Annual Gathering at Wellesley Addresses Challenges in Sharing the Science behind Complex Issues to the Public and Policy Makers

March 6, 2014

How does one communicate the complexity and nuance of scientific knowledge to a world that increasingly depends on it? This weekend, Wellesley explores the common gap between science and the general public with the 2014 Communicating Science symposium, a series of interdisciplinary discussions with students, faculty, and distinguished guests.

Through panel discussions, workshops, student research presentations, and keynote speech from pioneering microbiologist Rita Colwell (pictured), symposium participants will grapple with the challenges in communicating the science behind complex issues to the public and policy makers, especially on fields of research that can become quickly politicized. This includes biotechnology, from understanding genetically modified organisms to the need for hardier strains of grain to relieve international hunger epidemics, and environmental health issues, such as the challenges posed by polluted water and pollution-induced asthma. Students, faculty and others from Olin, Babson, Boston College, Harvard, University of Massachusetts-Boston and Cornell have registered to attend, as well as many members of the Wellesley community.

The symposium is now an annual happening that began in 2011 as an opportunity to bring the campus together to discuss the issues of communicating science to the public from a variety of perspectives. Past participants have included President H. Kim Bottomly, award-winning science writer Elizabeth Grossman, and scientific policy expert Matthew Nisbet. This year’s keynote, Rita Colwell, a microbiologist at the University of Maryland at College Park, was the longtime director of the National Science Foundation.

“As a student and an aspiring engineer, I am always eager to learn of how scientific applications can be used to aid social problems and influence more effective policies,” said Christina Holman ’17, one of the organizers of this year’s symposium. She noted that the event brings together experts from media and business, as well as academia. “The symposium truly highlights the importance of an interdisciplinary approach to such issues and adequately communicating them across all sectors.”

Registration for the event, taking place in the Knapp Social Science Center Atrium in Pendleton East, has closed.