Public policy


UCL Policy Commission on the Communication of Climate Science

The UCL Policy Commission on the Communication of Climate Science, chaired by Prof Chris Rapley (UCL Earth Sciences), comprises a cross-disciplinary project group of researchers from psychology, neuroscience, science and technology studies, earth sciences and energy research. The Commission examined the challenges faced in communicating climate science effectively to policymakers and the public, and the role of climate scientists in communication. 

Time for Change? Final Report

Download the UCL Policy Commission’s final report (pdf) or order a printed copy. A short policy briefing (pdf) is also available.

Summary of main recommendations

There is a need for the general public and climate scientists to engage in constructive dialogue, and for climate scientists to convey a big picture that provides a context for the discussion of new scientific results and their consequences. The authentic and personal voice of climate scientists in this process is essential for the general public to establish trust in the findings of climate science.

Training and development of climate scientists should address strengthening the transparency of the climate science process, and the degree of public participation within it. More specifically, the objective is to equip the community as a whole with the skills to fulfil a range of roles from ‘pure scientist’ to ‘honest broker of policy options’.
Rather than assuming a role of ‘truth speaks to power’, climate scientists should assume a role of ‘co-production’: where they can contribute their expertise alongside other experts to inform policy formulation and the decision-making process.
A professional body for climate scientists should be established to provide a unifying purpose and to offer leadership.
Active critical self-reflection and humility when interacting with others should become the cultural norm on the part of all participants in the climate discourse.

Background on the UCL Policy Commission on the Communication of Climate Science

The Commission explored the role of climate scientists in contributing to public and policy discourse and decision-making on climate change, including how highly complex scientific research which deals with high levels of uncertainty and unpredictability can be effectively engaged with public and policy dialogue. The Commission also examined the insights that scientific research and professional practice provide into how people process and assimilate information and how such knowledge offers pathways for climate scientists to achieve more effective engagement. Finally, the Commission sought to identify the approaches that climate scientists can adopt to effectively communicate their messages and to make clear recommendations to climate scientists and to policy-makers about the most effective ways of communicating climate science.

The Commission’s activity included a one day experimental event, ‘Seeing Yourself See’, with a number of climate scientists to discover how they saw their role and their perspectives on the communication of climate science.  

Accompanying material

  • Short report of the experiential event ‘Seeing Yourself See’ (pdf), held as part of the UCL Policy Commission on the Communication of Climate Science in 2013 

Commission members

Lead authors

  • Prof Chris Rapley (UCL Earth Sciences), Commission Chair
  • Dr Kris De Meyer, Department of Informatics, King’s College London


  • Dr James Carney, Social & Evolutionary Neuroscience Research Group,
  • University of Oxford
  • Dr Richard Clarke (UCL Institute of Ophthalmology)
  • Dr Candice Howarth, Global Sustainability Institute, Anglia Ruskin University
  • Dr Nick Smith (UCL Clinical, Educational & Health Psychology)
  • Dr Jack Stilgoe (UCL Science & Technology Studies)
  • Dr Stuart Youngs, Creative Director, Purpose


  • Dr Chris Brierley (UCL Geography)
  • Ms Anne Haugvaldstad (UCL MSc Climate Change)
  • Dr Beau Lotto (UCL Institute of Ophthalmology)
  • Prof Susan Michie (UCL Clinical, Educational & Health Psychology)
  • Dr Michelle Shipworth (UCL Energy Institute)
  • Prof David Tuckett (UCL Clinical, Educational & Health Psychology)