03/05/2014 04:16 pm ET Updated May 05, 2014

How Do You Get Help From Scientists?

So you want information about what is happening with the most up-to-date science? How do you get it? For professional scientists, publishing papers in a journal that is peer-reviewed is the gold standard. Here, the idea is that someone who is knowledgeable about the field takes a critical look at what the scientist has done before it is allowed to be published. These papers are normally written for someone who has experience in the field. Then how does this information get into the public sphere? I wish I knew as well, as it is definitely complicated.

Lately I've been lucky that interested youth and their parents have been emailing me to find out about questions they have. If everyone did this, then of course I wouldn't be able to respond to all the requests. It would be good if there were specific places where people would go to ask questions. There are some of these. People normally have to seek out the information if they want it. For instance, most people do an Internet search. However, the results of these searches can be daunting, and they don't necessarily give the best science. As a scientist, I hope that policy makers are finding out about the best that science has to offer before they make policies. Here there are specific mechanisms set up. For instance, "The National Academy of Sciences was established in 1863 to address the government's urgent need for an independent advisor on scientific matters. "

One aspect of this, the National Research Council, is where distinguished scientists are chosen by their peers to volunteer their time to produce reports that are commissioned by the government. One of their latest reports is on climate change.

State and local governments can also seek out experts and should inquire at the local university on how to do this. For the person on the street, you can also figure out how to ask a scientist, but you'll have to figure out which one is appropriate to ask and also likely to respond to your question. We'll respond if we think it is relevant or important to what we are interested in. Both scientists and non-scientists shouldn't be afraid to engage in conversations that can help bring positive change to the planet.