Ministry of Propaganda? As Climate Change debate wages on, scientists turn to Hollywood for help Politicians and the public question global climate change evidence, so scientists look to Hollywood and websites for a new voice. Lights, camera, science! Keeping the public looped in on what scientists are discovering has never been easy. For one thing, the traditional explainers journalists can distort, hype, or oversimplify the latest breakthroughs. But the need to communicate science broadly and clearly has never been more urgent. Understanding science helps people know where the truth speakers are on an issue such as climate change, says Robert Semper, the executive associate director of the Exploratorium, a hands-on science center in San Francisco. The more educated and knowledgeable the public is about science ... the more responsible they can be when it comes time for voting or expressing opinions about public policy, adds Leslie Fink, a public affairs specialist at the National Science Foundation in Washington. The importance of getting the word out has science organizations scrambling to explore new channels, from souped up websites to asking Hollywood for help. The current climate-change furor has become the poster child for what happens when theres a communications gap between scientists and the public. The vast majority of scientists see compelling evidence that the worlds climate is about to change significantly, and that the change is largely driven by human activity. Yet polls show public opinion becoming more skeptical about climate change. Contributing to that swing have been efforts by skeptics to point out flaws in specific portions of the landmark 2007 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and question whether other findings might have been manipulated. An usually snowy winter in parts of the United States has also brought scorn from critics, who ask, Where is the global warming? (Data tell another story: Worldwide, last January was one of the warmest on record, and the decade 2000-2009 was the hottest on record, according to the World Meteorological Organization.) The result has been a corrosion of public confidence in climate science, says Ralph Cicerone, president of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). That damage, he says, has spilled over into other fields of science. At the same time, traditional news media outlets have been cutting back on science writers. In 2008, CNN dismantled its entire science reporting staff. While few newsroom cuts have targeted science coverage so directly, countless examples of thinning ranks including ABC News announcing in February that it will shed about 25 percent of its news division have displaced many specialist reporters. Professional journalism has been cut to the bone. And the first people to go are science journalists, says Bora Zivkovic, who writes the science blog A Blog Around the Clock from Chapel Hill, N.C., and serves as online community manager for PLoS One, a peer-reviewed science journal. With fewer authorities in the media, scientists have to take that over, he says. Mr. Zivkovic spoke as part of a panel on how to better communicate science at the annual convention of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Diego last month. One effort, announced at the meeting, will recruit Hollywood to help scientists tell their stories. NAS and the University of Southern California will team up to draw on USCs expertise in film, TV, websites, and video games. The partnership will be the first between a federal agency and a film school. Entertainment media has been pretty much untapped as far as science literacy goes, Dr. Fink says. A huge portion of the public doesnt go to science museums or watch science programming on TV, she says. Those are the eyeballs were trying to capture.