This week about 200 science writers gathered in my hometown of Madison, Wisconsin for a conference on Science Writing in the Age of Denial, hosted by the University of Wisconsin-Madison, with support from the National Association of Science Writers. (Conference hashtags: #sciencedenial, and then, when that hashtag was temporarily disabled by spam, #denialconf).
In case you’re just hearing about this conference now and wondering what this is all about, here’s a quick summary from the conference website:
Science writers now work in an age where uncomfortable ideas and truths meet organized resistance. Opposing scientific consensus on such things as anthropogenic climate change, the theory of evolution, and even the astonishingly obvious benefits of vaccination has become politically de rigueur, a litmus test and a genuine threat to science. How does denial affect the craft of the science writer? How can science writers effectively explain disputed science? What’s the big picture? Are denialists ever right?
Day 1 featured plenary speakers Arthur Lupia (Communicating Science in Politicized Environments); Sean B. Carroll (The Denial of Evolution, and the Evolution of Denial: We Have All Been Here Before); Gary Schwitzer (Cheerleading, Shibboleths and Uncertainty); and Naomi Oreskes (Neoliberalism and the Denial of Global Warming); and star-studded panels associated with each. Day 2 was a series of workshops digging into how science writers can apply insights about science denialism to improve the reach, integrity, and impact of their work.
Because I was involved in helping organize the workshops portion of the conference, I didn’t take many notes along the way—so here, rather than recapping the conference myself, I’m aggregating the many blog posts, news articles and Storify collections that have captured the essence of this meeting. Here’s what people have been saying about the conference (If I’ve missed something you think should be included, get in touch):
Summaries from the conference website by UW students
Christie Aschwanden, The Last Word on Nothing: The Impasse: When the “truth wins” assumption fails (crossposted in Grist)
Charlie Petit, Knight Science Journalism Tracker: U. Wisconsin-Madison: Science Writing in the Age of Denial an undeniable success
Chris Mooney, Point of Inquiry podcast interview with Naomi Oreskes
Nathan Seppa, Science News: Science denial in the 21st century
Chuck Quirmbach, Wisconsin Public Radio: Science-Climate Denial Gap Explained
Zen Faulkes, NeuroDojo: The denial manual
Erin Podolak, Science Decoded: Thoughts on Science Writing in the Age of Denial
Kate Prengaman’s storify
Maryn McKenna, Superbug: Science Writing and Denialism: Accuracy, Clarity, Courage
A couple of conference speakers have also made their slidesets available: