Science Communication for Policy Action--Knowledge Pyramids

Graduate Research Assistants at the Center for the Blue Economy, Middlebury Institute of International Studies (MIIS), in collaboration with the SEARCH--the Study of Environmental Arctic Change, led by Dr. Brendan Kelly in his dual role as SEARCH Executive Director and Center for the Blue Economy Senior Fellow will be presenting a concept called a "Knowledge Pyramids" at the American Geophysical Union's annual fall meeting.  This is the largest science meeting in the northern hemisphere, with roughly 24,000 scientists attending.  "It will consume the Moscone Center in San Francisco from 12 - 16 December 2016,"  Dr. Kelly writes.

What is a Knowledge Pyramid?  Knowledge Pyramids answer specific, societally important questions in concise, non-technical briefs.   As journalists have long known, effective articles put the lead and important facts in the first paragraph, then readers can choose to go on for more detail.   Scientists, on the other hand, typically "bury the lead" in the summary.   Knowledge Pyramids turn typical science writing upside-down.  Here is a visual:


The briefs comprise the apex of the pyramid, and lower tiers provide increasingly detailed and technical summaries, syntheses, and primary reports. The Knowledge Pyramids allow readers to enter at the tiers most appropriate to their interest and technical background.

MIIS students Sorina Seeley, Lance Parks, Megan Godfrey, and Johnny Daly, part of the Sea Ice Action Team, have built three sample Knowledge Pyramids answering the following questions:

What is the effect of Arctic sea ice loss on marine ecosystems?

What is the effect of Arctic sea ice loss on Arctic coastal communities?

What is the effect of Arctic sea ice loss on mid-latitude weather patterns?

Curious to know the answers?   You can join the presentation in person or online. 

Date and Time: Monday, 12 December 2016: 12:30–1:30 p.m. PT
Location: San Francisco Marriott Marquis Foothill E - 780 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94103 and online for live event streaming
Register to attend online:

Learn More:

Knowledge Pyramid Read Ahead Document

The knowledge pyramids will be fully accessible via the SEARCH website, and they will be updated and reviewed as new information emerges.  SEARCH seeks feedback, suggestions for questions deserving a knowledge pyramid, and volunteers to author briefs. Contact: Brendan P. Kelly, Executive Director, SEARCH (