The Distance Gap – Closing the distance between scientific knowledge, lived experience and public understanding.

Addressing the gap between scientific knowledge and public understanding is critical for tackling climate change. Without closing this gap it becomes harder to build public support for the policies that are needed, encourage the collective and timely action that can have the most impact, and resist the influence of mis-and disinformation. Scientists who don’t take into account public understanding and experience of climate change at the local level will also lose out on the contextual information that can make scientific models and research more accurate, relevant and tailored to people’s needs. Indigenous groups and local communities often possess knowledge about the impact of climate change and their environment that may not be accessible to scientists in other ways.

Collective intelligence initiatives can help close the distance gap by fostering a two-way exchange of information between scientists and local communities. The evidence is clear that the process of collecting and analyzing new data together enhances both scientific understanding and the knowledge of the public that participates. Collaborations between scientists and the public through collective intelligence processes also help to promote mutual trust and increase the impact of action to adapt to or mitigate the effects of the climate crisis.