Tuesday, July 20, 2010

information levels

Folks at RealClimate are having an energetic discussion about the technical levels at which public communication (i.e. scientific info for the general public) should be written. (via highly allochthonous).

I've run into this issue a lot in environmental work. Local residents and community action groups may have a limited scientific vocabulary, and most reports are geared to an industry audience (regulatory or otherwise). How much technical explanation is necessary?

I won't sacrifice the scientific vocabulary, because the language is precise. For example, contaminants may get bound up with the soil by adsorption or absorption, but they're two different processes. That's why we say "sorbed" and leave it at that.

At the same time, we don't need to complicate the matter by using multiple terms for the same thing, cluttering up our sentences with a lot of junk like "whereas" and "herein"...or making every sentence into a paragraph. Some clarity goes a long way.

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