Tag Archives: Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Finally, tax policy is on the agenda

Dear Research Advocate:

What will determine the speed and scope of medical progress in the years to come? There is more to it than the essential ingredients of money and brainpower.

Sound tax policy is essential if we are to propel medical progress.

Yesterday, Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI-04), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, introduced a comprehensive tax reform bill. While the prospects for passage during this election year are — to put a positive spin on it — uncertain, Congressman Camp laid down the gauntlet for much-needed tax and entitlement reform, and he also proposed making the R&D tax credit permanent. Uncertainty surrounding future access to the R&D tax credit has reduced its power to drive private sector R&D investment. While the Camp bill does not contain the ideal package of changes needed to optimize the usefulness of the credit, and in fact contains some potential setbacks, his decision to support making the R&D tax credit permanent sets the stage for finally achieving this long-standing goal.

Scientists, physicians and patients must all work to increase clinical trial participation.

In a recent Washington Post op-ed, a personal hero of mine, former Surgeon General and CDC Director David Satcher, MD, discusses the importance of African-Americans contributing to medical progress by participating in clinical research. Using Alzheimer’s disease as a lens, he argues that adequate research funding is not the only imperative; individuals must be willing to volunteer for clinical trials. Participation is especially valuable for racial and ethnic groups who have much to gain as health disparities persist, but who understandably remember mistreatment in trials in the past. Polling commissioned by Research!America has affirmed this lack of trust but also, importantly, has revealed that African-Americans in particular say they want to help others by participating in trials. We also learned from our polls that most Americans, across all demographics, look to their physicians to be the touchpoint for learning about clinical trial participation.

Improved scientist engagement with the public and policy makers is essential.

Medical research stands a better chance of becoming a higher national priority if people can connect meaningfully to scientists. As Alan Alda said at the annual AAAS meeting last week, and in an interview with Claudia Dreifus in The New York Times, “How are scientists going to get money from policy makers if our leaders and legislators can’t understand what they do?” He and his colleagues at the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook use of the some of the same approaches we do to help the science community connect with non-scientists in ways that can truly move mountains. Alda adds a passion for science with dramatic talent for a skill set we can all learn from.

Media attention — old school and new school — is key.

Both traditional and social media play a role in the fate of U.S. medical progress because of their ability to call public and policy maker attention to possibilities and stumbling blocks. Research!America and the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network hosted a media luncheon today to discuss the challenges involved in turning cancer, in all its insidious forms, into a manageable chronic condition. It was reinforced to us that journalists’ questions are good markers of questions the public in general are raising; it’s important for scientists and advocates to listen and respond. Sometimes we fall into the pattern of just repeating our own messages louder and louder, but we should instead step back and listen to the sometimes-challenging questions being raised by media as they seek to inform the public. All of us who care about the future of research for health should seek out opportunities to engage with journalists. Contact us for suggestions on how to get started!

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

Research Matters Communications Workshop for Early-Career Scientists: October 9, 2013

Research!America’s science communications event, “Research Matters Communications Workshop: Promoting Basic Research in a New Age of Communications: Challenges and Opportunities,” was held October 9 at the Marvin Center on the campus of the George Washington University in Washington, DC.

Leo Chalupa, PhDGWU’s vice president for research, Leo Chalupa, PhD (pictured at right), opened the day with remarks that implored the nearly 100 young scientists in attendance to think about their families when they communicate.

“Act like your Aunt Harriet is in the audience,” Chalupa said; his welcoming remarks indeed laid the groundwork for the workshop, as Aunt Harriet would be referenced frequently throughout the morning.

Research!America President and CEO Mary Woolley followed with an introduction of the plenary speaker; Woolley also hit on a theme that is especially relevant this week. She recalled the story of 2000 Nobel Prize winner Paul Greengard, PhD and his sister, Chris Chase. In an op-ed in The New York Times a few days after Greengard’s win, Chase lamented that she never fully understood the research her brother had undertaken. Upon winning, however, she read news accounts that explained his work as determining how brain cells communicate; this work could one day impact Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

“I’m thrilled he won,” Chase wrote, and Woolley recounted. “Now I know what he does.”

That segued into the plenary session from Christie Nicholson, a lecturer at the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University. Nicholson (pictured below) began the session by reminding the audience that effective communication isn’t just necessary when dealing with the public; because science has become so specialized, researchers sometimes can’t understand what their own colleagues are saying.

Christie Nicholson

Nicholson explained that it’s important to tell a story. But before you can begin to craft a story, she said it’s critical to not only understand the goal you’re trying to achieve, but also to understand your audience. And to do that, one must know what the audience knows, what the audience cares about and what motivates them. Continue reading →

Research Matters Communications Workshop, October 9

Promoting Basic Research in a New Age of Communications: Challenges and Opportunities

REGISTER HERE.

Scientists, journalists and policy makers. What do they all have in common? They all are trained (in very different ways) to ask the hard questions while serving the public interest. Often the lines of communications between these three professions are weak or, sometimes, non-existent. A greater understanding between them is needed to demonstrate the value and the return on investment of basic biomedical research.

On October 9, 2013, join Research!America, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Elsevier, The George Washington University and the Society for Neuroscience for a workshop designed to enhance the ability of early-career scientists to effectively communicate their research to various audiences and become stronger advocates.

Plenary session speaker:

  • Christie Nicholson, lecturer at the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University.

Moderators:

  • Frank Sesno, director of the School of Media and Public Affairs at The George Washington University
  • Debra Lappin, JD, principal, FaegreBD Consulting and Research!America Board member

Panelists:

  • Cara Altimus, PhD, executive board member, Johns Hopkins Postdoc Association
  • Nick Bath, JD, senior health policy advisor, Senate HELP Committee
  • Patrick Carroll, legislative director, Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-KS)
  • Susan Heavey, health correspondent, Reuters
  • Patricia Knight, founder, Knight Capitol Consultants, LLC; former chief of staff, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT)
  • Jonathan Moreno, PhD, editor-in-chief, Science Progress blog; senior fellow, Center for American Progress
  • Nancy Shute, health and medicine reporter, NPR
  • Dan Smith, JD, principal, The Sheridan Group; founder and former president of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network

The program includes a plenary session by the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University; two panel discussions with leaders in science, health communications, journalism, public health and public policy; and a session with top Elsevier editors on techniques for getting published in scientific journals.

Register for half off the admission price now through Friday, September 27: $37.50 for participants affiliated with Research!America members and $75 for participants not affiliated with Research!America members. (If you’ve already registered, we will offer a partial refund.)

Registration deadline has been extended to Friday, September 27.

For more information, visit www.researchamerica.org/communicationsworkshop

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