By Natalia Jaffee, Jason Winik and Allison Baer
The Social and Behavioral Sciences Team 2016 Annual Report, released on September 15, 2016, includes research conducted by Dr. Melissa A. Kenney, Dr. Michael D. Gerst, and J.F. Wolfinger of the Environmental Decision Support Science Lab at the University of Maryland’s Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center. The research was produced with Dr. Irina Feygina of the Social and Behavioral Science Team (SBST), which is under the White House National Science and Technology Council.
Dr. Kenney and Dr. Gerst accepted their invitations to attend the White House Summit on Behavioral Science Insights held on September 15, 2016, as a result of the research produced with Dr. Feygina. Their work assesses and improves the understandability of graphical indicators of climate change made available by the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP). These indicators are used to inform decision-making, communicate scientific facts, and portray progress toward environmental goals. This is done by testing user interpretation of the indicators, and re-designing the ones that have low understandability.
Dr. Kenney led the Indicators Research Team that made recommendations to the USGCRP for pilot indicators of climate change for the U.S. The Social and Behavioral Sciences Team 2016 Annual Report includes a link to the pilot indicators on the USGCRP’s website.
The final goal of the project is to reduce the complexity of the indicators so that users can better understand what information is being conveyed, as well as to display descriptions of key indicator messages. Dr. Kenney and Dr. Gerst’s work will help decision makers to better understand these important environmental issues that are displayed on these indicators.