The role of communicating science stories in emotionally-charged debates
Author: Helen Beringen – CSIRO, Australia
The world’s production of natural gas has risen each year since 2009, and global demand has been on the rise. Gas is predicted to become the second-largest global fuel source by 2035, overtaking coal. However, the debate around the impacts and opportunities of unconventional forms of onshore gas, is polarising communities globally.
As governments and industry battle to win the hearts and minds over potential gas extraction sources, what role does science play? And how can effective engagement and communication of science provide much-needed knowledge to communities on the impacts and opportunities of onshore gas, particularly gas from unconventional sources such as coal seam gas, shale gas or tight gas?
This case study from Australia’s lead science agency, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) explores how targeted engagement has supported effective communication of the key science questions asked by communities in gas regions. Research from the CSIRO’s Gas Industry Social and Environmental Research Alliance has shown that people’s perceptions are influenced by their knowledge of coal seam gas, and people’s confidence in their knowledge about coal seam gas is a direct driver of social acceptance.
In this paper, a science communication practitioner perspective is used to share how targeted communication and engagement plays a vital role:
- before research is undertaken, to ensure projects aligned with issues of concern for local communities
- during projects, to support stakeholder engagement throughout the research, and
- after research outcomes are known, to inform communities, governments and industry.
This approach builds trust, ensures relevance of the science, and assists uptake of transparent information and advice on gas development issues and opportunities.
Presentation type: Individual paper
Area of interest: Influencing policies through science communication