University of Massachusetts-Amherst

IGERT Offshore Wind Energy Program

Thursday, May 21

930am – 4pm

211 Holdsworth

This one-day workshop introduces scientists, engineers, and related professionals to different schools of thought, modes of practice, and areas of research relevant to engaging stakeholders and the public on offshore wind energy and climate change. Participants will gain an integrated understanding of the institutions, organizations, and actors involved in public communication and stakeholder engagement; and the different roles they can play as experts and professionals. Blending seminar-style discussion with strategic exercises and scenario building, the workshop will focus on telling authentic stories about why offshore wind power and climate change matter to Massachusetts’ future. The workshop will also cover specific communication strategies that experts can comfortably engage in, cultivating a public role that enhances their professional work and civic goals.

The workshop ends by focusing on examples of innovative university-based initiatives that have created a formal infrastructure by which scientists, engineers and other professionals can apply their communication knowledge and skills to engaging the public and policymakers. Opportunities and resources for building on existing UMass-Amherst public outreach and engagement activities are also analyzed. Discussion will focus on opportunities to enhance the mission, goals, and profile of UMass-Amherst as a leading land grant university and international center for research that serves the needs of state communities, industries, and students.

Preparing for the Workshop

Approximately 15-20 graduate students, faculty and staff are registered for the workshop, reflecting a diverse set of fields and disciplines.  This diversity will provide a rich context for discussion, the sharing of ideas, and collaboration.  Each topic and set of exercises build towards the final session of the day in which we will think through and discuss  examples of possible interdisciplinary programs, partnerships, and activities that engage state, national and international publics, stakeholders, and decision-makers.

In preparing for each  session, make sure to carefully read at least 1-2 of the assigned readings and to skim the others.  The great majority of readings are only a few pages in length. Most importantly, think in advance about each of the relevant discussion questions.  


9:00-09:15am — INTRODUCTION


In this session, we focus on the major factors that shape disagreement and conflict over climate change and offshore wind power, highlighting the major barriers to consensus building, cooperation, and collaboration, and discussing the role of framing as part of this process.


  • Hoffman, A. (2012). Climate Science as Culture War. Stanford Social Innovation Review. [HTML]
  • Voosen, P. (2014, Nov 3). Seeking a Climate Change. Chronicle of Higher Education. [HTML]
  • Geiling, N. (2014, May 7). Why doesn’t anyone know how to talk about global warming? The Smithsonian magazine. [HTML]
  • Pasqualetti, M. (2011). Opposing Wind Energy Landscapes: A Search for Common Cause. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 101(4), 907-‐917. [PDF]
  • Thompson, R. (2005). Reporting offshore wind power: are newspapers facilitating informed debate? Coastal Management, 33(3), 247-262. [Library Gateway]

Recommended Video

  • Kahan, D. (2012). Science Communication as the New Political Science. Sackler “Science of Science Communication” Colloquium, National Academies of Science [Video]

Discussion Questions

1 – Drawing on the articles, debates you have followed over climate change and wind power, and your personal experience, briefly reflect on each of the following questions:

  • Who are the relevant publics or stakeholders involved in the debate (s)?
  • What values or social identities appear to be relevant to decision-making or conflict?
  • What are the relevant frames of reference employed by different groups and/or by the journalists writing the news story?
  • What approaches to communication or engagement appear to have been applied?


In this session, we focus on how science and expert advice is used in the policy process and in community decisions; highlighting the different roles that experts, universities, and other organizations can and should play in Massachusetts and beyond.


  • Alvarez, G. (2014, April 2). What Role for Scientists in the Climate Debate? The [HTML]
  • Nisbet, M.C. (2014). Engaging in Science Policy Controversies: Insights from the U.S. Debate Over Climate Change. Handbook of the Public Communication of Science and Technology, 2nd Edition. London: Routledge. [HTML]
  • Hart, D. D., Bell, K. P., Lindenfeld, L. A., Jain, S., Johnson, T. R., Ranco, D., & McGill, B. (2015). Strengthening the role of universities in addressing sustainability challenges: The Mitchell Center for sustainability solutions as an institutional experiment. Ecology and Society20(2), 4. [HTML]

Recommended Video:

  • Pielke, R. (2015). The Role of Scientists and Science in Policy and Politics. National Academies Roundtable Committee on Public Interfaces in the Life Sciences. [Video]
  • Nisbet, M.C. (2013). Models of Science Communication and Public Engagement. National Academies Roundtable Committee on Public Interfaces in the Life Sciences. [Video]

Discussion Questions

1 – As a scientist, social scientist or professional working on behalf of the university or a similar expert institution, what is your preferred role relative to public outreach and policymaking? How might this role change given the nature of an issue you may be working on or based on a career change?

2 – Think about individual scientists or organizations working either at the state or national level on offshore wind power and/or climate change.  Drawing on readings and discussion, which scientists and organizations reflect the role of a) science arbiter ; b) issue advocate ; c) stealth advocate ; and d) honest broker?  How effective have each of these individuals or organizations been?

3- Think about the sustainability science model as pursued by the University of Maine’s Mitchell Center for Sustainable Solutions. How might this approach apply to the efforts of the University of Massachusetts specific to offshore wind or climate adaptation? What do you see as the main challenges or barriers? What benefits or advantages might there to such a sustainability science approach?


In this session, we apply principles covered so far to developing your own authentic story about why the issue you are working on matters; how the issue fits within a broader context for communities, the state or country; and the benefits of your research or proposed course of action.

  • Baron, N. (2010). “Deliver a Clear Message.” In N. Baron A Guide to Making Your Science Matter: Escape from the Ivory Tower (pg. 103-22) Washington, DC: Island Press. [PDF]

Discussion Questions

1 - Drawing on the Baron reading, develop a message box specific to the topic that you research, work on, or care most about.  This message box should include brief talking points specific to:

  • Issue: In broad terms what is the overarching issue or topic?
  • Problem: What is the specific problem or piece of the issue I am addressing?
  • So What? Why does this matter to my audience?
  • Benefits: What are the potential benefits of resolving this problem?

12:15-1:00pm — LUNCH


In this session, we discuss how journalists commonly cover climate change and wind power debates, and how experts can influence their coverage. We also discuss how audiences find and use information about climate change and wind power online or via social media, and the role of everyday opinion-leaders as part of this process.

  • Gibson, T. et al. (in press). Covering global warming in dubious times: Environmental reporters in the new media ecosystem. Journalism. [Library Gateway]
  • Hayes, D. & Grossman, D. (n.d.) A Scientists Guide to Talking with the Media: A Desk Reference. Union of Concerned Scientists. [HTML]
  • Brossard, D. (2013). New Media Landscapes and the Science Information Consumer. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences [HTML]
  • Pew Research Center (2014). Political Polarization & Media Habits. [HTML]
  • Nisbet, M.C. (2015, March 6). Inside America’s Science Lobby: What Motivates Scientists to Engage the Public? The Conversation. [HTML]
  • Nisbet, M.C. & Kotcher, J. (2009). A Two Step Flow of Influence? Opinion-Leader Campaigns on Climate Change.  Science Communication, 30, 328-358. (PDF).

Discussion Questions

1. How do you see the rapid changes in the news media industry and digital technology shaping your own news consumption habits? Do you see your own information sources as siloed and selective?  How might they compare to different segments of the public or stakeholders you are trying to engage or reach?

2. How comfortable are you discussing science, technology, and environment-related topics via social media including Twitter and Facebook? What do you see as the advantages or pitfalls in doing so?

3. What concerns do you have about speaking with journalists about your research, work, or related issues? What do you see as the advantages of engaging journalists? What do you see as the risks?  How would you identify and start to cultivate a relationship with key journalists and media producers?

4. Think about your own work environment. Who are the opinion leaders at work? What specific traits do they have and how do they influence people?  Next, think about communities or groups with which you may be trying to engage on climate change or offshore wind power.  What role would opinion-leaders play in influencing and engaging these broader communities? How would you identify these opinion-leaders and build relationships?


In this final session, we discuss different examples of university-based initiatives that have created a formal infrastructure by which scientists, engineers and other professionals can apply their communication knowledge and skills to engaging the public and policymakers.  We also focus on opportunities and resources for building on existing UMass-Amherst public outreach and engagement activities. Discussion will also focus on opportunities to enhance the mission, goals, and profile of UMass-Amherst as a leading land grant university and international center for research that serves the needs of state communities, industries and students.

  • Chambliss, L. & Lewenstein, B. (2012). Establishing a Climate Change Information Source Addressing Local Aspects of a Global Issue. Journal of Science Communication, 11 (3). [PDF]
  • Nisbet, M.C. (2015). Universities in the Anthropocene: Engaging students and universities. The Conversation. [HTML]
  • UMass-Amherst Public Engagement Project [HTML]
  • Hall, D. M., & Lazarus, E. D. (2015). Deep waters: Lessons from community meetings about offshore wind resource development in the US. Marine Policy,57, 9-17. [PDF]

Discussion Questions

1 – As UMass-Amherst and its partners plan initiatives aimed at public and policymaker engagement, what are the range of goals and outcomes that can be considered?  Who are the relevant publics and stakeholders specific to each of these goals or outcomes? What are the key issues, upcoming events or opportunities that should be targeted?

2- Drawing on strategies and principles reviewed in the workshop, how can these goals or outcomes be effectively achieved?

3 – What are the existing strengths, collaborations, and resources that can be marshaled?  What are the challenges or barriers to effectiveness? Where are there gaps or needs in resources or expertise?

4-  On campus, across the state, and abroad, who are the likely strategic partners and funders of initiatives?  Where are there synergies across campus that are currently missing? How can activities or resources on campus or across the state be aggregated and effectively coordinated?

5 – Which institutions on campus and off, are models to replicate or build on?

6- What role can you play in facilitating these possible goals, initiatives and innovations?  What would help you be more effective at this role and to manage your time?

Additional Resources