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Talking your audience’s language in Indonesia

July 2018 - Sayung subdistrict, Demak, Central Java, Indonesia. Villagers pray for their family members at a flooded public cemetery due to rising sea levels. When alive, the residents live with the seawater, they are surrounded by it, even inside their homes. When they die they are buried in the land submerged by the rising sea.
This case study is part of a set of case studies commissioned by the IPCC WGI TSU (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Working Group I Technical Support Unit) and collected by Climate Outreach.

Dr Intan Suci Nurhati shares how she first assesses each audience’s needs and adapts the style, metaphors and focus of her engagement accordingly.

Dr Intan Suci Nurhati, Research Center for Oceanography of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences - Author for Sixth Assessment Report, Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science BasisDr Intan Suci Nurhati, Research Center for Oceanography of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences – Author for Sixth Assessment Report, Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis @coral_oracle @lipiindonesia – Facebook@lipiindonesia – Twitter, @lipiindonesia – Instagram, LIPI – Linkedin, LIPI – Youtube

“Be a scientist in substance, but use the audience’s language in delivery. This means adapting your language in different ways for different audiences. For meetings with colleagues from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, I put myself in their negotiator’s shoes. Besides being a scientist who provides scientific checks, I would also offer strategies that help their interest in fighting climate change. They really appreciated this. I maintain a professional relationship during meetings and a casual relationship after hours, so they can comfortably seek my inputs whenever they need it. 

Similarly, when I was at a forum with CEOs and influencers organized by the National Geographic and The Economist magazine, I used their language to explain how paleoclimatology is similar to the stock market –  projecting future climate using paleoclimate is no different from choosing good stocks by understanding patterns in past market performance. I’ve even made my own instagram account (@coral_oracle) which is dedicated to science communication and is popular with the high school students that attend the National Science Camp that I speak at.

Photo credit: National Geographic Society

In all this, I’ve learned to take my scientist jacket off and understand my audiences’ needs from seeking my expertise.  In turn, my scientific direction has been shaped by questions raised by people I interact with, especially the media because of their ability to see the bigger picture.”

This case study is a great example of putting the following principles for effective public engagement into practice.

  • Principle 1: Be a confident communicator (see Handbook page 6)
  • Principle 2: Talk about the real world, not abstract ideas (see Handbook page 8)
  • Principle 3: Connect with what matters to your audience (see Handbook page 11)
  • Principle 4: Tell a human story (see Handbook page 14)

Find out more about the six principles in our Communications Handbook for IPCC scientists and accompanying webinar. 

If you would like to contribute a case study of your public engagement experiences as an IPCC author, we would love to hear from you. Please share your stories with the WGI Technical Support Unit directly.

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