Making Sense of Science

November 3, 2017

Cornelia Dean, former New York Times Science Editor, joins Sunshine Menezes of URI’s Metcalf Institute for Marine & Environmental Reporting in a conversation about Dean’s recent book, Making Sense of Science: Separating Substance from Spin, which seeks to equip non-scientists with a set of critical tools to evaluate the scientific claims and controversies that shape our lives. Calling attention to the importance of narrative in telling compelling stories about science, Dean explores the price society pays when political agendas mix with ideologies in a world where “researchers gather data; politicians, business executives, or activists spin it; journalists misinterpret or hype it, and the rest of us don’t get it.” Timely and provocative, she warns us all, now more than ever, that we can no longer afford our collective scientific ignorance if we are to invest in our future.

Presented with the University of Rhode Island’s Metcalf Institute for Marine & Environmental Reporting


Cornelia Dean is a science writer and former Science Editor of The New York Times, lecturer at Brown University, and author of an acclaimed book on scientific and public policy issues in managing America’s coastal resources. Recipient of a bachelor’s in American civilization from Brown University and a master’s from Boston University, Dean served for 15 years as a reporter and editor for the Providence Journal before joining The New York Times editorial staff as a national desk reporter in 1984. After stints as assistant and deputy science editor and deputy Washington bureau editor, Dean served from 1997 to 2003 as The Times’ science editor, with responsibilities for the newspaper’s daily coverage of science, health, and technology as well as production of the weekly “Science Times” section. In her current assignment as senior science writer for The Times, she has covered a wide range of themes including environmental protection and conservation, the role of women in the sciences, and the use and misuse of scientific information in American politics and public discourse. She also has taught seminars and classes at Vassar College, the University of Rhode Island, and the Columbia University School of Journalism.

Sunshine Menezes is executive director of Metcalf Institute at the University of Rhode Island and Clinical Associate Professor of Environmental Communication in the URI Department of Natural Resources Science. Her professional experience and research interests span science communication and engagement, environmental policy, and advancing multidisciplinary graduate education that promotes societal participation. Menezes earned a B.S. in Zoology from Michigan State University and a Ph.D. in Oceanography from the URI Graduate School of Oceanography. She was a Rhode Island Foundation Fellow and has served on the selection committee for the American Geophysical Union’s Walter Sullivan Award for Excellence in Science Journalism.

This season was generously supported by the following friends and partners:

Categories: Natural History & Science