The language barrier between science and policy is as large and often underestimated as that between British and American English. Although most of the words are the same, they often carry different meaning. One good example of this is the term theory, which has caused much trouble for policy makers in relation to school curricula on evolution. However, there are many other words that have one specific meaning when used by scientists and another more common meaning in everyday use. Translation difficulties may also arise from the particular phraseology and writing conventions used by scientists. These are often more subtle but can create just as much, if not more, trouble in the sound-bite world of mass media, especially in high-profile subject areas such as the effects of noise on marine mammals. Using an excerpt from a report in this subject area by the US National Research Council as a case study, the authors will provide some examples of where scientific language use can be misunderstood (and potentially even intentionally misused) by policy makers and stakeholders and offer some possible solutions to these issues. The intent is to facilitate communication between scientists and policy makers to order to improve management efforts.
Environmental Practice 15:79–83 (2013)