Understanding scientists’ communication challenges at the intersection of climate and agriculture

Jackie M. Getson, Sarah P. Church, Brennan G. Radulski, Anders E. Sjöstrand, Junyu Lu, Linda S. Prokopy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the United States, a public debate remains about the existence and effects of anthropogenic climate change. This skepticism is present in the agricultural sector, rendering climate science communication challenging. Due to the polarization of climate change issues and the concurrent need for agricultural adaptation, we sought to examine how scientists communicate in this sector. A survey, administered to climate scientists and pertinent U.S. federal agency staff (response rate = 43%), was conducted to examine perspectives on communicating with five agricultural stakeholder groups: agribusinesses, crop advisors, general public, producers, and policymakers. We focused on three aspects of the communication process with these stakeholders to evaluate if scientists, as messengers, were following best practices–communicator training, knowledge of stakeholder, and terminology use. We found scientists valued communication training; however, the majority had not attended formal training. Scientists had different views on climate change than producers and crop advisors but understood their perspective and were deliberate with their communication with different audiences. This suggests stakeholder knowledge and terminology use do not hinder communication between scientist and stakeholder. We also highlight three communication challenges present across stakeholder groups–stakeholder knowledge, timescale, and scientific uncertainty–and others that were specific to each stakeholder group. Future research should support scientists by identifying and resolving barriers to training and effective communication strategies for each stakeholder group that addresses these challenges.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0269927
JournalPloS one
Issue number8 August
StatePublished - Aug 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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