Using Science Communication to Uphold Scientific Integrity

Written by: Julio Beltran, Micah Wiesner and Shiru Wang

When the integrity of science is upheld, it provides insulation from bias, fabrication, falsification, and censorship of results and effectively communicating science to a general audience can reinforce integrity in science. Dr. Maria Caffrey visited Syracuse University as part of the Environment, Sustainability, and Policy Seminar Speaker Series to share her experience of having her work censored. Dr. Caffrey was contracted by the United States National Park Service to examine the impact of sea level rise and storm surges on 188 of America’s favorite coastal park units. Dr. Caffrey’s report included sea level projections under different carbon emission scenarios and the flooding caused by stronger hurricanes due to human impacts on the environment. The process of publishing her results were slowed down and only released if the words “anthropogenic” and or “human causing” were taken out. After sharing her story with reporter Elizabeth Shogren and receiving some publicity, her report was rereleased uncensored.

During the EMPOWER’s Water-Energy Seminar, students broadened the discussion of censoring to scientific integrity. They examined case studies that tackled unconscious scientific fraudulence, unreproducible results, and the need of modern scientist to publish results with “impact” rather than results that are correct. Students also express the need of emphasis on effective science communication to a broader audience that can lead to national discussion, such as when Dr. Maria Caffrey shared her story.