Climate Scientists Use PR to Promote Cuddly Image

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That adorable little girl covered in mud isn't actually a future climate scientist, but she's paid to look like one.

Same goes for the long-lashed kid photographed abandoning his outfield duties to study some daisies. "I did play little league baseball as a kid, and I'm now doing climate research," explains bona fide climate scientist David Inouye, "so I guess I turned out to be a good match with that photograph." Welcome to the strange world of Science PR.

The pictures are at the centerpiece of an ad campaign rolling out in the New York Times Magazine right now, as well as other local newspapers and Washington D.C. buses. It's the brainchild of the Union of Concerned Scientists. As UCS president Kevin Knobloch explains, the ads are a response to some bad press that scientists -- in particular climate scientists -- have gotten lately.

"Scientists are being branded by cynical individuals," Knobloch says, referring to media scandals like the now debunked "Climate Gate." So, Knobloch's group decided to try a little rebranding of their own.

It's hard to look at one of the faces in this campaign and imagine calling it a "Nazi climate murderer," or consider sending an email to "go gargle razor blades."-- both are messages that US climate scientists have received in anonymous hate-mail over the last few months.

But even outside extremist circles, scientists still don't have the greatest reputation in the U.S. Four in 10 Americans say they place little or no trust in what scientists have to say about the environment, according to a Washington Post Poll from a few months ago. Maybe that says more about our country's poor marks in math and science education.

Which begs the question: Can an ad campaign like this one help?

About the author

Krissy Clark is the senior reporter for Marketplace’s Wealth & Poverty Desk.

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