Tag Archives: Keith Yamamoto

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: What about the wave of science doubt?

Dear Research Advocate:

The cover story of this month’s National Geographic describes the recent wave of science doubt as a “pop culture meme,” featuring in-the-news examples like climate change and vaccines, and discussion of tough challenges like replicability of research, scientific literacy (of note: increased science literacy has been shown to lead to increased polarization of opinion about science), and what is meant, anyway, by effective “science communication”? The article doesn’t mention what I often call the “invisibility” problem (see, for example, data showing low percentages of Americans who can name a living scientist), but that topic was addressed directly and indirectly in several sessions at last week’s annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

Data from a Pew Research poll of AAAS members show that a majority of scientists now believe that it is important to engage with the public, with a high percentage saying they do so regularly. That is welcome news. Another AAAS session brought out the importance of the quality of that engagement, exploring connecting with non-scientists in ways that is positive for both scientist and non-scientist. And, Professor Susan Fiske of Princeton spoke to an overflow crowd in her featured session about work showing that all of us – people in general – for better or worse, and with consequences to match – make quick judgments about others’ intent and their degree of competency. (Perception of competency + perception of good intent = trust.) Fiske noted that politicians are almost never trusted, although they are sometimes viewed as competent. Scientists are mostly considered competent, but they are also considered to be cold, a judgment that can throw their intentions into question. Fiske said that it is possible to change perceptions about scientists if they convey warmth and motivation to cooperate, showing ‘worthy intent.’ (If you have followed Research!America’s work in communicating to the non-science trained public, you know that we advocate saying and conveying, “I work for you.” That advice fits right in here.) Continue reading →

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: A bad year to have a good idea?

Dear Research Advocate,

“2013 is a bad year to have a good idea,” was the bleak statement Laura Niedernhofer, MD, PhD, made about the impact of sequestration in a recent FASEB report. None of us want this year, or this country, to be a bad starting point for good ideas … but that’s what’s at stake. Think about telling someone with a serious illness that this isn’t a good year, or a good decade, for research. Think about telling them that from here on out, it may always be a bad year for a good idea.

Is there hope for turning this around? We have bipartisan support and we have champions; that we need more is a reality, but by no means an impossibility. Cancer research advocates gathered last evening to honor Congresswoman DeLauro (D-CT-03) and Senator Shelby (R-AL). Several other Members of Congress gave inspiring remarks, with an emphasis on adopting a positive, can-do approach, focusing on the local impact of research and stressing the profound and enduring consequences of backtracking. They counseled advocates, “Don’t take no for an answer!” In yesterday’s NIH appropriations hearing, Chairwoman Mikulski (D-MD) vowed to “work her earrings off” to make sure the agency gets the funding it needs. Strong bipartisan support for research was the byword for the session. Continue reading →