Selling the Earth: re-purposing geoscience communications

This is a Preprint and has not been peer reviewed. The published version of this Preprint is available: This is version 1 of this Preprint.


Download Preprint


Iain Simpson Stewart


Earth scientists have a critical role to play in communicating to the public and policy makers what we know about looming societal threats including climate change, extreme natural events, resource conflicts and the energy transition. But whilst geoscientists are being encouraged - and, increasingly, trained - to ‘go public’ with our science, what is less clear is to what extent our current geo-communications are effectively addressing the long-term planetary concerns that confront society.

In this paper we argue that scientists are the interface between the research organisations that produce knowledge and the wider public who could use that knowledge, and, in that regard, are akin to marketers in the business world. Drawing from the dominant paradigms that shape business marketing, we re-consider the prevailing models of science communication and their consequent sense of purpose. We identify three dominant approaches of marketing-led science communication: ‘make-and-sell’; ‘sense-and-respond’; and ‘guide-and-co-create’. We judge the first two to be incompatible with delivering long-term sustainability, in contrast to the emergent guide-and-co-create mode - purpose-driven, interdisciplinary, participatory, and reflexive - which we contend is best placed to tackle long-term geo-environmental concerns through having a clear wellbeing- focused objective whilst co-creating the path to achieving it.

We conclude with the contention that adopting a guide-and-co-create approach to science communications will require not only rethinking communication practice within universities but also radical institutional regime change towards universities becoming purpose-driven organisations.



Education, Physical Sciences and Mathematics


geoscience, marketing


Published: 2021-09-16 18:21

Last Updated: 2021-09-17 01:21


CC BY Attribution 4.0 International

Additional Metadata

Conflict of interest statement:

Data Availability (Reason not available):
no data - review paper

Add a Comment

You must log in to post a comment.


There are no comments or no comments have been made public for this article.