Saturday, October 27, 2012

Communication and products

An excellent twitter discussion broke out this evening. A quote to consider about public products:
"MUCH too much science" .

And consider that the Impacts might be placed in briefings from last to first, followed by the science for the why of the impacts.

Now this all assumes we have a fundamental grasp on the Impacts. I argue sometimes we do sometimes we don't. Not all meteorologists are skilled communication experts. Not all meteorologists have skills in impacts or training in engineering to assess potential impacts.

Some folks have been arguing that the products need to be simplified and focus exclusively on impacts. Not all products are meant for that. The NWS communicates publicly and internally, so there will always be technical products/discussions. I think everybody wants reduced products and more information and so the question centers on "can we do this in the most informed way possible"?

There is a need to be cautious, maintain consistency (even through a transition), keeping what works and modifying but not radically changing the suite of products. The point of NWS products is to communicate the hazards as clearly as possible. Products are part of the overall messaging strategy and play a part in establishing the scientific foundation that the message rests on. Products contain information, and that information should help decision makers like Emergency Managers and other emergency support personnel. But as the CDC communication team reminded us, Information is not communication.

I will always accept that NWS communication and the scientific information need improvement. It will take a dedicated effort to develop an effective system for weather given all of the diverse challenges.

Really what I want to see us do is create a layer of communication experts that can help craft the message including impacts, and create a communication strategy. I think we have the people noaa-wide, but I dont think we have a critical mass. A change in the way social science is done internally is needed. It must include a strategy for bringing people together either through grant funding or public-private partnerships.

At the same time, I think we need an additional layer of impacts people too. I don't see this as hiring massive amounts of people, but partnerships among the private sector and academia, and focused efforts to understand and document impacts.

But lets also remember this a cultural change occurring within a bureacracy, a bureacracy which has challenges that extend far beyond the weather community. This will take time, and in the age of instant action it will probably be a painful transition for everyone.