**UPDATE: Senators Tom Harkin and Dick Durbin are co-sponsoring the NIH amendment.
Friday, January 30, 2009
**UPDATE: Senators Tom Harkin and Dick Durbin are co-sponsoring the NIH amendment.
Changes in the Pharmaceutical Industry
There has been some big news coming out of the pharmaceutical industry this month. Layoffs of sales reps and researchers are affecting multiple companies. Also, Pfizer is acquiring Wyeth in a $68 billion dollar merger. As ever-disappearing pipelines for blockbuster drugs disappear, major pharmaceutical companies will have to reorganize their R&D and sales models. Here's hoping that this shake-up will lead to a greater emphasis on personalized medicine and wellness.
- Heather Benson
Stem Cell News
President Obama had the stem cell community, including our friends at the Student Society for Stem Cell Research, tense with anticipation thanks to statements (see question 8) about reversing President Bush’s policy on federal funding for stem cell research with an executive order. On January 19 Newsmax.com reported on the possibility that President Obama might prefer legislative action to an executive order on the stem cell issue. The President is quoted as saying,
“… I like the idea of the American people’s representatives expressing their views on an issue like this.”It is good news, then, that Representative Diana DeGette [D-CO] issued a press release on Wednesday indicating that she will re-introduce legislation overturning limits on federal funding for stem-cell research. A new article in Time magazine illustrates the need for this research and the prominence that this issue has in current events.
You can keep current on the issue by checking out Ben's Stem Cell News, too.
- Hillary Lewis
Global Warming: Less of a Concern?
A Pew poll released last week about issues that President Obama should address shows global warming is less of a concern to Americans than it was a year ago. Andrew Revkin pointed out that the “findings are somewhat at odds with President Obama,” who has pledged to proactively address global warming.
The economy, jobs, and terrorism were the top three issues, not surprising during the current economic crisis.
In other news, Al Gore presented to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about climate change, and urged them to quickly pass President Obama’s stimulus package, which allocates funding for energy programs that will help the U.S. deal with global warming. Hopefully continued visibility of climate change advocates will keep the issue on the public’s mind, even if it’s not currently their most pressing concern.
Oh, and we have a new president.
See you in February!
Thursday, January 29, 2009
* Learning about careers away from the bench
* Networking with others in your field
* Developing partnerships for writing papers
* Learning about relevant patient groups associated with your research
* Finding business partners in the community
To start off, be professional! Write a brief letter (or email) to introduce yourself and outline your background. Explain why you would like to talk to the person. Say that you would appreciate 15 or 30 minutes of their time to ask them a few questions. Indicate when you will contact him/her to set up a mutually convenient meeting or phone conversation. Follow up with a phone call and refer to your letter to open the conversation.
Tips for an Effective Informational Interview
- Self Assessment: think about your interests and what you would like to gain from the informational interview.
- Research: research the organization and person you will be speaking with. If he/she has written any articles, peruse them to become familiar with their research.
- Prepare a list of thoughtful questions to use as a guide. It is perfectly acceptable to bring notes.
- Never ask for a job! Informational interviews are for information gathering, they are not job interviews.
- Dress professionally: you want to make a positive impression.
- Remember to send a thank you note!
- At least one new professional contact (plus they may direct you to a few other people to speak with)
- Obtain first hand information about your career field and necessary skills
- Better interviewing skills and confidence speaking with people, especially since informational interviews are generally low stress situations
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act — not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. All this we will do.Having an administration that respects science and research is certainly a breath of fresh air. However, of all the words in the above passage, the one with the most power is "we". It would be unfair to place the burden of restoring scientific prosperity on the shoulders of a single politician, which is why advocacy is more important than ever.
Science policy - public policy that directly relates to the field of science - will be in many pieces of the 111th Congress' legislation. We must work, as a community, to encourage our elected officials to remember the value of science to our health, our economy, our role in the world, our future.
What will you be doing?
*A couple good discussions on the "rightful place of science" for you to check out include Ed Yong's piece on his blog Not Exactly Rocket Science, an essay by David Overbye in the New York Times and the clip below from Monday's The Colbert Report starring The Intersection's Chris Mooney.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Contact your senators immediately and urge them to be a champion for NIH. It is particularly important for you to speak out if your senator is on the Appropriations Committee, listed below.
Robert C. Byrd, West Virginia
Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont
Tom Harkin, Iowa
Barbara A. Mikulski, Maryland
Herb Kohl, Wisconsin
Patty Murray, Washington
Byron L. Dorgan, North Dakota
Dianne Feinstein, California
Richard Durbin, Illinois
Tim Johnson, South Dakota
Mary L. Landrieu, Louisiana
Jack Reed, Rhode Island
Frank R. Lautenberg, New Jersey
E. Benjamin Nelson, Nebraska
Mark Pryor, Arkansas
Jon Tester, Montana
Thad Cochran, Mississippi, Ranking Member
Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania
Christopher S. Bond, Missouri
Mitch McConnell, Kentucky
Richard C. Shelby, Alabama
Judd Gregg, New Hampshire
Robert F. Bennett, Utah
Kay Bailey Hutchison, Texas
Sam Brownback, Kansas
Lamar Alexander, Tennessee
Susan Collins, Maine
George Voinovich, Ohio
Lisa Murkowski, Alaska
Monday, January 26, 2009
Blog: Eye on DNA at http://www.eyeondna.com/
As we approach an era when genetic testing will be available for an increasing number of conditions, it becomes more and more important that we, the potential patients, know what the strengths, weaknesses, and ethical considerations are before we ask what our DNA can tell us about our future health. And who better to talk to us about those details than an expert in DNA research?
Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei is a PhD-trained epidemiologist and a biotech consultant. Her blog engages readers with thought-provoking commentary on moral and philosophical concerns raised by DNA technology combined with light-hearted and fun posts.
As with most great authors, Dr. Lei blogs about what she knows. Her blog, Eye on DNA, talks about the realm of DNA research, from genetic discoveries to the ethics of testing your children to gauge their potential as star halfback. The combination of experience as a scientists and involvement in the molecular testing market is what makes her blog so great. She offers a scientific perspective on genetic testing developments that is difficult to find in language that anyone can process.
Dr. Lei’s efforts at public education make her an ideal scientist advocate. She embraced social networking and blogging as a tool to make developments in genetic research more approachable for everyone. Dr. Lei says, “Everyone needs to understand how our bodies work and how our genes plus the environment affect us.” Her idea is that more knowledge on the topics of DNA and genetics will help people decide what steps to take to live happier, healthier lives. She also helps scientists like me stay abreast of new research and its application to medicine, for which I thank her profusely.
Dr. Lei’s blogging helps to put one relatively straightforward advocacy activity in perspective. Talk about what you know. Using the communications tools like those we discuss on this blog, you can make your research approachable to any audience. Your expertise and enthusiasm for the topic make this type of advocacy fun for you and your readers!
Friday, January 23, 2009
Science and health are clearly important to the 111th Congress. Your voice is needed to support their efforts. Senator Arlen Specter is urging the Senate to include $10 billion for the National Institutes of Health over the next two years in the economic recovery legislation. Other priorities for research to improve health include $3 billion for the National Science Foundation, $3.5 billion for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and $1.1 billion for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
President Barack Obama has called for "investing in the science, research, and technology that will lead to new medical breakthroughs, new discoveries, and entire new industries." Seize this opportunity to advocate for increased funding for research to improve health. Take action now!
Representative Pete Stark (CA-13)
Union City, California
8:30 a.m. Ruggieri Senior Center
11 a.m. Hayward City Hall
Senator Ron Wyden
Klamath Falls, Oregon
10:30 a.m. Oregon Institute of Technology
Representative Gene Green (TX-29)
9 a.m. Houston Community College Southeast
11 a.m. Houston Community College Northline
1 p.m. Lone Star College, Greenspoint Center
Thursday, January 29, 2009
Representative Tom Petri (WI-6)
10 a.m. Municipal Building
Beaver Dam, Wisconsin
2 p.m. City Hall
Representative Gene Taylor (MS-4)
6 p.m. Train Depot
Thursday, January 22, 2009
I understand your plight. At the end of the day, it sometimes takes serious effort to get myself to do anything. It's easy to forget about learning anything that isn't related to work. Then I remember: if I want to be able to talk to anyone that works outside of my field, I'm going to have to have a clue about what is going on in the world. By keeping current on issues that are important outside my office, I am able to relate to (and therefore communicate with) people better. This isn't just good advice for scientists, it applies to every driven professional out there. From time to time we've all been guilty of closing ourselves off - but if we make a concerted effort to stay connected it will enhance our lives and our work.
Knowing what is going on internationally, nationally, and locally is beneficial. It gives you an opportunity to find advocacy and communication opportunities, provides material for building examples, and may spark creative ideas for partnerships. If none of that is convincing, just remember that it can help you maintain supremacy at Jeopardy!.
There are many ways quick and easy ways to stay connected to your non-work world:
Read popular fiction.
Peruse the community or local newspaper.
Go to a town hall or school board meeting.
Watch the local and/or national evening news.
Listen to the radio (we love NPR too, but branch out if you can).
Have lunch with someone who works nearby, but not in your field.
Read magazine headlines while waiting in line at the grocery store.
Watch one movie a month that you've never seen before (doesn't have to be in theaters).
Subscribe to the feed of a political cartoonist.
What keeps you connected?
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Hillary's perspective from a location allowing occasional glimpses of the top of the Capitol...
Attending both the We Are One concert and the Inauguration was more than I'd bargained for but when tickets to the Standing Room Only area in front of the National Mall became available (the day before inauguration) my misgivings fled. Of course I want to be in those enormous crowds again, clad in many, many layers and jostling my way hither and yon, I told myself.
We'd love to hear about your experiences in the comments section!
The people made the ball a truly magical experience. I attended the ball on my own, so I was planning on taking my time to wander around and hopefully run into some familiar faces. I hadn’t even dropped my coat off at the coat check before I found some friends from the University of South Carolina DC Alumni group.
From old volleyball friends to those who had lived in my residence hall, I saw my share of former classmates and USC alumni. Even complete strangers whom I shared a table with to eat a snack (milk chocolate covered strawberries) or sat on a bench with to give my feet a rest** were incredibly friendly. The atmosphere of togetherness was wonderful. Conversation easily flowed as we discovered how others were connected to South Carolina - the common thread that tied young and old together.
I’m sorry I don’t have pictures to share yet (I used a disposable camera), but I’ll post some of the lighting design, decorations and crowd as soon as I have them. If you’re ever in town for an inauguration, definitely check out your state’s society and see if you can attend their ball. It’s an experience of a lifetime.
*Unlike the official inaugural balls, the president was not in attendance. This meant that we didn’t have to deal with the increased security or huge crowds typical of the official balls.
**All it took was a little handshake to get me talking about health with one incredible geriatric nurse.
When the Obama family walked down the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, the crowd went wild, ecstatic that their newly elected leader wanted to join them in the moment. Celebrity presenters, including Tiger Woods, Ashley Judd, Queen Latifah and Jack Black, introduced the artists after presenting tidbits of history about previous inaugural celebrations. Martin Luther King III spoke in commemoration of his father, whose birthday was being celebrated the following day, and said that Martin Luther King Jr. day should be a day of service to others. Jamie Foxx injected humor to the event by briefly impersonating Obama. Garth Brooks got the whole audience singing “American Pie” and jumping up and down to “Shout.”
“You proved once more that people who love this country can change it. And as I prepare to assume the presidency, yours are the voices I will take with me every day when I walk into that Oval Office -- the voices of men and women who have different stories but hold common hopes; who ask only for what was promised us as Americans -- that we might make of our lives what we will and see our children climb higher than we did.”And for those two hours, as I stood with hundreds of thousands of strangers on the National Mall… we were one.
The crowd stretched between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument. My friend and I arrived around 12pm, which was nearly two and a half hours early. There was definitely a chill in the air but the atmosphere of excitement was palpable through the cold.
An estimated 400,000 attendees heard historical commentary from superstars like Samuel L. Jackson, Tom Hanks, and Denzel Washington. Abraham Lincoln was the focus of many of the speakers- parallels between Lincoln's efforts to bring together an America divided by ideology and President Obama's historical nomination and election were clear.
Entertainers kept heads bobbing and bodies swaying between speakers. U2, Garth Brooks, Stevie Wonder, Herbie Hancock and Usher were just a few of the big names that welcomed us to the Inaugural festivities. There are more photos below!
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
We'll be back tomorrow with more on science communication and advocacy and maybe some fun details from the inaugural events.
We congratulate Barack Obama on this auspicious occasion and look forward to working with him to improve funding and support for research for the next four years.
For information on the 56th presidential inauguration, check here.
For some interesting (and random) facts about past presidential inaugurations, check here.
Monday, January 19, 2009
In memory of the great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., here are two less familiar excerpts from his speeches.
From his Nobel Prize acceptance speech:
I still believe that we shall overcome.From the "I Have a Dream" speech:
This faith can give us courage to face the uncertainties of the future. It will give our tired feet new strength as we continue our forward stride toward the city of freedom. When our days become dreary with low-hovering clouds and our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, we will know that we are living in the creative turmoil of a genuine civilization struggling to be born...
Most of these people will never make the headlines and their names will not appear in Who's Who. Yet when years have rolled past and when the blazing light of truth is focused on this marvelous age in which we live -- men and women will know and children will be taught that we have a finer land, a better people, a more noble civilization -- because these humble children of God were willing to suffer for righteousness' sake.
We cannot walk alone.
And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.
We cannot turn back.
Friday, January 16, 2009
The Executive Summary provides a great breakdown of allocations within the Scientific Research category. To briefly mention a few….
• National Science Foundation: $3 billion
• National Institutes of Health Biomedical Research: $2 billion
• University Research Facilities (via NIH): $1.5 billion
• Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: $462 million
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Invest heavily in research and development. It is an immediate solution that will have both short term economic ramifications and long term treatment results. (More on this.) Innovation drives the economy, and without investment in basic research, innovation is stifled.
Spend some time learning about the customers of your weakest competitors. As the biggest funder of basic researchers in the U.S., the government doesn't have much to worry about in terms of domestic competition. However, there are many scientists in this country who are struggling to get by with inadequate funding, working on projects that could benefit both American citizens and the economy if it was better supported. Now is the time to find these gems.
Identify your most critical suppliers and distributors. Much of the foreign technology coming into this country is from places that are being equally effected by the global economic downturn. By using this opportunity to forge symbiotic partnerships, the U.S. could help advance science and improve diplomatic relationships simultaneously.
Think carefully about your talent needs. There are massive layoffs happening everywhere, early-career researchers are unsure of their futures, and yet there are plenty of fields (like health care) where we are in desperate need of more workers. By investing in education for the career fields of tomorrow, we can better prepare the workforce for the steep climb out of the recession.
And if you don't believe me or Harvard, take it from one of the greatest entrepreneurs of our time: invest through the recession. It's worked before, and it will work again.
Just a little food for thought.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
First, because 90 years ago Friday, the 18th Amendment was ratified and officially enacted a year later (1920). It was subsequently overturned December 5, 1933 with the passage of the 21st Amendment (do you think there is something odd connecting the numbers 18 and 21 with alcohol consumption?), but not before providing Rolla Neil Harger the incentive to create the forerunner to a fairly common device - the breathalyzer.
Dr. Harger was born on this day, January 14, in 1890. A toxicologist and biochemist at Indiana University, he created the first apparatus (1931) to test the content of alcohol in a person's bloodstream. Breath blown into a balloon was released into a container with crystals in it. The acetic acid (or vinegar) in the breath would change the color of the crystals. The more colored crystals, the more alcohol in the blood stream. He called his invention the Drunkometer.
In 1938, Dr. Harger took his expertise and became an advocate against drunk driving by sitting on the National Safety Council subcommittee that helped decide on a legal limit for intoxication. That limit was incorporated into drunk driving legislation across the country.
Dr. Harger's research was able to inform policy - mostly because alcohol consumption was a highly political issue. But more importantly, Harger invested his time to continue informing policy decisions in addition to his responsibilities at Indiana University. Harger passed away August 10, 1983.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Dear Mr. President-elect,
Monday, January 12, 2009
Last week we talked about how there was no general audience for science communication. In fact, I would argue that there really is no general audience for any type of communication. The keyword in that sentence being general. So although we may never be able to just put an ad on TV for science and have America fall in love with our beloved -ologies too, we can certainly talk to people about science.
There are PLENTY of audiences for science communication, if you don't shoot for the whole country en masse at the same time. Because as Hillary commented, "Many Americans are curious about and interested in lots of things that they do not know much about." So how do you get your information to the most people in the shortest amount of time? Strategize.
1. What is it that you want to tell everyone? (keep it simple folks)
2. Why is it important that they know? (general knowledge doesn't count)
3. Would certain people be more effected than others? (target audience!)
4. Can it be explained in a simple sentence or paragraph? (the answer should always be yes)
5. Is there some sub-population that might be more likely to spread this information? (these people will do some of your communicating work for you)
In just a few simple questions, we've found at least two audiences for your message. Now let's try an example and break down the possible audiences.
(1) Say that the message you want to send is that recycling is good for both human and planetary health. (2) It's important that people know because it could alter their health and the health of the planet itself. In answering the first two questions we've discovered that we have at least two targetable audiences: people interested in their health and people interested in the health of the planet.
(3) People who live near trash dumps and oceans (often used for dumping) will be most effected in the short term and young people will feel the effects the most in the long term. Two more specific audiences.
(4) Even if you can get the audience's attention, if what you're telling them isn't clear and concise, you've lost them again. Also, what is simple and easy to understand for some people isn't easy for others. Tailor your message to the specific audience you're talking to.
(5) If you can get even a small group of people interested enough in your message, they'll share it with others. In communication and marketing circles, these people are called opinion/thought leaders, influentials, or network hubs. In the case of anything science, a good group of opinion leaders to consider would be science bloggers or deans of research who might spread the information within their networks of influence.
In our example, we've already found a number of small audiences that would likely be interested in our message:
* People interested in health
* People who want to save the planet
* People who live near dumping sites (including beaches)
* Young people
From those populations, we can also see a number of other audience groups that make sense:
* Parents & teachers (for the young people)
* Tourists (for nature and the beaches)
* Local community leaders (for their citizens)
* Business owners in coastal communities (for their own well-being)
When you add up the eight different bulleted groups of individuals above, you're hitting a pretty big segment of the population. And that is just the tip of the iceberg. If and when you have something that is really important enough to tell everyone, it will be easy enough to split "everyone" into smaller, much more manageable groups.
So, no, there is no general audience for science communication. But there are audiences. Lots of them. It is going to take a bit more time to get to them in small groups than it would if everyone fit together. But instead of your really exciting science falling on uninterested (and therefore ostensibly deaf) ears, you'll reach the most important audiences - first. Once you've reached them, you can always work on reaching the other people that you'd like to know.
Friday, January 9, 2009
The first of Borchelt's finding from the Roadmap, is that there is no general audience for science communication. To explain why this is an important, we first need to explore the concept of an "audience" for communication.
There is a strategy to communication of any kind. It's simple and employed by just about everyone, everyday.
Take this simple piece of communication heard in kitchens/labs across America:
Could you please do the dishes?
- The dishes are not done.
- The dishes need to be done, and
- preferably not by the person making the statement.
Could you please do the dishes, sugar-dumpling?
Hey you, could you please do the dishes?
Identifying an audience and tailoring your message to that audience is critical to successful communication. It seems like a no-brainer, but surprisingly often, who a message is intended for is considered secondary to the message. Communicators forget that the purpose of communication is to get their message to someone else. Interestingly, it isn't always their fault.
In the case of science, there is no general audience. Politicians talk to their constituents. Doctors talk to their patients. Talk show hosts talk to their viewers (who are measured by Nielsen and other indicators). But who is the audience for general scientific knowledge? How do you segment the public to relay a message that is "important to everyone", and yet probably not on the forefront of any of their minds?
Without a clear audience for their messages, science communicators can have a hard time tailoring their messages. So to go back to our earlier example, we've got a lot of dishes piling up and people begging for them to get done, but no one knows they're being asked to do them.
I'm not saying some of it isn't selective hearing loss (as my mother likes to call it), but that's a topic for another day. Today, we're stuck with really cool and exciting information, we know we need to tailor the message to a specific group of people so they'll get the news, but we have no idea who those people are and no clue how best to reach them.
There's no general audience for our science communication. So what is a science communicator to do?
Let's hear your ideas in the comments section and we'll give you the New Voices best practices suggestion in the next installment.
Thursday, January 8, 2009
University of Oklahoma (#1)
Linda Wallace, PhD
Professor of Botany
Biofuels are a promising alternative to oil, but questions about the economic and environmental sustainability of a biofuel industry hinder widespread use of alternative fuel sources. Corn, the current option for ethanol production, is acknowledged as a sub-optimal choice.
In 2007 Dr. Linda Wallace garnered the support of the Ecological Society for a gathering of international experts in a symposium to develop a science-based, ecologically and economically sustainable policy for biofuel production.
The researchers want to make sure that any biofuel industry subsidies are based on research demonstrating the environmental stability of the source organisms, to avoid governmental support for a biofuel "solution" that ends up being harmful to the ecosystem. A botanist, Dr. Wallace and her colleagues suggest that a combination of native grasses offers a sustainable alternative to corn-based ethanol. Further research into the topic is being carried out at the University of Oklahoma and other institutions.
University of Florida (#2)
Lynn Bailey, PhD
Professor of Human Nutrition
Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
Getting just 400 micrograms of folic acid (from vitamin B9) a day can help prevent neural birth defects for pregnant women. And Dr. Lynn Bailey would know, since she's spent the past two decades researching the amount of folic acid to maintain maternal health. Working with the National Academy of Sciences she helped write new dietary intake recommendations.
Her advocacy extends to serving as a science advisor to the NIH, CDC, FDA, Dept. of Agriculture, and the National Academy of Sciences. Dr. Bailey has been on the faculty at UF for over 30 years, teaching human nutrition and setting a strong example for Florida's future science advocates.
So if you're not sure who to cheer for tonight when the Sooners take on the Gators, check out the research going on at their respective universities. If you haven't picked a favorite yet, no reason not to use this as a deciding factor.
Also, if you're interested in medical research and football, check out Myron Rolle who in addition to being one heck of a football player, will be graduating with a pre-med degree from Florida State University in just 2.5 years with a 3.75 GPA. He was recently awarded the Rhodes Scholarship and will likely be heading to Oxford next year to study medical anthropology. He hopes to go to medical school and then open a clinic. An advocate in the making.
co-authored by: H Lewis
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
There were six key findings (Borchelt, 2001):
- There is no general audience for science communication.
- There is a difference between understanding and appreciation of science.
- Science communication should meet the needs and desires of the audience.
- Involving scientists and engineers in the communication process is critical.
- Public information officers should foster respect between scientists and the public.
- Media fragmentation will impact communication practices.
Over the next couple of weeks we'll explore each of these topics (which each merit multiple posts) and how we can use this information to be better science communicators and advocates. Any first thoughts?
Borchelt, R.E. (2001). Communicating the Future. Science Communication, 23, 2, 194-211. (subscription required for full text)
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
The new Congress will get right to work on the economic recovery package. Urge your representative and senators to support $11.1 billion for research in the legislation. Research!America recommended the following levels to the Obama-Biden Transition Team and congressional leaders:
• NIH – $8.6 billion (FY08 budget = $29.2 billion)
• NSF – $1.4 billion (FY08 budget = $6.1 billon)
• CDC – $1.0 billion (FY08 budget = $6.4 billion)
• AHRQ – $97 million (FY08 budget = $335 million)
An infusion of $11.1 billion for NIH, NSF, CDC and AHRQ in the economic recovery legislation will produce immediate and long term dividends that protect good jobs, stimulate local economies across the nation, provide data to help make health care reform evidence-based and expand the research that is the foundation for innovation and global competitiveness. Take action now!
Monday, January 5, 2009
Giving tours of your research lab to politicians and other stakeholders can bolster popular enthusiasm for your line of work, improve understanding of the societal impact, and convince others to keep the money flowing.
I guess this would fall under the “improving public understanding of science” category, which some science communicators bemoan as outdated. While “deficits in public knowledge” may not in fact be “the central culprit driving societal conflict over science,” I think Sarah Palin’s comments on fruit fly research shows that the understanding of science on the part of policy makers does matter a great deal. So, here’s how to get started:
- Decide who to invite
- Plan your message
- Show off your stuff!
- Follow up
1. Decide who to invite, and when: In the world of politics, timing is everything. Is there an upcoming vote on legislation affecting science and research? Note: it’s true that science is often unpredictable, and sometimes you can’t plan for crises that must be dealt with. It may be hard, but try not to hold a tour on the same day that (to choose some completely random examples) you hear chirping noises coming from the hallway because your experimental chick embryos accidentally hatched; a grad student just realized he left the key samples for his thesis out of the fridge overnight; or you experience a massive chemical spill.
2. Plan your message: Know your audience, and know what they’re interested in. You can have your oo’s and ahh’s making fluorescent colored flames or creating frothing dry-ice buckets, but in the end your visitors should have a clear understanding of what you do, how it benefits society, and what you need from them.
3. Show off your work: But make sure to spend enough time explaining. Your visitors must feel comfortable asking questions of you and your colleagues. You won’t be able to teach them all of modern biology in an afternoon, but if they leave feeling completely baffled, then your time was spent in vain. You should also think ahead of time about the message you want your visitors to take away—namely, how your work relates to greater society.
4. Follow up: Always send a thank you note to your visitor for taking time to learn about what you do. In a follow up email or phone call you can also provide resources for further information, or initiate an ongoing conversation about relevant policy.
Thursday, January 1, 2009
We're looking forward to the next 365 days of science communication and advocacy and resolve to make our first full year in the blogosphere informational, educational, interesting, and accessible to everyone who is passionate about science!
New Year's Day tip: According to researchers at Stanford, your leftover champagne will stay better if just leave it open in the fridge rather than attempting to re-cork it.