Communication Science for Science Communication: Water Management for Oil and Natural Gas Extraction

E. A. Grubert, M. A. Cook, November 2017 (Citation)


Water management for oil and natural gas extraction in the United States has become a topic of public interest and concern. This societal relevance simultaneously heightens the need for rigorous performance and dissemination of scientific work and invites caution from experts who are communicating within what is likely a politicized public conversation. This paper uses interviews to investigate experts’ current practices and comfort with communicating about water use for oil and natural gas. Participants cite face-to-face interactions and trust-based relationships as important in their interactions, which is consistent with research about effective communication. However, few participants highlight techniques specific to communicating about water as it relates to oil and gas or about controversial issues generally. Participants also rarely use communication science related to objective setting, framing, and measuring success for improvement, likely in part because of a lack of evidence-based training. In many cases, interviewees expressed attitudes consistent with the deficit model of scientific communication, which holds that presentation of scientific facts will change public opinion. This model has been shown to be relatively ineffective. This paper highlights the need for careful communication and evidence-based opportunities for improvement, including a suggestion that professional societies host communication training and coaching sessions.


Grubert, E., & Cook, M. (2017). Communication Science for Science Communication: Water Management for Oil and Natural Gas Extraction. Journal of Water Resources Planning and Management143(11), 05017014.