Communicating science with Nives Dolšak

By Mackenzie Nelson

Nives Dolšak. Photo provided by Nives Dolšak.

It is no secret that science, especially environmental science, has had to climb over a few stumbling blocks in the past six months. While the phrase “alternative facts” has spurred the development of alt-groups that challenge the stance of the current narrow-minded administration, it also highlights how scientists are failing to reach a broader audience. Nives Dolšak, however, is succeeding.

In addition to publishing research in academic journals, Dolšak—along with colleague Aseem Prakash, UW Department of Political Science—has written multiple articles geared towards the non-academic audience reading Slate Magazine and the Washington Post. These timely articles challenge readers’ opinions on climate change, calm their worries about the future of environmental science, and explain decisions being made in the world of environmental politics.

Dolšak and Prakash address the hot button issue of the Dakota Access Pipeline. While hailing the success of the #NODAPL movement in building a following supported by the environmental community, Dolšak and Prakash also take this opportunity to talk about environmental injustice and how the Standing Rock Sioux Nation should “leverage these protests to initiate a broader conversation on the continued neglect of Native American communities, and its ramifications for the environment and the future health of their nations and our planet.” Environmental issues do not stop with whether they are good or bad for the planet, and Dolsak and Prakash encourage readers to think beyond that point as well.

Dolšak notes, “Along with many scholars in public policy, we are concerned about the lack of understanding of core policy issues by the public.  Frequently, especially in environmental policy, the public does not take the time to understand the fundamentals, but reacts based on their ideology. For example, those of us who are committed to climate change mitigation need to understand who will bear the costs of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in order to develop politically feasible policies. When coal miners oppose U.S. climate mitigation policies, we need to examine their reasons, rather than calling them ‘science deniers’. Based on this understanding, we need to develop climate mitigation policies that address their core concerns.”

With funding for programs like the EPA and NOAA on the chopping block, it is important for the environmental science community to reconsider communication strategies. Dolšak and Prakash are not only educating the public about environmental-political issues, but challenging members of the field to become better environmental science communicators.

For more reading, Dolšak and Prakash public scholarship pieces since 2015:

  1.  Nives Dolšak and Aseem Prakash. “Climate Change and Public Administration”, Guest Editors. Symposium in Public Administration Review. Forthcoming.
  2.  Nives Dolšak and Aseem Prakash. “Solar Panels on a Border Wall.” The Regulatory Review. July 11, 2017.
  3.  Nives Dolšak and Aseem Prakash. “Why a Retreat from Paris Now?” The Regulatory Review. June 20, 2017.
  4.  Nives Dolšak and Aseem Prakash. “Are we overreacting to US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement on climate?” The Conversation, June 1, 2017.
  5.  Aseem Prakash and Nives Dolšak. “Does the Environmental Movement Need New Messengers?” Solutions, Vol. 8, Issue 3, May 2017.
  6.  Aseem Prakash and Nives Dolšak. “International organizations and the crisis of legitimacy.” Open Democracy. June 9, 2017.
  1.  Aseem Prakash and Nives Dolšak.  “Why did Scott Pruitt refuse to ban a chemical that the EPA itself said is dangerous?” Washington Post. Monkey Cage. April 12, 2017.
  2.  Nives Dolšak and Aseem Prakash. “Climate politics: Environmentalists need to think globally, but act locally.” The Conversation. March 27, 2017.
  3.  Aseem Prakash and Nives Dolšak. The Trump administration wants to kill the popular Energy Star program because it combats climate change. Washington Post. Monkey Cage. March 23, 2017.
  4.  Nives Dolšak and Aseem Prakash. “Yes, consumers can change public policies sometimes. Here are the challenges.” Washington Post. Monkey Cage. February 27, 2017.
  5.  Nives Dolšak and Aseem Prakash. “Here’s a better way to regulate carbon – and change the tired environment-versus-economy debate.” The Conversation. January 30, 2017.
  6.  Nives Dolšak and Aseem Prakash. “The US environmental movement needs a new message.” The Conversation, December 12, 2016.
  7.  Nives Dolšak and Aseem Prakash. “Trump Can’t Abolish the EPA.” November 16, 2016.
  8.  Nives Dolšak and Aseem Prakash. “The Dakota Pipeline Protesters Should Think Big.” November 3, 2016.
  9.  Dolšak and Aseem Prakash. “The Upside of Ignoring Climate Change.” October 31, 2016.
  10.  Nives Dolšak and Aseem Prakash. “ ‘Climate Change Did it!’ Is a Convenient Excuse.” October 21, 2016.
  11.  Nives Dolšak and Aseem Prakash. “Manufacturing Dissent: How the New York Times’ covered the Brexit Vote.” Duck of Minerva. September 29, 2016.
  12.  Nives Dolšak, Aseem Prakash, and Maggie Allen.  “The big fight over the Dakota Access Pipeline, explained.” Washington Post. Monkey Cage, September 20, 2016.
  13.  Nives Dolšak and Aseem Prakash, “Here’s what many journalists missed when covering the Brexit vote.” Washington Post. Monkey Cage, August 4, 2016.
  14.  Nives Dolšak and Aseem Prakash, “The perils of technocraticism: Will environmentalists learn from Brexit?” Governance Journal Blog, June 27, 2016.
  15.  Nives Dolšak and Aseem Prakash. 2016. “It’s not just Flint: Here’s why we ignore water pollution.Washington Post. Monkey Cage, June 8, 2016.
  16.  Nives Dolšak and Aseem Prakash. 2016. “Here’s what Clinton really thinks about Appalachian coal country.” Washington Post. Monkey Cage, May 15, 2016.
  17.  Nives Dolšak and Aseem Prakash. 2016. “Environmental Inclusion: A Moral Imperative and Political Necessity.” Stanford Social Innovation Review. February 26, 2016.
  18.  Nives Dolšak and Aseem Prakash. 2016. “NGOs are great at demanding transparency. They are not so hot about providing it.” Washington Post. Monkey Cage, February 22, 2016.
  19.  Nives Dolšak and Aseem Prakash. 2015. “Government Contractors as Civil Society?” Stanford Social Innovation Review. November 2015.