, long ago abandoned pure science and fell off the CAGW advocacy cliff. McNutt’s Science editorial (while she headed the journal), and her refusal to address written clear evidence of the Marcott hockeystick misconduct are sufficient evidence.

  7. “Polar bears on ice flows could be improved upon.” Okay. 🙂
    Polar bears on ice flows. The Arctic sun glinted off the snowmobiles of Griff and Chris as they scowled and cursed their way across the frozen bay. “Stop!” shrieked Chris into her radio. Griff, about 20 feet ahead, did not stop. He was too busy talking to himself to comprehend.
    “POLAR BEARS ON ICE FLOWS!!” Chris screamed with all her might. Griff stopped. So did Chris, just in time. Griff grabbed his camera and focused on the two bears who had just heaved themselves onto an ice flow about 50 feet from shore. “Don’t get the shoreline in the photo,” Chris grunted, “not very convincing.”
    “Do you think I’m STUPID?” Griff snarled.
    And that is where we shall leave Griff and Chris. Too much already.
    Chapter 2

    • Chapter 2
      “Even if I do get the shoreline, we’ll just Photoshop it out.”, snapped Griff. “Scientific observations are what we’re after.”
      Chris paused and thought.
      “You know, that’s a really good idea. We could even have one of them hugging a little girl!”, she exclaimed.
      “Great idea!”, said Griff, “…but why are the bears coming this way…..?”

      • And so, after the helicopter swooped in just in time, Chris and Griff moved to California and ended up renting the chicken house and the tool shed (respectively) at Jerry Brown’s place. They now spend their time writing for room and board. “What-eeeever you want, Mister Brown. We’ll write it.”
        Chris December ##, 2016 at X:XXpm
        Jerry Brown is the best governor that California has ever had.
        Griff December ##, 2016 at XX:XX pm
        Arctic sea ice is something else. It is in this graph, a thing you have never seen, and ice can be old or new and thin or fat and it can increase or decrease if CO2 is around and it is mostly decreasing except in your graphs which are bogus.

      • R.Istvan — Glad you mentioned Susan Crockford’s book. She deserves all the promotion we can give her for her generous, data based, reports here on WUWT.
        I must say, though, that any “spoiler” effect of my comments was unintentional — I have (sorry!) not read her book.

  8. Good writing is somewhat independent of good science. Sometimes, obscure writing is a cover for bad science, deliberately trying to cover a lack of research or logic with jargon.
    Good science, like Darwin or Feynman, can be done with accessable writing. The really unfortunate cases are like Marx or Freud, who could do storytelling well enough to survive translation and cover for a really weak theory and deceptive or absent evidence.
    The problem with “climate change” and the rest of the green blob propaganda is that they got incumbency on several glittering generalities, like “pollution”, and did storytelling to the point of absurdity. “An Inconvenient Truth” is funny in a perverse way, like “Reefer Madness”, but that did not make it less influential.

    • Careless and imprecise language is no accident.
      It is a conscious attempt to confuse and deceive.

      George Orwell

      • Some a you folks will hear just what I’m say in’
        Some a you folks will know just what I mean
        All of us folks have got to stick to gether
        Other folks will always disagree
        Maybe it’s something forced on them at scho ol
        Maybe the goverment brought them to their knees
        All of us folks have got to stick to gether
        Other folks will always disagree
        Perilous times have quickly come up on us
        Troubled waters a rising in the east
        All of us folks have got to stick to gether
        Other folks will always disagree
        Prophets of doom preach judgement to the ar mies
        Weathermen callin’ for scattered misery
        All of us folks have got to stick to gether
        Other folks will always disagree
        Some a you folks will hear just what I’m say in’
        Some a you folks will know just what I mean
        All of us folks have got to stick to gether
        Other folks will always disagree

      • Well, uh, JohnMc*Knight, I think I hear you sayin.’
        Well, uh, JohnMcKnight, I think you will agree.
        A-G-dub’s junk no matter how you say it.
        Models trumped by data his-to-ry.
        (*had to put the “Mc” in there to keep the meter)

      • We don’t need no education
        We don’t need no thought control
        No dark sarcasm in the class room
        Teacher leave them kids alone
        HEY! TEACHER! Leave them kids alone!
        All in all it’s just another brick in the wall
        All in all you’re just another brick in the wall
        Roger Waters

  9. The idea that story telling communicates better is not new.
    I remember a few years ago when it was hard to scan for information because the writer expected me to read a long winded uninteresting story. It was a fad that mercifully passed.

  10. My ULowell physics prof taught us not to trust our sense of scale through mind benders, like:
    Tie a string tightly around the earth. Cut the string, add a 50 foot section, and pull the string equidistant from the earth at all points. How far off the ground is the string?
    So, when I hear we are introducing X number of atom bombs into the ocean, I know I need to do the math and see what that really means.

      • That is SO COOL, RH. My mind could not intuitively fathom it. But, there, on my handy little calculator, there it was. Thanks for sharing. 🙂 I have already had a high opinion of U. Mass — Lowell — now, it’s even higher.

      • yeah, there were some literal folks in the class like MarkW. Prof ended up saying “imagine a perfectly smooth sphere with a circumference of 24 thousand miles, and a perfectly elastic string….” And when I was there, it was plain ol’ ULowell, so that’s how old I am.

  11. I am told by those in the business that “telling a story” has been an imperative (better word?) in the education field for some time, and it is now appearing in various science venues. What is the relationship between journal Impact Factors and ultimate utility and survival? May take a long time to determine, but I suspect the relationship is very loose, if not inverse. I have given good and bad lectures, and maybe the ones getting the attention keep students awake, but it is the light bulb that goes off that is important. Impact Factors may be telling the worst story.

  12. REALCLIMATE.ORG has their own article on how to communicate science, I call it the Hillary Method:
    Defending Climate Science
    1 – Take a deep breath & remember other scientists have gone through this before.
    (We are always picked on! Just like poor Hillary.)
    2 – Call a lawyer if in doubt
    (Even better be a lawyer, like Hillary.)
    3 – Understand whether state and/and federal open records laws may apply to you
    (Like Hillary, they do not apply.)
    4 – Separate personal and professional emails
    (Like Hillary, say they were about yoga.)
    5 – Remember that emails are not always private
    (Remember Climategate, also look at Hillary. Do not use the word “trick” for highly
    advanced techniques)
    6 – Understand record-keeping requirements
    (Ignore them like Hillary)
    7 – Exercise discretion when talking to a journalist
    (Like Hilary, definitely not Trump!)
    8 – If you receive harassing messages, do not respond and do not delete
    (Only delete stuff that makes you look bad.)
    9 – If you receive threatening messages, contact your employer/law enforcement
    (Like Hillary it helps a lot if the President is protecting you, good till Jan. 20, 2017.)
    10 – For more information on particular legal situations, check out our new Pocket Guide to Handling Political Harassment & Legal Intimidation
    (Like Hilary use this guide instead of the constitution!)

  13. I think I represent one of a large number of readers that follow web sites like this. Once the articles become scientifically technical I tune out. It might as well be Swahili as far as I am concerned. I like to be entertained as well as informed. My views are AGW became highly influenced by State of Fear by Michael Crichton as many of the warmists have been highly influenced by Al Gores movie. Narrative creates the environment to get people in a mental state to form an opinion. Science and observation provides the proof. Common sense and my own observations over a 60 plus lifetime have led to my conclusions which are no doubt correct , that AGW is a total scam but I probably would not have thought about it at all without the original narrative.
    In a similar way I reached the early conclusion that Donald Trump would win the presidency after I watched the Clintons millions documentary concluding that anyone who watched that well narrated movie could not possibly vote for Clinton no matter what they thought of Trump.iIt was the original narrative that piqued my interest and observations that confirmed in my mind that Trump would win.

  14. It seems that a lot of WUWT readers here are not interested to “sell” their story of a noble cause – namely that “climate change is natural and mostly not influenced by human activities – thereby we are not having needs to combat it through expensive and burdensome efforts” in way that others get a deeper understanding and could be convinced. No need to tell a good story with a good message inside.
    For some of them it seems only important to have right, to have a lot of arguments no matter if they are relevant and to call others names like warmunists, tree-huggers and propagandists.
    But then they wonder why nobody can be convinced to their point of view.
    Humans are designed to listen to good story, so we should use the to tell our good message. Humans are also designed to to react negatively to unpleasant circumstances like name-calling and accusations.
    They react to such with an outpouring of adrenaline, making ready for fight or flight. Even remembering to such an embarassing situation, they will react the same. You can’t win a person for your cause in such a way.
    Even an administration with a guy like Trump cannot do that. It needs an open discussion in a friendly atmosphere and good means of communication, namely a good story or understandable explanations.

      • when the story is ‘GIMME YOUR MONEY’, i don’t really care how fashionable the dialog might be.
        and my counternarrative need only consist of ‘NO’

    • Well, okay, but the first principle of communication is to know who you are talking to. That establishes the degree of concurrence of view and acceptance of language. I would suppose that most of the readers of this website are, to speak, members of “the choir.” Certain ways of expression would be meant for one’s fellow travelers.
      There are the outsiders, of course. While it isn’t absolutely necessary to re-explain knowledge and terms understood as common on this site, it probably is the better part of accessibility to refrain from essentially useless derogatory references (your point).

      • I would argue that the first principle of communication is deciding why you are communicating in the first place. Lets’ decide that our reason for communicating is to teach the masses that man’s influence on climate through CO2 is nothing to worry about. The whole purpose of this communication would be to “prove” a negative.
        As the mainstream media will tell you, narrating a null-story is boring for the viewers and bad for ratings. The CAGW null-hypothesis is simply not as exciting a story as the myriad catastrophes that await us, and it never will be. We have folk tales hundreds of years old (e.g. Chicken LIttle) whose wisdom is ignored in favour of wild and popular narratives.
        Jazzing up the skeptic position with narrative tools would backfire. It’s simply not exciting enough. The one skeptic narrative which makes for an interesting story is the human component, not the science or data. A tale of corruption and idolatry in science and politics does make for an exciting or interesting story, but it reduces the skeptic argument to an ad hominem attack narrative. Even though a negative portrayal of the actors may be justified in this story, it would do nothing to refute the garbage alarmist science.
        E.g. public perception of wind farms is generally favourable in Western countries because building them will save us from ourselves, according to the CAGW narrative. The economics of wind energy are inconvenient to the narrative, and because arithmetic is boring (sarc), the economics are completely ignored by most voters. These voters will only realize they’ve been duped after many years of higher costs, and even then, most will not put two and two together until somebody tells them an interesting story in hindsight of how it came to be.

      • Dear Rob,
        I wouldn’t want us to be talking past each other. Are you taking for granted that WUWT is primarily a vehicle for “teaching the masses”…or possibly a vehicle for communicating with like-minded persons, with free entry to spectators? I was speaking about the latter premise.
        As far as colorful thought-provokers are concerned, one must be inventive and of good humor. Referring to the Tesla automobiles cheerfully as “coal-burners” (which I always do) is a way to disorient the unthinking Green. And then I ask them where we might have any “electricity mines” to provide fuel. (As automobiles, they are apparently of high quality. If Musk ever decides to equip them with hybrid powerplants, he could have a roaring success.)
        Those of sufficient seniority can use their age as an argument: “What warming? I haven’t seen any in my xx years. Have you?” (Maybe I’ve seen some UHI. Maybe the winters are a little milder. Oh, woe!)
        When people talk about climate change, that is a wonderful juncture to express concern that we are overdue for an ice age…you know, like when New York was buried under a mile of glacier. Nothing that mankind can do to stop it. Point out that the geologic record shows that increasing CO2 was a sign just before it occurred.
        But I confess I don’t understand what you want to communicate, especially to this audience.

  15. Just as an exercise, I typed the following phrase into google search: technical papers on climate change, and I picked out a United Nations technical paper, just to get a sense of the writing style:
    Here’s an opening paragraph:

    An understanding of the constraints on the stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations is fundamental to policy formulation with regard to the goals of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and its implementation.

    What a nightmare construction that sentence is ! … as far as telling a story and capturing a reader’s interest goes. And yet, the United Nations technical reports are the authority, which I dare say is NOT because of their writing style, but because of the more sensationalized writing styles of journalistic organizations hyping them.
    Moral of my exercise? Consensus scientists do to tell a good story themselves, but rather they appeal to their authoritative credentials to attract good story tellers to sell their ideas in more emotional language.
    That’s what PR, marketing, and advertising are all about.

    • … should have read, ..Moral of my exercise? Consensus scientists do not tell a good story themselves, but rather they appeal to their authoritative credentials to attract good story tellers to sell their ideas in more emotional language. …Learn to type !

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  16. There are only three choices in science. It is true, not true, or you do not know. For the engineer, the hard part is dealing with what we do not know. I maintain that technical documents should be written at a level that a high school graduate would be able to get general understanding.
    The Final Safety Analysis Report is a document that is submitted to the NRC for a license to operate a reactor and is also available to the public for comments. The NRC then asks for additional information. Part of my job was to answer these question.
    One NRC request appeared to be a case of an inexperience NRC reviewer (aka a stupid question). When I read that section of the FSAR I was totally confused. Say What? It was a perfect example of a technical expert providing true statement without putting them in the bigger picture. I added a narrative telling the reader what we were going them and why. Then I placed the true statements in a logical order based on plant operation and general design criteria (GDC).
    The technical content was not changed. It was just easier to understand.

  17. Note the success of the warmistas in their language. It’s all about “carbon pollution”, dirty carbon.
    Search Google for carbon pollution, and up pops an ad from the Sierra Club: “Carbon pollution is the main contributor to climate disruption, making extreme weather worse — including more severe floods, widespread wildfires and record drought. It is also linked to life-threatening air pollution—such as the smog that can trigger asthma attacks.”
    Why do we allow our political leaders and the commentariat to refer to carbon dioxide as a pollutant instead of a greenhouse gas? In a process called “photosynthesis,” plants use the energy in sunlight to convert CO2 and water to sugar and oxygen. The plants use the sugar for food — food that we use, too, when we eat plants or animals that have eaten plants — and they release the oxygen into the atmosphere.

    • Yes, atmospheric carbon dioxide and H20 are the two basic molecules for all life on Earth. Also, look at atmospheric evolution via biology over geological time. In a billion years, the original primordial atmosphere has been fully replaced by a gas mix that is entirely of biological origin (except Argon).
      Plants have been evolving leaf structures that are better at removing CO2 from the atmosphere. The reason for evolving is due to tens of millions of years of declining CO2 concentrations. The rise of C4 grasses was because the older C3 plants were starving. It was survival of the fittest. Soil biology and bacteria are part of the biogeochemical nitrogen cycle, which interacts with the other biogeochemical cycles and the abiotic physics of oceans. It’s ironic that advocates think that CO2 is bad for the “environment”, when the opposite is true. More CO2 is good for all life on Earth.

      • Nitrogen had a biological origin? UV didn’t hydrolize water? Methane didn’t seep and form clathrates…and get into the atmosphere?
        Your first sentence is entirely correct. Might be good to leave it at that.
        We have a chicken-and-the-egg problem by taking it much further. If plants need CO2 to grow and produce oxygen, where did the CO2 come from, if there was no previous presence of oxygen?

  18. So that explains the year or more of silence that followed the Miracle Year of Einstein publications. He just didn’t spin a tale with them.

  19. Robber,
    It’s perfectly acceptable to eat the by products of carbon dioxide “pollution” (i.e., plant foods). We just cannot allow too much of it to infect our climate. We cannot allow the plants to take in too much of it, even though we are most entitled to eat the plants that depend on it, whose uptake of it we positively MUST dictate — good nourishment for our anthropogenic-centric sense of control.
    Bottom line: good nutrition entails eating a wide variety of CO2-pollution by products. Our physical bodies are carbon-pollution based, remember. Good Earth stewardship entails converting CO2 to BS.

  20. If you tell a lie often enough ….
    Part of any good narrative, is talking about how many are killed by whatever. I know a good lie when a see one.
    Part of my job is fact checking. If the NRC catches a fact that is not supported by the reference will result in a root cause investigation, a mistake will get you training, a big fat lie will get you jail time. The word ‘not’ was added to my document. This confused the NRC since I did such a good job of explaining the positive. This why I keep copies of legal documents I sign.
    When talking about pollution from coal power plants, scientific papers should have a number specifying the number killed. If you dig deep enough you find some research by bold faced liars at Harvard. They have a theory about PM2.5. By killed they mean the a small shortened life span of very old critically ill person who is in already in a hospital bed.
    Harvard did not show expose or that the pollution came from a coal.
    Federal regulations that I have seen do not make exception for federal employees. Treat the EPA like the people they prosecute, may be a good way to fire the liars.

    • Once upon a time, there was a wicked troll called Gorrum. He hated fun and he hated candy. Most of all, he hated children.
      “How can I make those children as miserable as I can?” he said to his troll sister, Whiskers O’Naymy.
      “Take away their toys. And make their parents work for us, so they can’t make any more,” she rasped.
      “Hm… how to do it,” he muttered.
      “Tell them a charming story. Children love stories.”
      “But, they will never believe me, they don’t trust me anymore,” his eyes narrowed as he cracked his knuckles and scratched his head.
      “Tell them the priests said it was so.”
      So, Gorrum, being very rich, hired bad gnomes (the ones with the moldy brown hats) to walk up and down the land, telling this story as movingly as they could, with a ghastly-but-apparently-in-earnest pained expression on their faces, over and over and over and over, so that no one could think of anything else:
      Hearken to my tragic tale, sweet children! A few years ago, high up in the sky, a powerful little royal molecule, Carbonne d’ Ochseid II, winked at a Rain Fairy. She smiled. They joined hands and together drifted slowly down, coming to rest on the North Pole. “Marry me,” said Carbonne to the lovely fairy. She said with melting eyes, “I will marry you.” They were married by Santa Claus. Soon, children arrived, borne to their castle door by a stork called Arrhenius. And all was sweetness and light until….
      Until their children became exceedingly numerous. You see, Rain Fairies were never, ever meant to marry the d’ Ochseids. We must excuse them, dear children, for they were in love, so, they were not thinking straight. Well, as it happens, Rain Fairies only do good to the Arctic, bringing snow and warmth in turn, from the sky and from the sea. And the d’ Ochseids do almost nothing in the Arctic, but, are very good at raising plants. For millenia it has been so. They have always lived in peace and harmony.
      But their children, oh, dear. I am afraid I have something quite frightening to tell you — their children are: MONSTERS. Yes! Oh, they look like ordinary Rain Fairies (the mother’s phenotype always prevails with Rain Fairies), but they are not! No, not at all. They have terrible powers. They can melt ice just by staring at it. They can turn the atmosphere into smoke. They can make the earth’s core heat up to MILLIONS of degrees (centigrade). SANTA IS IN GRAVE DANGER. If something is not done, and soon, ten years at the most, well, maybe 30 or 50, or maybe 100, but SOON, they will destroy the planet!! Yes. It is a planetary emergency. Already, the glaciers in Greenland have receded to reveal ancient villages. Soon, THERE WILL BE NO ICE AT ALL AND THE PLANET WILL TIP — OVER (if it does not flood first)!!
      The only answer is, oh, I am so sorry to have to tell you this, but, the only solution is to exterminate a good part of the baby d’Ochseids. Yes. It is that serious. So, Santa will. Yes, boys and girls, Santa will save the day. It will be hard on him, but, he will do what he has never done before, he has found a SOLUTION to the Carbonne d’ Ochseid problem: he will TAKE your toys AND YOUR ELECTRICITY. And replace them with: straw and a small goat. And some soy beans.

      And the gnomes’ story upset the children of the land greatly. “Oh, what will we do?” wailed the children. “How will we keep warm in the winter?”
      “Build windmills,” the gnomes called as they started running down the road out of town (some of the adults were looking menacing).
      “Out of what?” whispered the children, “we can’t make steel without a lot of electricity… .”
      “Out of ……….. ” was all they heard as the last mud-colored gnome cap disappeared into the night.
      Oh, dear. What will happen next?
      The story has a happy ending!
      Just as the children lay down to cry themselves to sleep on their bamboo mats, the golden sound of church bells ringing was heard. Everyone ran into the public square where the town crier stood on the balcony of city hall and joyfully proclaimed: “Gorrum’s henchmen’s story was all a big lie! Truth has prevailed. We’re saved! Trump won!
      And they lived happily ever after.

      • Janice Moore December 16, 2016 at 4:36 pm
        Shame on you Janice! You completely plagiarized that piece. I recently read that on the front page of the NYT. Just because you changed the ending doesn’t inviolate the rule!!! #sarc
        Brilliant actually.

      • I object. I’ve got mouldy brown hats – sure I frequently declare children are monsters, but I never tell anyone to build windmills. That would be truly evil.

      • lol, gnome. 🙂 I thought you were the little red cap-wearing type. Well, in the muddy hat clan, you are an anomaly! (in the normal sense of that word, heh)

      • A while ago in a conversation with a group when this sort of thing came up I was reminded that when I was a child, telling a story involved some sort of fabrication. While apparently not uniform, this was well before the days of political correctness and loose creative language. Whether it is a form of Freudian tribal memory slip or not it is verified in the dictionary definitions. It is a narrative which may or may not be true, other definitions similar, until number 9, a lie. Maybe the proper academic response should simply be–“THERE YOU GO, TELLING A STORY AGAIN.”

  21. I guess they weren’t able to assess whether real bonefied scientific research itself inspired better writing or not. When you know you’ve searched through a toolkit of statistical tools to find one that supports your foregone conclusions and you’ve enhanced it by throwing out samples that don’t fit the curve or you’ve greatly overweighted the result from one tree that best suits your ‘finding’ , or you’ve found that plotting one proxy’s results upside down gives a good fit, or selecting a disturbed or compromised sample does the trick, or horrors of horrors you truncate the resulting plot to rid it of an unwanted decline…
    Even when writing literary fiction (or especially when you are writing fiction of any kind!) forcing the plot, fuzzy logic, overselling the storyline, protesting too much, overreaching… actually produces uncompelling, so-what prose.
    Like all these artsy fartsy social science investigations of science, the first assumption they make: that the science itself is legitimate, is wrong. If a study has compelling, verifiable results that support the theory it WILL BE readable and won’t need creative writing artifacts. It is precisely the stuff that requires convolutions of arguments, extensive verbal bondo and dodgy statistics- especially custom made stuff by excel challenged practitioners.

  22. As with climate science and so many other things in life, “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story”. Hmmm. I’m thinking this could be the book title for the history of modern climate science.

    • Never Let the Truth Get in the Way of a Good Story — a History of the AGW Travesty

      by R. G. B. (of Oz)
      Nice idea!

      • RGB: You’re welcome. And, no, I can see that your fine creativity will be more than adequate to complete the job (and I’m just not much of a group project kind of person, unless it is the most efficient way to achieve a goal). I’d be happy to edit/proofread/offer style suggestions, though.

  23. David Friedman is not one to be persuaded by junk science, no matter how it’s dressed up.
    As the new ambassador to Israel, Friedman joins a growing list of smart climate sceptics on Trump’s team.
    Am I right in concluding that Tillerson, Secretary of State nominee, is the only alarmist on Trump’s list? He faces a bumpy ride through the approval process, however.

  24. To communicate “science” we have, basically, just numbers and words. There are “rules and proofs” that show that 2+2=4. If you say or “prove” otherwise, you’d have to fiddle with the the numbers, the rules or the proofs.
    The “words” part? There are rules of language for grammar, definitions of the words used, to some extent, even for ‘figures of speech”.
    Used honestly they can combine to communicate or teach a concept. Even if the concept is in error, it is an “honest mistake”. No attempt to deceive.
    What the human brings into it is “honesty”.
    Is the Mann humble enough to admit he might be wrong?
    Is the Mann so prideful to believe he can’t be wrong?
    Or is one so greedy for power (to use for whatever end) or cash that he doesn’t care as long as they keep coming?
    That last is the womb from which propaganda is born.

    • GD,
      You forgot spelling.
      Flows for floes.
      Here here for Hear hear.
      Bonefied for bona fide.
      It’s for its on many occasions.
      Do we understand that poor spelling destroys credibility faster than light?

  25. Story telling may not be the proper medium for writing about the “true science” of AGW, but if you need propaganda then by all means tell a compelling story and better yet use celebrities.
    Classic example in recent history that had an impact with the general population of a degree that CAGW took over the medium and its so-called “truth”, look no further than the, umm, Playboy centerfold Jenny McCarthy’s lament about autism due to vaccines. In that regard, this “study” from UW is spot on. Tell a good story with an even better face (celebrity) and BINGO; you have persuaded (indoctrinated) a huge segment of the population based on no factual evidence, just a great story.
    A great example of “story telling” about the science of Climate Change, look no further than Ian Plimer’s book “Heaven & Earth”. Some here may argue with his postulations, but for me his book was persuasive about the “science first” while the story telling kept it interesting enough for the layman to stay interested, in a very important topic. Not sure if his book was widely read, or for that matter even read by this audience.

  26. “The Origin of Species” was written in an extraordinarily engaging, readable manner, giving one the impression of a grand intellect digesting an incredible amount of empirical data, but in a story form. It sold. So did “The Principia Mathematica,” one of the most densely packed, arcane works of the human mind. It took me a year to read the first 19 pages of The Principia, and I realized at the end that those pages contained the equivalent of the first two years of education in engineering mechanics. Yet Newton caught on nearly as rapidly as Darwin. I wonder if it is we who have changed.

  27. Chapter one: Once upon a time there was cold . . . and then there was hot. This ruined a lot of stuff… (to be continued).

  28. They did not even bother to read those papers. Another “research” based on reading abstracts. I wonder if they got a 97% consensus; Anthony does not give us a link (a valuable work may well be guarded behind a paywall) nor a single number.

  29. There are many books and many stories that lead many peoples to conflict. A story is, in effect, a lie, especially *OLD* stories.

  30. I wrote my dissertation in narrative style, all 159 pages, and my defense committee loved it.
    I wrote journal peer-reviewed manuscripts in 5000 word limited “just the facts” style to meet word limit journal requirements.
    Different animals. Different disciplines and journals have wildly different criteria on length that then determines weiting style.

  31. I have used a narrative style in technical reports on occasion, when it served to convey where data from a series of experiments led us …… their results, and the conclusions we could draw from them.
    However, the use of “sensory language, a greater degree of language indicating cause-and-effect and a direct appeal to the reader for a particular follow-up action” smacks of advocacy and personally biased activism, not dispassionate science.
    Language doesn’t indicate cause and effect. Replicable experiments that demonstrate ‘If A is present, then B reacts’ indicate cause and effect. Replicable experiments are the standard of the scientific method… and appeal to the analytical mind.
    Replicable experiments, correlation, confidence intervals, yadda yadda yadda – They bore the hell out of the ADD afflicted, emotional mind. Sensory language (I think, I feel..), firm statements of cause and effect (CO2 causes global warming….), and appeals to action (You must act to save the planet…) are what the emotional mind responds to.
    When you know you are communicating with an emotional mind, use their familiar communications techniques to express your science knowledge in a way they can comprehend.
    “You might remember that CO2 is essential food for plants from your high school science class. Plants feel better and grow faster with more CO2 in the atmosphere. When naturally organic plants have more CO2 food available, they grow faster using less nonrenewable energy, fertilizers, and water, enhancing locally grown, sustainable food sourcing. You really don’t want to continue starving the plants do you? Please support a greener planet by liberating more CO2 food for the plants to feed on!”

  32. I would love to see the experimental section of that paper.
    What kind of narrometer did they use?
    What is the sensibility, accuracy and precision of the tecnique?
    Has the narrometer been calibrated?
    What book has been used to calibrate the narrometer, a British one or an american one?

  33. “The researchers hope this work might lead to advances in scientific communication, improving the odds that science might lead the way to better decisions in the policy realm.”
    A sensationalists’ charter… Better decisions in the policy realm will come from better science, not better-communicated science.

  34. Hello, in a few weeks time I turn 90 years of age, I still have a excellent memory and can recall a science teacher in 1937 who repeated a famous experiement by a Danish school teacher, where he placed a wire across a magnetic compass, and passed a currant through it. The needle moved, thus proving that a flow of electricity produces a magnetic field.
    Michael Fariday took it one step further and thus invented the induction coil and thus the electric generater and motor.
    And from that we owe all of the modern electronics of today.
    Make things intresting, and this applies to any subject, and the kids will learn from such lessons and go onto better things.
    But today’s teachers seem to have lost this ability, or are so locked into their pet “Cause” that they can no longer stir any intrest in their pupils.
    I recall a female maths teacher in 1942 who became angry with me when I asked what the letters on the blackboard meant.
    It was not until I got into radio servicing and had to use Ohms law that I realised that Algebra was simply a way of telling you how to do the sum, so why could not that teacher have told me that.
    Teachers who cannot convey their knowledge to the pupil should be removed from the classroom. And of course this happens, they end up in Administration telling good teachers how and what to teach.
    95 % of what I I know now was learned after I left school.
    Regards Michael Elliott. VK5ELL.

    • 90? Congratulations!!
      I guess, schools have changed a lot since then, and yet the children not so much.
      To the subject, I think telling a narrative might indeed help to promote a subject, even if it is a science one.

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