Experts May Not Be Expert at Telling the WHY

Communicating the Science of Responsible Antibiotic Use in Animal Agriculture

"We have to connect the dots for consumers," Dr. Leah Dorman, a panelist at the upcoming 2019 NIAA Antibiotic Symposium said in a recent interview. "That's one of the challenges in agriculture. We have knowledge that over 98% of the population doesn't have."

Michael Dahlstrom, the Interim Director of the Iowa State University Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication who is leading the communications segment of the 9th Annual Antibiotic Symposium, sees that sometimes being an expert in a scientific or technical field can lead to frustration when it comes to communicating what they know.


"Experts receive years of training in their respective field," he says, "but often receive little training in how to communicate their knowledge to a non–expert audience." That can be true whether the expertise is in research, animal or human medicine, animal sciences or production.

"We know the lengths we go to take care of our animals," says Dorman, "and we assume the rest of the population knows, too, but that is just not the case. We need to communicate not just what we do, but why."

"The need for effective communication becomes obvious when it fails," says Dahlstrom. As we see reporting of the animal agriculture industry being responsive to consumer and governmental concerns by decreasing the use of antibiotics becoming an erroneous assumption that animal ag is in some way responsible for antimicrobial resistance, or that eating 'No Antibiotic Ever' meat will give the consumer protection from AMR, we appreciate that our communication on the subject needs to be better understood going forward.

In surveys, the SciComm@ISU Project, an interdisciplinary research team aiming to enhance the practice of public science communication, finds the biggest challenge is articulating what is blocking information from being understood.

Once the obstacle can be identified, the communications professionals can pass along best practices and helpful tips on how to pass on the 'Why" more effectively, and even more importantly, to also communicate the "Why we care!"

"We have designed the science communication components of the upcoming NIAA conference to offer both some practical and big picture guidance on how to better approach communication with non–expert audiences." Dahlstrom explains.

The Symposium, themed around Communicating the Science of Responsible Antibiotic Use in Animal Agriculture, will be held at Iowa State University October 15–17, 2019.


There will also be a panel of animal agriculture professionals made up of Leah C. Dorman, DVM, Director, Food Integrity & Consumer Engagement, Phibro Animal Health Corporation who blogs about food and agriculture, Don Ritter, DVM, ACPV, Director of Technical Marketing, Mountaire Farms and Andy Bishop, Beef Producer and Chair of the Kentucky State Beef Council who tells his beef story daily on Facebook. The will relate successes and challenges they have in communicating effectively to their often 'non–ag' audiences.

In addition, Paul J. Plummer, DVM PhD and Executive Director, National Institute of Antimicrobial Resistance Research and Education (NIAMRRE), the co–host of the Symposium, will moderate a panel of closing remarks on Getting Our Message Across and Making a Difference.

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