New publication: Scientific networks on Twitter

Scientists communicate online via social media about climate change. They engage with other scientists as well as with journalists, civil society and politicians. To what extent and how their language use varies depending on whom they talk to was examined by Stefanie Walter, Ines Lörcher and Michael Brüggemann by combining network and automated content analysis. The full article with all findings is now available online (open access).

Public protests “for future” as part of citizenship – children and scientists included

by Michael Brüggemann

Schoolchildren protesting during the Fridays for Future march in Bremen. (Private photo from March 15 2019)

Today, I went to the streets with my ten-year-old son. It was his first protest march, and my second. We went with his elementary school class, loudly shouting: “don’t steal our future!” And while German politicians claim that they understand the children’s concerns, they also claim, more or less implicitly, that the children do not really get the complexities of politics and should “leave it to the professionals”.

However, politicians have failed to keep their promises with regards to climate protection. Today, 23.000 “scientists for future” affirmed: the children’s concerns and anger adequately reflect both the size of the climate change problem and the associated policy failure.

The demonstrations and the scientist’s petition will not immediately change German government policy, but they have generated two groups with the chance to (re)claim political agency. The two groups could not be more different: a new generation of youths that has awoken with a political voice and will hopefully sustain its lobbying for stronger environmental policies, and a group of scientists who increasingly felt entrapped in an ideology of value-free science. The idea of the application of the scientific method regardless of one’s personal interests is sometimes misunderstood as the duty of scientists to pretend to have no personal interests and values. Yet, it is the application of scientific methods and not the scientists themselves who should be neutral. As scientists with the privilege of a more detailed insight into the issues we study, we do not only have a right, but a duty, to raise our voices if things go wrong. Going to the streets is justified, especially if warnings about the risks of a climate crisis remain unanswered by the “professionals” in government.

Sober and cautious warnings have been included in scientific reports for decades now. Yet, it turns out that politics yields to political pressure and not to scientific reports. Therefore, it is the right and duty of every citizen to increase political pressure on neglected matters of common concern.

This blogpost is part of our series about current protest movements for more climate protection – see a list of all posts here.

New team member: Ines Lörcher

Our research group welcomes Ines Lörcher in our team. Since July 2017, Ines Lörcher is working as a research associate in our project on “Redefining the Boundaries of Science and Journalism”. She previously worked in a research project on “Climate change from the Audience Perspective” (funded by the German Research Foundation) under the leadership of Prof. Dr. Irene Neverla at the University of Hamburg from 2012-2017. She holds M.A. degrees in Communications, Political Science and Cultural Anthropology from the University of Mainz, Germany. She is currently working on a PhD project on the public’s appropriation of climate change. MORE

Ines Lörcher - klein

Workshop: Redefining the Boundaries of Science and Journalism in the Debate on Climate Change

by Fenja De Silva-Schmidt

As a kick-off for a new research project, the research team of Prof. Michael Brüggemann organized a workshop at the University of Hamburg from June 21 to 23. The team discussed the changing roles of science and politics in times of post-normal science communication with national and international guests.

After an introduction into the debate of post-normal climate science by Hans von Storch, Stefanie Walter and Michael Brüggemann presented the planned research project. As external experts on their respective countries, Lance Bennett (University of Washington, Seattle, USA), Maxwell Boykoff (University of Colorado-Boulder, USA), Risto Kunelius (University of Tampere, Finnland), Saffron O’Neill (University of Exeter, UK), Hartmut Wessler (University of Mannheim) and Radhika Mittal (National Academy of Administration, Mussoorie, Indien) provided their feedback.

The last day of the workshop was open to the academic public. The program included a diverse mixture of presentations on different aspects of climate communication – e.g. climate change and humour, the focus on economics in the climate debate and audience perceptions of climate change around the world – and attracted many interested guests; some international participants also followed the event via Skype.