Heard on Campus: Provost Nick Jones on the importance of science communication

Nicholas Jones, Executive Vice President and Provost at Penn State, welcomed writers from around the country to Penn State for ScienceWriters 2019, an annual conference featuring professional development workshops developed by the National Association of Science Writers. IMAGE: PATRICK MANSELL
Nicholas Jones, Executive Vice President and Provost at Penn State, welcomed writers from around the country to Penn State for ScienceWriters 2019, an annual conference featuring professional development workshops developed by the National Association of Science Writers. IMAGE: PATRICK MANSELL

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Synergy between scientists’ work and the communication of how and why it matters is essential to ensuring our society’s ability to make thoughtful decisions about the pressing issues we face.

That was the message given by Penn State Executive Vice President and Provost Nick Jones to the more than 500 science writers, reporters and editors who attended the Penn State-hosted 2019 ScienceWriters Conference on October 29th. Co-organized by the National Association of Science Writers, the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing, and Penn State’s Office of Strategic Communications and Office of the Senior Vice President of Research, the conference comprised four days of workshops, panels, scientific presentations on the latest research and networking opportunities.

“Virtually every major challenge facing global society has scientific components, from individual and population health to climate change and sustainability. So, science matters to all people, and they need to understand what is relevant and important to them,” said Jones. “Science communications professionals provide the vital bridge from what’s happening in our labs to the people who will benefit from the results of those research activities.”

Using climate change as an example, Jones elaborated on the imperativeness of science communication.

“Public awareness and understanding of climate science — or lack thereof — have a substantial influence on governmental decision-making about regulations, policies and funding in this area,” he said. “It’s incumbent on us all to mitigate public mistrust and misunderstanding of climate scientists and their research.”

He added that as a steward of public funds, Penn State has an obligation and a commitment to ensure that people know about and understand the scientific research it conducts, and how that research benefits them directly or indirectly.

“Together, scientists and science communicators will reveal the profound, real-world impacts of scientific research to the global citizens who are counting on us to articulate and deliver solutions to the world’s most pressing problems.”

This story originally appeared in Penn State News.