Archive for May, 2011|Monthly archive page
Uploaded by Evette Clayton on behalf of author, Steven Correia
We all know that people are stubborn, five minutes in any internet forum could tell you that, so is it really all that necessary to try and change their minds? That is what The Bird Network (TBN) of the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology (CLO) tried to do.
Citizen science is a term used for projects or ongoing programmes of scientific work in which individual volunteers or networks of volunteers, many of whom may have no specific scientific training, perform or manage research-related tasks such as observation, measurement, or computation. Among the more complex of the CLO’s citizen science projects, The Bird Network set out to change
the attitude of its participants towards environmental science basing their work on the framework of the ‘Elaboration Likelihood Model’. This theory argues that thoughtful attention to a stimuli will activate a central or main route to persuasion, this is particularly useful for citizen science as all of the participants are volunteers and will therefore be more interested in and attentive to the subject. This lead to the hypothesis that;
• Participation in the TBN will lead to positive effects on attitudes towards science and the environment in adult participants.
Although this would be supported by previous research if performed on children or young adults, the impact of direct participation on the attitudes of adults has rarely been explored.
Unfortunately, this particular citizen science project has found effectively no changes in the attitudes of participants towards science and the environment. TBN mostly attributed this lack in change of attitude to the complexity of people’s attitudes and our current methods in measuring them. Four arguments could be extrapolated to support this assumption;
1. The large number of undecided responses on both the pre- and post-tests indicate the respondents’ attitudes are complex.
2. Participants’ attitudes towards science have actually stayed moderate at the post-test stage. This has been shown to be associated with ‘belief complexity’
3. The project could have stabilised a deteriorating attitude and this was not within the scope of the TBN’s measurement of attitudes.
4. The scale may not have been sensitive enough to accurately measure a change in attitude.
So the results of this citizen science project say one of two things, either our current methods for measuring attitudes is very insufficient or adults really don’t change their mind too easily. This then asks the question should we struggle to improve the quality of measuring attitudes in citizen science projects or should we walk away from this project confirming what we already thought at
Fight or Flight?
Brossard, D, Lewenstein, B and Bonney, R. 2005. Scientific knowledge and attitude change: The impact of a citizen science project’, International Journal of Science Education, 27: 9, 1099 – 1121.
“Children are one third of our population and all of our future.”
The attitudes of children are a major focus of many environmental education campaigns. The development of positive and environmentally sensitive attitudes in youth is important in determining behaviour in later life.
The article “Factors Influencing Children’s Environmental Attitudes’ by Eagles and Demare discusses the change in environmental attitudes of year 6 students after attending a week long residential camp that aimed to improve environmental attitudes.
The two major types of environmental attitudes that the Sunship project aimed to improve were ecologistic and moralistic attitudes.
Ecologistic Attitude: Concern for the environment as a system, for interrelationships between wildlife and natural habitats.
Moralistic Attitude: Concern for the right and wrong treatment of the environment, with strong opposition to exploitation and unsustainable practices.
Sunship Earth: Project Goals
The goal of this study was to improve the environmental attitudes of children through involvement in a week long residential program. The Sunship Earth project goals relating to each of these attitude categories were as follows:
Ecologistic Attitude Goal: To develop a basic comprehension of the major ecological systems and communities of the planet.
Moralistic Attitude Goal: To develop a commitment to actions that encourage a more stable and harmonious relationship with the earth.
How Project Effectiveness was Evaluated
The effectiveness of the Sunship Earth program was evaluated by giving each child a pre-test survey one week before their participation in the camp program, and an identical post-test survey a week after their return from the camp.
The survey contained 11 questions on ecologic attitudes, 8 questions on moralistic attitudes and 11 questions on other attitudes. Only the questions on ecologic and moralistic attitudes were used in the evaluation.
Each question contained an attitude statement and required the student to choose one of five categories: strongly agree, agree, don’t know, disagree, and strongly disagree. Each of the attitude questions had an assigned score ranging from 1-5, with 5 representing the strongest agreement with the expressed attitude. Each student was given a summary mean of the numerical score for each of the two attitude groups.
The change in children’s attitudes was measured by comparing the group mean averages for the positivity of ecologistic and moralistic environmental attitudes.
The Sunship Earth program was found to be ineffective in changing children’s ecologic and moralistic attitudes towards the environment. There was no statistically significant attitude change after the program for either ecologistic or moralistic attitudes. The pre-test and post test scores for ecologic and moralistic attitudes were:
The evaluation of attitude change of any type is inherently extremely difficult. However, children’s attitude changes in this study could have been more closely examined.
The evaluation used only closed questions (qualitative research). Some open ended questions (qualitative research) could have been beneficial – especially in the second survey. Open ended questions can provide important information the survey writer has not taken into account.
It would have been ideal to also measure attitude changes indirectly through measuring behaviour changes. For example, measuring changes in the rate of recycling within a given area. However, this is very difficult to do with a small group of people.
One of the reasons that behavioural measurement can be a superior indicator of attitude compared to survey data is that people are regularly less than truthful when completing surveys – including children. People have a tendency to portray themselves in a more favourable light than their thoughts or actions. This is a problem that severely affects the validity of statistics derived from surveys. People often engage in ‘impression management’ which is “a conscious, active and deliberate attempt to fake good behaviour in front of a real or imagined audience” or ‘self-enhancement’, which is “a spontaneous tendency to present an internalised, unrealistically positive view of the self”.
Another reason behavioural measurement can a better indicator of attitude than survey data is that it has been shown that simply the process of being involved in an educaiton program prompts people to feel that they should have changed thier attitudes to some extent, even if they tryly haven’t – this is often evident in the results of survey data.
Overall, the evaluation used in this project was sufficient, but I think it could have been improved by: including open ended questions in the survey; and measuring attitude changes though behaviour changes in addition to the analysis of survey data.
Eagles, PFJ and Demare, R. 1999. Factors influencing children’s environmental attitudes, The Journal of Environmental Education. 30 (4): 33- 37.
Posted By James Campbell 20238971
Probably, but let me explain myself…
Would the public as a whole be better off if a government could go ahead and make unpopular decisions that will benefit us in the long term? For example, the stem cell debate in Western Australia is being revisited. We are the only state that has restrictions on the technology. Many claim that the state has been left behind in medical research as a result. If the government had been able to go ahead and legalise it without fear of being voted out by an uninformed and scared public, would we be ahead?
Would we be much more productive in the agricultural sector if we had been allowed to use GM technology 10 years ago and have had the time to be able to develop it to adapt better to WA, instead of the government having to stall it to please a scared public?
If the government had acted 20 years ago and built a large amount of nuclear power stations (in one of the most tectonically stable countries in the world), fossil fuel power generation in Australia could just be a relic of the past. Would we be better off if the government did not have to please a scared public? A public that reverts to images of Chernobyl and Fukushima (two accidents in 30 years out of hundreds of plants throughout the world) in their mind every time nuclear energy is mentioned.
If the government did not have to please an irrational public, would John Howard still be in power, and would detention centres be over-flowing, with more boats on their way as is the case with the current government? Would Temporary Protection Visas still be in effect – where genuine refugees are protected until the threat has passed, and queue jumpers sent home? This would provide a reason for would-be asylum seekers to re-think a decision to risk theirs and their family’s lives to get to Australia, while also taking away a people smuggler’s ability to guarantee a permanent home in Australia as they are currently able to do because of soft government policy.
The paper by (Bauer, Allum et al. 2007) outlines the concerns that scientists have about the Public Understanding of Science (PUS), and the ability of the public to make informed decisions. It believes that the voice of the people is only beneficial if the people command knowledge of science and politics, and that at present there is a gross lack of public literacy in science.
This begs the question: Should the public be forced to pass a mandatory literacy test in order to vote? Or should we just leave the important scientific decisions to scientific panels that review and decide on scientific issues of the day? While obviously the public does not directly vote on issues of the day, governments are forced to make wrong decisions for the country because the better alternative is unpopular with the voting public and they fear being voted out.
Either way it is a hard decision that when put down to a public vote will never get passed anyway, which is my point.
Bauer, M. W., N. Allum, et al. (2007). “What can we learn from 25 years of PUS survey research? Liberating and expanding the agenda.” Public Understanding of Science 16(1): 79.
Budgeting involves a set of activities lined up in order to achieve a given task. During budgeting, it is necessary that one plans ahead so that the donor can anticipate challenges that can be met and that all the necessary resources are mobilised beforehand.
Literature states that for purposes of planning, firstly the organiser should collect all the relevant information that may be required in the study area. This may include study materials and necessary protocols to be followed. Secondly, the organiser should collect secondary data for the site including demography, cultural norms and other related studies either taking place or previously took place in the same site as these might affect the perception the community would have on your study. Lastly, current laws, policies and practices should be reviewed as these might pose challenges when undertaking the study.
The strengths and weaknesses of the team (internal) and other factors related to the site of interest (external) should be identified. The strengths and weaknesses of the team might include but not limited to its affiliation to other institutions, staff experience, knowledge of the local language and adequacy of resources. The strengths and weaknesses would give a rough estimate of how strong or weak the team is. Identifying the external factors would help assess the risk of controversy that might be posed by undertaking the study through misinterpretation. This threat could be alleviated by using multi-stakeholder approach. The organisers should take keen interest on other professionals who have previously worked in the area, issues to do with gender, political events and even attending to community functions as these help establish trust and credibility within the community.
It is stated that although sponsors undervalue the function of communicating the results of research to the participating community and other stakeholders, sponsors recommend that separate line items of communication and dissemination activities be included in the budget.
Good communication requires that a communications team from the site should be working together with the sponsors. The team should comprise of a variety of staff members reflecting expertise in science, communication and community engagement. Teams should be adaptable, manageable, involving technical support staff, have a clear leader and engage the community advisory board for their input.
It should be noted that all staff members have a role to play in communication and should therefore be prepared to answer question. This could be achieved by training the staff members through fact sheets, use of hat trick and stating the three main points of the study. It is important to bring all the members together before the study begins. During such a meeting, members may share lessons learnt from the environmental scan, share intelligence on institutional or political factors, determine basic processes for internal communication, identify staff resources and conduct some basic media training. This meeting could be followed by a site initiation meeting where an overview of the strategic communication of the team would be presented. All sites should have a clearly designated spokesperson provided with media training to respond to inquiries from officials, media, advocates and the general public in timely and respectful manner.
This paper is based on a collection of field information compiled for communicating clinical trials in ‘Communications Handbook for Clinical Trials’ (undated)
In today’s education, a student is often taught the interactions of the natural world and the prospects of protecting and improving the environment. This is necessary as it hopes that the next generation is committed and capable in creating an ecologically sustainable future. However, this strategy does not address the serious environmental problems of today, and the parents and grandparents of today determine the effects of these problems.
Many environmental educators reckon the need to focus on adults to resolve the current environmental problems, even though there are formidable barriers to adult education. There is often very little time, or funding and resources to keep an adult as a captive audience, and as such, adult educational programs are unlikely to succeed at promoting widespread environmental action in the near future.
There is a potential solution.
How often have we seen ourselves, as children, influence our parent’s attitudes, behavior and knowledge? Are we not guilty of deciding what’s for dinner just because “today is my diet day”, or teaching our parents the intricacies of the Internet and Facebook? It is through influences such as these that identify us as the ‘ideal educators’ for the current generation to be the solution to the problems of today.
Early studies done on the prospects of intergenerational learning found that the information transfer between parent and child is often unreliable, and the information transferred is generally vague (Uzzel, 1994) when the involvement of the parent in a child’s learning is “superficial”. By “superficial”, the parent is often found to have spent very little time or effort with the child’s learning; with most parents involved only through the completion of schoolwork, and reading of pamphlet or booklets.
However, a more recent study by Porter, Dwyner, Cobern and Oliver (1997), showed that parent-child participation in environmental activities, such as recycling cans, can result in a greater change in their behavior and concerns for the environment in comparison to the earlier study. Asides from participating in environmental activities, other studies (Ballantyne et al, 1998) also found that student-parent communication had an impact on learning, and that student-parent discussions often yielded satisfactory results if the discussions were frequent (2-month period) and intensive (1.5 hours per session).
In short, to have our parents believe in being pro-environmental, one would need to either get them physically involved or to talk their ears off, which, ironically, is very similar to their behavior towards us.
Duvall. J., & Zint. M. (2007). A Review of Research on the Effectiveness of Environmental Education in Promoting Intergenerational Learning. The Journal of Environmental Education, 38,14-22.
Ballantyne, R., Connel, S., & Fien, J. (1998). Factors contributing to intergenerational communication regarding environmental programs: Preliminary research findings. Australian journal of Environmental Education, 14, 1-10
Uzzel, D. (1994). Chlildren as catalysts of environmental change (Final rep). London, England: European Commission Doirectorat General for Science Research and Development Joint Research Centre.
What is the use of risk management if it is not communicated and evaluated? That is what Bernd Rohrmann asks in his article the evaluation of risk communication effectiveness (1992). And it is a valid question. Rohrmann argues that risk communication would be a lot more effective if there was a system where those implementing risk management strategies could evaluate their effectiveness and then share this with others. This makes sense; it could save risk communicators a lot of time and money. Think about it, instead of one risk communicator starting from scratch on deciding what will work, they could look up on a database what others have found to be effective.
Risk communicators also need to evaluate their work to see how effective it is. Rohrmann states how control groups are rarely used in evaluating risk communication, and that these are needed especially in risk communication, as there are what Rohrmann calls ‘judgmental expectancy biases’ in this field which stem from research on the social psychology of conducting experiments in risk communication. For example, one of the possible biases is what is known as the ‘Hawthorne’ effect, which states that
Subjects exposed to new conditions or possibilities (introduced as improvements) tend to react positively due to the mere existence of a program, independently of its particular function.
This would have a marked bias on results, reiterating that a control group for evaluating risk communication is definitely necessary, yet rarely is it done.
Rohrmann has made a very valid point in this article that risk communication needs to be evaluated and communicated for it to be successful.
Rohrmann, B. (1992). The evaluation of risk communication effectiveness. Acta Psychologica, 81(2), 169-192. doi:10.1016/0001-6918(92)90004-W
Have a think about where you stand on environmental issues, I mean have a real long hard think. Now, having done this, think about all the choices you make in your day to day life. Does your behaviour reflect your opinions and values with regards to environmental sustainability? If you’re anything like me, your answer is probably going to be: “sort of…”.
Why is it that as opinionated and ideological beings, we often do not uphold the values that we hold as important and as reflecting who we are? Nye and Hargreaves in their 2009 paper Exploring the Social Dynamics of Proenvironmental Behaviour Change attempt to show that it is often the social context with which we interact with others that plays a major part in shaping our behaviour. The article examines two programs developed by the Global Action Plan (GAP) group; an international network of member organisations that aim to “empower people to live and work increasingly sustainably”. Nye and Hargreaves focus specifically on the GAP UK arm of the network and their two programs Environment Champions; a workplace-based program, and EcoTeams; a program aimed at households.
The authors found that in the workplace, the initiation of the Environment Champions program instilled a new set of informal rules that changed the understandings and expectations of what it meant to be a ‘good employee’. The designated ‘Champions’; employees who were chosen to instigate the changes in the workplace, were often projected by other employees as being “the recycling police” or “Mr Environment”. This shows how the general workplace consensus on what was expected of them began to shift.
This program makes people think twice while in the workplace, as employees are no longer judged just on how hard they work or their standard of work, but also their ethical integrity. This idea is similar to that which Carmen Lawrence described in her lecture on the psychology behind environmental behaviour change: if it’s clear that people around you are being responsible, it is a poor reflection on yourself if you do not change your behaviour. There is also something to be said about the global reach of the GAP program, as being part of a global network may enhance this ‘keeping up appearances’ effect. The UWA Environmental Services Department runs a similar internal version of this program called the ‘Green Offices Program’. I wonder if joining a global network like GAP wouldn’t be a more effective option…
The EcoTeams program brings together groups of four to eight individuals from the same street or neighbourhood in facilitated meetings to discuss environmental problems and practical ideas for change. This setting serves to reinforce people’s values on environmental sustainability and acts as a catalyst for behaviour change. Respondents in the EcoTeams program stated that mixing with other like-minded individuals provided a welcome sense of social support and reassurance that they were not alone, geographically or metaphorically in their beliefs.
This resonated particularly strongly with me, as sometimes I feel surrounded by others that do not share my sense of urgency and necessity for action. Most of my friends are not particularly environmentally-minded and often it is easy to become disheartened or lose momentum when attempting to change behaviour when you feel like your fighting a lone battle. I feel that being part of a group like this would invigorate and enthuse people with green values to make the changes in their lives that they want to, but who have perhaps just lost their sustainability mojo.
I am in no way excusing myself here for my sometimes lackadaisical effort to be green, however there is definitely something to be said about the inspiring effect of being around others that are taking action. This article demonstrates the power of a communal approach to sustainability. Perhaps this communal focus is the way forward into the future?
What do you think?
By Ryan Wilson
Nye, M. and Hargreaves, T. 2009, Exploring the Social Dynamics of Proenvironmental Behaviour Change
Marine Protected Areas or MPAs are an important means to preserve coastal and ocean environments. The public’s knowledge about the ocean bears a direct relationship with their support for marine conservation (Steel et al. 2005). A well informed public is more likely to support environmental issues and informing the public about marine protection presents a unique challenge.
The media play a significant role in the process of informing the public on environmental policies and due to the public’s low level of personal knowledge on the subject, this puts the media in a powerful position. How the MPAs are presented in the media will shape the public’s understanding and opinions. The agenda-setting theory states that the news media have a large influence on audiences by their choice of what stories are newsworthy and how much prominence and space to give them. It also considers salience transfer, the ability of news media to transfer issues of importance from their news media agendas to public agendas.
The paper ‘Murky waters: Media reporting of marine protected areas in South Australia’ Compas et al. (2007) looked at 65 online newspaper articles from January 1999 to March 2006, of these, 57 (88%) of the articles were written specifically about the MPA processes, the remaining only mentioning MPAs within their discussion. In the early stages of the MPA zoning process, the articles are largely supportive of MPAs with conservation groups and commercial fishermen being quite supportive, though the fishermen did show some concern over profits. In 2005, however, with the release of the draft zoning the tone changed completely due to the proposed closures of sites, with much of the media reporting on the debates between officials and those concerned about zoning. The overall findings of the research found that the media reporting on environmental issues were dominated by contested opinions rather than factual and contextual information.
The newspaper media which are seen as the most reliable media source, seemed to show in this paper that they conveyed very little information for the public to learn about marine environments and why their protection is necessary. As Compas et al. (2007) mentions, accessibility bias seems quite prominent, as the public have limited resources (such as time) and cannot learn about every subject, this is why the public turn to news media to gain information. The media, however, can sometimes decide to show a certain topic or opinion more than another and it can shape the public agenda and what they remember. With gaps in information of policy making and the marine environment, the public may have been shaped to certain views about MPA zoning in South Australia.
References: Compas, E., Clarke, B., Cutler, C. and Daish, K. 2007. Murky waters: Media reporting of marine protected areas in South Australia Marine Policy, Vol:31 (6), pp. 691-697.
Steel, B., Lovrich, N., Lach, D. and Fomenki, V. 2005. Correlates and consequences of public knowledge concerning ocean fisheries management, Coastal Management Vol: 33 (1), pp. 37–51.
Did you understand the last scientific article that you read the first time you looked at it- most likely the response would be no, because “I’m not a scientist:”- this is the first pitfall in the effective communication of scientific literature.
I’m sure you all have been in a situation where you have picked up a scientific article and read it through only to realize that you actually do not understand a word that has been said? All the scientific jargon being used to confuse you in the hope that you will read it once believe what the researcher says and then move – we all have but the difference with us university students is that we will read it thoroughly many times if need be until we have absorbed it and fully understood it. Unfortunately for many people this is not the case. From reading articles many people lose trust in the researchers and do not believe what is being said amongst all the scientific language being used.
This mistrust has lead to numerous studies being undertaken to look into the effective manner in which scientific literature can be communicated efficiently and effectively to the every day folk. If the scientific papers written cannot be communicated properly to society, not only is it mostly a waste of time writing them however majority of society tend to lose trust in scientists as they believe that they are being deceived.
In the UK a study has been conducted and it was noted that over two thirds of the participants were definitely interested and of these, over three quarters declared that they were ‘fascinated’ by scientific findings. However this same survey also found that people are unsure as to who to trust and who not to trust when it comes to scientific findings. It was noted that out of all the groups’ university scientists were the most trusted however government scientists were the least trusted.
In order to build up this trust to effectively and efficiently communicate scientific knowledge, the knowledge of both parties has to be respected and responded to because scientists and the general public have very different views. Since most people gain their scientific knowledge from the Internet and television it is vital that communication is effective and efficient so as that the risk of miscommunication is reduced as much as possible.
There are many initiatives that are being put into place to increase the scientific knowledge of the general public. These include community events and national events that bring together scientists and the general public.
However I believe that much more time is needed before the degree of trust is increased between the public and scientists. As with anything as time goes on this information will continue to be communicated efficiently and effectively more and more and only time will tell how this will continue to evolve in the future.
Reference: Clarke, B. 2001. Strategies for improving communication between scientists and the public. Journal of Commercial Biotechnology 8(1): 51- 59.
“A set of two or more individuals interacting adaptively, interdependently and dynamically towards a common and valued goal – in addition, team members are each assigned specific roles/functions to perform, and a team has a limited life span (Salas et al., 2000).”
We’ve all heard the idiom, “many hands make light work” as well as the contrasting idiom; “too many cooks spoil the broth” – teamwork can be effective in carrying out a task, but used ineffectively, the results can indeed counter the productivity intended.
To explore this, Salas, Burke and Cannon-Bowers performed an integrative review on the understandings of teamwork. They focused on what comprises effective teamwork, and decided that eight skill dimensions can be generalised for any team.
- Shared situational awareness
- Performance monitoring and feedback
- Leadership/team management
- Interpersonal relations
- Decision making
Cannon-Bowers and co were able to extract common definitions (for teamwork from reviews they performed) in order to arrive at seven core principles that characterise effective teamwork
The Principles – teamwork is characterised by:
- Flexibility and adaptation in behaviours, cognitions and attitudes; and require parallel capabilities among team members, a certain measure of knowledge as well as necessary skills and attitudes.
- Observation – for the behaviours and actions of all team members to be monitored by each other, as well as to have the freedom to provide and accept feedback based on the monitoring behaviour; this requires a mutual agreement in the monitoring of performance and that constructive and timely feedback will be given, as well as an overall and shared awareness of the situation.
- Support and understanding during operations, among members in a team to be mutually displayed and agreed upon and requires back-up behaviour (compensatory behaviour) as well as the ability to adapt.
- Communication among all members that is clear and concise; referring to closed-loop communication (where communication has an active feedback system).
- Coordination of every action that is required, where actions will be interdependent, which again requires shared mental models and the development of interpersonal relations.
- Leadership taken on by one of the team members most apt for the role, so that activities can be directed, planned, distributed and coordinated effectively. This requires the development of common problem models, clear directions, an environment where performance can be enabled, decision making and problem solving, and the maintenance of the coherence of the team.
- The context and requirements of the task which influence; all teams are not equal, the contextual factors as well as the task at hand to be carried out by the team must be considered before the importance of various competencies needed within a particular team are decided – the Importance of particular team competencies will vary by the nature of the team.
Each of these skills will vary among each team member and so different roles will be assigned to different members, so that
“a team of experts can become an expert team (Salas et al., 2000).”
With these principles in mind, can you point out which principles may have been overlooked in the following example?
A wedding cake business was to design and create a generic style wedding cake for a number of weddings for one week (a certain promotional offer), but was unsuccessful in meeting the needs of the customers. The couples, for whom the wedding cakes were for, felt neglected because although the business had them complete a market style survey to determine their tastes, the final product did not reflect their tastes. The business owner wondered what the problem was, because each highly skilled individual (chef and those with business roles) on the team was allocated specific tasks based on their expertise.
Answer: Upon investigation, the owner found that there was a breakdown in communication between those in charge of the marketing aspects (surveys) and the team of chefs.
Salas, E., Burke, C.S., & Cannon-Bowers, J.A. (2000). Teamwork: emerging principles. International Journal of Management Reviews, 2(4), 339-356.