Is nature something we enjoy when we visit a national park, something we feel a need to “preserve,” or do we think of ourselves as being a part of nature? Are a bird’s nest and a house both part of nature?

The answers to such questions can reflect different cultural orientations and have an effect on how well science and scientific concepts are communicated, according to new research from Northwestern University and the University of Washington.

“I think there are some trends and norms about science communication that at the least need to be reconsidered, especially around how truths are reported and expertise – or perhaps more accurately lack of expertise – is presumed,” said co-author Megan Bang, a UW assistant professor of educational psychology.

“A view of singular truth as the only possible way of understanding the world will inevitably reproduce particular forms of power and privilege, especially given the still largely homogeneous scientific world,” Bang said. “Perhaps science communication could also take up the voices of those not in formal expert positions.”

The new research, published in September in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, resulted from a collaboration among the two universities, the American Indian Center of Chicago and the Menominee tribe of Wisconsin.

Read a UW News & Information story for more details about Bang's research.