Effective communication will reveal scientific gold - Julie Moulsdale

COP26 has provided the inspiration to live more sustainable lives and to hopefully succeed, quickly, in halting climate change. However, a report published by environmental think tank E3G found that the heavily polluting G20 countries have so far failed to strengthen their plans since COP26 and that “none of them are on track for a 1.5C pathway”.

In addition, the Environment Agency in England admitted last week that it is minded to rehome at risk coastal communities “away from danger rather than try to protect them from the inevitable impacts of a rising sea level".

Even the positive news that Scotland has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 12 per cent from 2019 to 2020 came with a warning from ministers that we should prepare for the 2021 figures to “substantially rebound”, as the decrease was caused by the fall in air travel and car journeys during pandemic lockdowns rather than actions that can be sustained beyond lockdown.

Specialising in science, we have many clients developing and implementing positive solutions to combat climate change. Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre (IBioIC) champions and supports the switch to natural sustainable materials on an industrial scale. This involves working to optimise more naturally occurring products for manufacturing, allowing us to move away from fossil fuel based manufacturing to these greener alternatives.

There is an increased interest in science.

Companies already delivering bioeconomy benefits include MiAlgae which harness microalgae, rather than wild-caught fish, as a sustainable source of Omega-3; IndiNature which uses natural materials for insulation in residential and commercial properties and CuanTec which take discarded fish shells destined for waste and transforms them into biodegradable and compostable food packaging.

Last week I attended IBioIC’s first conference post lockdown. Ivan McKee MSP, the Scottish Government’s minister for business, trade, tourism and enterprise, shared the fact that the targets set in the ten-year 2013 industrial biotechnology plan will be met ahead of schedule. As a result, new objectives have been set to deliver 220 active industrial biotechnology companies, £1.2bn turnover and over 4,000 direct employees by 2025.

This is really positive news and there is a lot of great work and collaboration underway, but more needs to be done. And if we want to make real strides towards net zero we all need to hear more about it to then take collective action. So what might be getting in the way?

This is a sweeping generalisation, but in my experience scientists tend to be very modest about their achievements and are often reluctant to put their head above the parapet. This is the case even when we can see huge potential interest in their work. I used to think this was a Scottish psyche issue, but working across the UK with many clients, this does extend beyond the border!

One of the few silver linings of Covid is an increased interest in science across all audiences from politicians to the public. Before the pandemic, could you have imagined drug discovery and infection rates being featured daily on every national news bulletin? We are all much more tuned into science and how it can solve key issues from health to climate change. What a great opportunity to tap into that appetite and interest.

The science sector is full of jargon and technical info, but with the right support, it is possible to cut through this to reveal the scientific gold. Effective communications which can translate complex concepts into compelling and engaging content is key to maintain and maximise this new and widespread interest in science, from improving health outcomes to tackling climate change.

Julie Moulsdale is the managing director of Perceptive Communicators

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