SASS Speakers Discuss Communication, Engagement, Participation

The Social Activism Speaker Series (SASS) hosted three events in October to kick off its fall term programming, attracting approximately 130 students, faculty, and staff. The first two events focused on scientists in public policy, and the last event was an overview and general discussion of local ballot issues for this year’s elections.

The first event, a screening of the Merchants of Doubt documentary and Q&A with Jet Propulsion Laboratory historian Erik Conway, highlighted disinformation campaign case studies in climate change and the tobacco industry. The screening revealed tactics used by unscrupulous think tanks to control public opinion. Additionally, it addressed the culpability of media sources that give legitimacy to false claims like climate change denial by portraying such claims as having equal weight in a misplaced effort to present an opposing side. After the screening, Conway answered questions on how to effectively combat these campaigns and discussed the role of scientists as a source of legitimacy and consensus in society. He stressed that when scientists talk to the public at large, they need to help them see the meaning and impact of