Engaging in Effective Science Communication: A Response to Blancke et al. on Deproblematizing GMOs


As science communication scholars, we encourage interdisciplinary efforts such as those by Blancke, Grunewald, and De Jaeger to engage with the public on GMOs and genetic engineering broadly. We extend the advice given by these scholars with tips based on what we know from the science of science communication.

We applaud efforts by Blancke, Grunewald, and De Jaeger to engage with the public regarding the complex and controversial issues of genetic engineering and genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Both the public and the scientific community would likely benefit if more scientists were willing to talk with and listen to lay audiences with the intent of strengthening the quality of public discourse about science issues.

Nevertheless, few scientists have had formal training in communicating science, leaving most to rely on intuition. Unfortunately, these intuitions, even when informed by experience, are not always accurate. In the same way as we use scientific principles to make valid and reliable inferences about the world, we ought to use similar principles to determine how best to communicate about science, including how to deproblematize discussion of GMOs. Although more systematic research to further refine these principles is needed, we can use what we already know from the science of science communication (Box 1) to help scientists become more successful communicators.