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How can we use the ‘science of stories’ to produce persuasive scientific stories?


  • Michael Jones

    (School of Public Policy, Oregon State University)

  • Deserai Crow

    (University of Colorado)


The core goal of the science communicator is to convey accurate scientific information—to help people update existing understandings of the world and to change those understandings when necessary. However, science communicators, with their often extensive scientific training and educations, are often socialized into educating with information derived from scientific works in a way that mirrors the values of science itself. They do this by primarily relying on an approach termed the Knowledge Deficit Model, a model of communicating that emphasizes the repetition of emotionless objectively sterile information to increase understanding. The problem with this approach is that people do not actually make decisions or process information based on only objective scientific evidence. Their personal beliefs and emotional understandings of the world also play a powerful role. In this article we argue that to better connect with audiences communicators would do well to recognize themselves as storytellers–not to distort the truth, but to help people to connect with problems and issues on a more human level in terms of what matters to them. We reference extant narrative persuasion scholarship in public policy and elsewhere to offer a step-by-step guide to narrating scientific evidence. We argue that through understanding the structure of a narrative, science communicators can engage in the policy process, remaining true to the tenets of science and maintaining the integrity of the evidence, but doing so in a way that is compelling and thus also effective in helping solve problems.

Suggested Citation

  • Michael Jones & Deserai Crow, 2017. "How can we use the ‘science of stories’ to produce persuasive scientific stories?," Palgrave Communications, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 3(1), pages 1-9, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:pal:palcom:v:3:y:2017:i:1:d:10.1057_s41599-017-0047-7
    DOI: 10.1057/s41599-017-0047-7

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Dan M. Kahan & Hank Jenkins-Smith & Donald Braman, 2011. "Cultural cognition of scientific consensus," Journal of Risk Research, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 14(2), pages 147-174, February.
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    1. Kathryn Oliver & Annette Boaz, 2019. "Transforming evidence for policy and practice: creating space for new conversations," Palgrave Communications, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 5(1), pages 1-10, December.
    2. Lene Topp & David Mair & Laura Smillie & Paul Cairney, 2018. "Knowledge management for policy impact: the case of the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre," Palgrave Communications, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 4(1), pages 1-10, December.
    3. Ruth Mayne & Duncan Green & Irene Guijt & Martin Walsh & Richard English & Paul Cairney, 2018. "Using evidence to influence policy: Oxfam’s experience," Palgrave Communications, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 4(1), pages 1-10, December.
    4. Paul Cairney & Richard Kwiatkowski, 2017. "How to communicate effectively with policymakers: combine insights from psychology and policy studies," Palgrave Communications, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 3(1), pages 1-8, December.
    5. Wen Shi & Changfeng Chen & Jie Xiong & Haohuan Fu, 2019. "What Framework Promotes Saliency of Climate Change Issues on Online Public Agenda: A Quantitative Study of Online Knowledge Community Quora," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 11(6), pages 1-24, March.
    6. Kathryn Oliver & Paul Cairney, 2019. "The dos and don’ts of influencing policy: a systematic review of advice to academics," Palgrave Communications, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 5(1), pages 1-11, December.

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