1st Edition

Science Communication in a Crisis An Insider's Guide

By Christopher Reddy Copyright 2023
    172 Pages 13 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    172 Pages 13 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Science Communication in a Crisis: An Insider’s Guide identifies the principal challenges that scientists face when communicating with different stakeholder groups and offers advice on how to navigate the maze of competing interests and deliver actionable science when the clock is ticking.

    If a scientist’s goal is to deliver content and expertise to the people who need it, then other stakeholder groups—the media, the government, industry—need to be considered as partners to collaborate with in order to solve problems. Written by established scientist Christopher Reddy, who has been on the front lines of several environmental crisis events, the book highlights ten specific challenges and reflects on mistakes made and lessons learned. Reddy’s aim is not to teach scientists how to ace an interview or craft a soundbite, rather, through exploring several high-profile case studies, including the North Cape oil spill, Deepwater Horizon, and the 2021 Sri Lanka shipping disaster, he presents a clear pathway to effective and collaborative communication.

    This book will be a great resource for junior and established scientists who want to make an impact, as well as students in courses such as environmental and science communication.


    PART I The Characters

    1 Our Hero, the Scientist

    2 The Supporting Cast: Villain … or Partner?

    PART II The Crisis

    3 How a Crisis Response Unfolds: The Role of the Scientist

    4 Who Writes the Narrative?

    5 Winner Takes All

    6 Piece by Piece

    7 Countering Scientific Misinformation

    8 Legal Challenges: The Erosion of the Scientific Deliberative Process

    PART III Lessons Learned

    9 Starting a Conversation: How to Talk about Science

    10 Interdisciplinary Teamwork

    11 How Communication Can Make You a Better Scientist

    Conclusion: The Pathway to Success


    Christopher Reddy is a leader in the study of marine pollution and the development of environmentally friendly industrial chemicals. A senior scientist in the Department of Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and faculty member of the MIT/WHOI joint program in oceanography, Reddy has led numerous field operations along coastlines, in the open ocean, and at the bottom of the sea to conduct transformative research that crosses disciplines and guides policy decisions worldwide.

    "As a boots-on-the-ground scientist with an active research lab, Reddy’s voice is one that many of our colleagues will identify with. This insider’s perspective fills a gap in the lineup of existing science communication books."

    Andrew Dessler, Director, Texas Center for Climate Studies; Reta A. Haynes Chair in Geosciences, Texas A&M

    "Communicating science in a crisis is risky and challenging but incredibly important. This book is generously packed with decades of experience and wisdom from the front lines that can make us all better communicators in times of need. A must for every scientist’s bookshelf."

    Dr. Asha de Vos, Founder/Executive Director, Oceanswell, Sri Lanka

    "Focusing on how science communication transpires in real time, Reddy’s insight from the trenches of recent environmental crises provides scientists with a blueprint for success with a range of stakeholder groups, from responders to the affected public." 

    Barbara Sherwood Lollar, Dr. Norman Keevil Chair in Ore Deposits Geology, University of Toronto 

    “Highly recommended as an excellent source of information and inspiration for dealing with communicating science in a crisis, or any other time as well. Scientists as well as responders and decision-makers will certainly learn a thing or two…”

    Ed Levine, International Spill Control Organization

    “Given the many destructive environmental and medical crises that have transpired these past few decades… that necessitated scientific information and analyses being presented both to leaders and the general public in order for both solutions to be effected as well as public understanding to be achieved, this is a very timely book indeed.”

    Johannes Riutta, The Well-read Naturalist

    “Reddy’s book uses a series of high-profile disasters and emergencies to offer specialists advice on how to engage with the press, the public and other players in ways that illuminate the science rather than obscure it.”

     Chris McGreal, The Guardian

    “This is a textbook for young scientists to use as a template when interacting with the world outside their laboratory.”

     David Gascoigne, “Travel with Birds

    “Science Communication in a Crisis: An Insider’s Guide” has an engaging conversational voice and should be ready by scientists, especially the more public-facing ones, journalists, communication officials, regulators, politicians and, for the matter, the general public”

     Robert Whitcomb, “New England Diary

    “Not only is it effective at explaining the why and how of science communication, I believe it is an excellent resource for any creative professional who wants to learn better ways to communicate what they do.”

     Chris Martin, “Getting work to work”