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3 Communication of a Life Detection Result
Pages 12-16

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From page 12...
... For instance, the Torino scale first proposed in 1997 for categorizing Earth impact event threats and adopted in 1999 by the International Astronomical Union1 was intended by its originating paper to place "the hazard posed by any given close approach into an easily understandable context that allows simple and efficient communication between astronomers and the public."2 The Torino scale facilitates this communication and is widely accepted and used today, an example of a scale being used to convey critical scientific information of deep public interest that could be sensationalized in the worst of cases. Another example of such a scale meant to facilitate communication of a groundbreaking and history-making significance is the Rio scale, first proposed in 20003 and adopted by the International Academy of Astronautics in 2002.4 Similar to, and named in part to reference, the Torino scale, the Rio scale is perhaps more relevant to astrobiological studies in that its 10 levels describe the confidence of the discovery of extraterrestrial intelligence.
From page 13...
... The diversity of opinion from the broader community indicates that universal adoption of any one framework or scale would be challenging, however the committee found the five guiding questions clearly defined and valuable. USE OF PROGRESSIVE SCALES IN COMMUNICATING WITH JOURNALISTS AND THE GENERAL PUBLIC As stated before, progressive level scales are useful in facilitating communication between the scientific community and the press, especially for communicating complex and nuanced high-impact 5 J
From page 14...
... Public interest in the potential for and the prevention of a space-borne disaster such as an asteroid impact is enormous, and yet, the press regularly uses the Torino scale to demonstrate that potential impactors seen initially to be risky are later deemed to be safe.9 An analogous framework for contextualizing life detection for the general public would be similarly useful, perhaps more so than fostering communications within the scientific field. In that regard, the assessment framework proposed by the Community Workshop Report would certainly be beneficial in conveying the complexity of verifying a life detection claim.
From page 15...
... Finding 3: The Community Workshop Report highlights the challenges of communicating nuance in life detection discoveries and their degree of consensus to the media and recommends a reporting protocol. The committee agrees that clear communication requires a collaborative approach between the scientific community and journalists and supports further efforts to engage 10 S
From page 16...
... What we can do is ensure that scientists doing research properly have the resources and opportunity to acquire training to communicate effectively with the press, both to prevent the unintentional harm of overstating results and to better refute false claims in the public arena. Alternative mechanisms to improve clarity in communication with the media might include addressing the impacts of NASA's "no embargo" policy and also developing resources to support scientists, press offices, and the media at each step of the communication process.

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