As I was perusing the news last week, I saw this:
An appeals court in Italy has overturned the 2012 manslaughter conviction handed down to seven prominent scientists and engineers following a devastating earthquake in 2009.
Phew, we can now go back to forecasting things without fear! I wonder how many Italian economists were worried about missing forecasts after this ruling? I would bet that the the variance of most climate models is within the ballpark of the variance on seismic prediction models. Given that climate forecasting influences government spending and policy in the longterm (ideally), this kind of error pentalty could have been a equally scary to climate scientists.
While I realize this case was thought to be ridiculous to most most scientists, I also view it as a wake up call for how bad most scientists are at communicating scientific results to the public. There are many university classes where the professor has a hard time explaining basic concepts to undergrads, much less explaining more-complicated scientific results to a general popluation where less than 30% of people have a bachelor's degree. In a way, this is both a supply side (researcher's supplying information) and a demand side (less-educated population demanding answers) problem.
I think the attributes of demand side are a bit too big for the average researcher to address right now, but the supply side is well within reach. I occasionally see a scientist/economist/researcher that can explain something in such an intuitive way that I’m amazed when I go and look at the paper they reference only to see a long list of equations. Being able to equate your results to real-world implications in a understandable way is an art, but I think it’s an art that is worth learning. People complain about pointy-headed academics that have issues doing this, but I’ve seen it in the business world as well. If you have a scientific result worth sharing, take the effort to share it in an accessible way.