The Sciences

"ClimateGate" a PR Disaster That Will Be "Taught in University Communications Courses"

The IntersectionBy Chris MooneyDec 11, 2009 3:49 PM

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You simply must read science journalist Fred Pearce's take on the PR blunders made in "ClimateGate," especially by the University of East Anglia and other institutions. He writes:

The media blizzard that has descended on climate science since the hacking of hundreds of e-mails held on the webmail server at the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England, is set to become a case study — in public relations disasters, in the folly of incontinent electronic communication, in the shortcomings of peer review, and, very probably, in “how not to save the world.”

And again:

The failure of the University of East Anglia to respond substantially to the avalanche of invective from climate skeptics has been a PR disaster that undermined the reputation of science as well as the institution itself. One angry media insider says: “Their response will be taught in university communications courses. Because I’m going to make sure it is.” The university’s failure for a full fortnight to put up a single scientist to defend Phil Jones amounted to cruelty.

Ah, but will scientists and heads of scientific institutions take those communications courses? As we explained in Unscientific America

, this is still a rarity, at best. "ClimateGate" is really the ultimate in demonstrating that the scientific world has got to work vastly harder on communications.

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